The #1 thing you’re not doing in your email marketing that you should


There is a really simple strategy to absolutely delight the customers on your email list that you’re probably not using. The strategy is:

is almost free.
lets you understand exactly what your customers want.
makes your customers like you more.

Curious? Here it is: Ask your customers what they want.

That’s it.

Here’s why it works so well

Most of us get tons of marketing emails in our inbox daily. Discounts, deals, promotions. We’re tired of the neverending stream of email campaigns.

For example, emails like this:

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All of those companies are constantly telling us what we should do: “Buy now!”

But none of them are asking us what we want.

Why email is a great place to learn from your customers
Unlike billboards, TV commercials, or banner ads, email is naturally interactive. People are used to replying by email.

Not only that, unlike Twitter or Facebook email sits in our inbox waiting for us to clear it, so engagement rates are a lot higher.

So if you ask customers what they want directly in your email campaign, you’ll actually get responses…at a rate much higher than other channels.

But you can’t just send out a 3 page survey with 25 multiple choice questions. That will only annoy your customers and leave you with a lot of data to analyze.

There’s a better way.

Let me I’ll show you how, step by step.

Step 1: Think of 3 qualitative questions to ask
The exact wording that your customer uses to describe their problem is very valuable.

As Nadia Eghbal of Feast wrote on the Kissmetrics blog, many high end copywriters spend a lot of time figuring out exactly how their customers describe their problems so they can use that exact phrasing in their sales copy:

How_Understanding_Your_Customer_Will_Help_You_Create_Copy_That_Sells

And email is the ‘perfect‘ tool to get your customers true feelings in their words, because people have built up the habit of typing out their thoughts via email.

So, in the first step, think of 3 – 5 qualitative questions that would help you better understand your customers.

For example, if you run a online shoes business, instead of asking, “On a scale of 1 – 10, please rate your experience with buying shoes from us.” You could ask “What is your biggest frustration with buying shoes online?”

You’ll get a treasure chest of responses where customers tell you in their own words exactly what their pain point is. They’ll tell you exactly what they don’t like about your competitors, and as a result, tell you exactly what they want from you.

Step 2: Send the questions by email or a survey tool like SurveyMonkey.
Yes, you can use an online survey tool like Survey Monkey, and that works perfectly well. But also consider just asking the question directly over email and asking recipients to reply.

Expect about 1 – 5% of your recipients to reply to a given email (without any incentive or reward) , so depending on the size of your email list you can set the emails to reply directly to you or to a different address that you can check later.

A great strategy for getting customer insight is to have the very first email of your autoresponder be a qualitative question asking your subscribers what they are struggling with. Blogger and online entrepreneur Derek Halpern does this with every subscriber and has built a great business doing so:

What_People_Buy__How_This_One_Simple_Question_Reveals_Everything

Step 3: Use this information to shape your marketing
The final step is to look for patterns in your responses, and shape your product and marketing based on the responses.

Here are 2 examples:

1) Use the exact language of your customers in your marketing to get huge results.
For example, Ramit Sethi, who has built a multi million dollar online education business talks about the value of learning the exact struggles of his readers and using their exact copy in his sales business, even if you don’t have a lot of datapoints:

Ramit_Sethi_Exposed__How_He_Earns_Millions_Blogging____ProBlogger
http://www.problogger.net/archives/2012/01/26/ramit-sethi-exposed-how-he-earns-millions-blogging/

So, simply use the responses to shape your web and email copy. This will improve your conversion rates online and over email without making any other changes to your business.

2) Change your offerings to give the customers exactly what they want.
If you were sending them casual clothing, and a bunch of customers told you that they are really struggling to find good business clothing online, then this is great evidence that you should start offering some different products.

Bonus: 30 Ideas of Questions You Can Ask Right Now
To help you get started I’ve put together a bonus of 30 qualitative questions you can ask in your next marketing email. They include questions for ecommerce, SaaS, and bloggers. You can download all 30 of them free by clicking here.

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About the Author:
Devesh Khanal runs Devesh Design, a conversion optimization consultancy agency. We help companies get more email subscribers, more clicks, and more purchases. He has an engineering Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley and is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.