Hopefully you have started building an email list of people who opt in to hear more from you about your business. (If not, you should! This is one of the online strategies that I recommend to every single micro business owner I talk to, here’s why.)

My question today is: Are you using email to actually have a conversation with your customers?

Think about it. How do you use email in the rest of your life? Do you use it as a broadcast tool or do you use it as a communication tool? Do you use it to just to announce whatever is happening in your life or do you use it as a conversation with people who really care about what is happening in your life?

It is a subtle difference, but one worth thinking about.

Because if all you do with your business newsletter is broadcast, then you are missing out on a valuable opportunity to connect with your most awesome people (you might know them as “ideal customers” but I think the word awesome is much better than ideal!)

So how can you take your newsletter to the next level, and move from “just” broadcasting to engaging in genuine communication?

1. Ask a question when people first subscribe.

This is an idea that I stole from Derek Halpern and I have to say that it is one of my favourite things that I do with my newsletter. In the final welcome email that people receive when they subscribe, or in an autoresponder that you send out shortly after they subscribe, ask your subscriber to let you know one thing (that is relevant to your business.) For instance you could ask…

  • What is your biggest frustration with xxx?
  • What is one thing that makes you feel the most overwhelmed when it comes to xxx?
  • If you could have one wish granted about xxx, what would it be?
  • If I could wave a magic wand and help you with xxx, what would that be like?

There are a few benefits to doing this. One, you get valuable information from your subscribers which could help you with future emails, product development, marketing messages and more. Secondly, your customer feels like you really care about what life is like for them, they feel like maybe they are not alone!

The key is to reply to every reply that you receive… just take a moment to say thank you for subscribing and for sharing that with you. They will be thrilled to get a response! (And this becomes the start of a wonderful relationship!)

2. Write to one person.

Of course you likely have more than one subscriber… but whether you have 10 or 10,000 subscribers it can really help if you picture your ONE most awesome person in your mind, and write your newsletter directly to them.

For one, it can help you to come with ideas on what to include in your newsletter, if you can imagine what that one person would really love to hear about. But it can also help your email feel more personal & genuine (and a lot less like icky sales spam – which I know is one of the things a lot of biz builders worry about. They don’t want to feel icky about the emails then send to their subscribers.)

When people feel like your emails are written directly to them and for them, they will be much more likely to open them, and to engage with you…

3. Ask your reader to reply.

At the end of every newsletter, ask your reader to do one thing that will turn your email from a broadcast message into a conversation. (Just like you would if you were writing an email to a friend. You would never go on and on about yourself without asking her some questions about how she is doing, right?)

Here are some ideas for you:

  • Ask your readers a question and ask them to hit reply. Much like that question you asked upon subscription this can be a great way to learn more about your customers and to engage with them. And again, be sure to reply to them!
  • Share a link to a conversation thread you have already started on Facebook, and ask your readers to pop over and add their two cents. (It can help if that conversation is juicy or controversial or wildly entertaining, people love to take a peek at that!)
  • Share the link to your blog post and ask people to comment there. It can help if you give people a reason why – perhaps something like “my goal is to hear from every subscriber. I am 50% of the way there. would you please add your comment and help me reach my goal?” or “I want to hear about YOUR business. add your comment here, I am turning the blog over to you, so promote yourself!”

Not only is this a great way to turn your email into a conversation, but it can also help your readers get used to clicking and taking action… which is what you want them to do when you have something to sell them, right? And of course because you are building relationships with your readers they have more trust & loyalty to you, which also makes them more inclined to buy from you.

Of course email is an excellent way to stay on your customer’s radar, to let them know about things that are happening with your business. But with a little extra effort you can take that to the next level and use it as a tool to really interact with and engage with your customers.

{Featured image via Adam M Cohn}