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Strategy

The Power of Vulnerability

Getting real with your customers is a powerful relationship builder

Adam Fout
August 27 2019

I want to tell you a story about vulnerability.

A while back, a marketer I know was neglecting his email list. He decided it was time to get back to the drawing board and pump out an email—drum up some business! So he wrote a mailer that was yet another how-to about some niche form of marketing that probably didn’t hold a lot of value for the majority of his list.

Frankly, he would have been better off just putting together some Facebook ads—his dispatch was mostly advertising thinly disguised as content marketing.

He sent me the email just to get my opinion, and I told him I thought he could do better. Back to the drawing board he went. His next email blew me away.

More from PostFunnel on customer relationships:
Consumers Care About Your Company’s Values
7 Marketing Lessons From Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs
The New Face of Influencer Marketing: From Fake to Faithful

Draft two was filled with emotion. It was raw and real. Instead of preaching to his list about tips or techniques, he opened up about some of the real difficulties of running a business—and how he had dealt with them.

When he sent it out, the response was electric— years-ago clients were asking to talk to him about opportunities. It was just the kick in the pants he’d needed.

The moral of the story? Getting real with your customers is a powerful relationship builder.

Relationship Marketing Matters Now More Than Ever

Today’s truly successful marketers are doing what truly successful marketers have done for generations—targeting customers’ emotions and forging relationships.

Emotional intelligence has been the core of many marketing strategies for as long as there have been products to sell. But for a long time, you could get away with not aiming for the heart—aiming instead at the wallet or the brain.

Why doesn’t that work so well anymore? Because many markets have been cornered. Major players with big supply chains and razor-thin profit margins have made sure that competing on price is tough for most newcomers.

That’s why you don’t see a lot of Amazon or Walmart competitors—it’s just not possible for businesses to achieve lower costs than these guys. By the same token, competing on quality is difficult—top players in other industries have invested heavily in quality, driving out the possibility of real competition.

What’s left?

Relationships.

When a customer believes they are your friend, that they know you, that you know them, that you care, and that you want them to succeed, they’ll stick with you—even if your prices and quality don’t exactly match the big dogs.

You don’t need the best primary care physician in the world.

You need one who is pretty darn good and cares about your wellbeing.

Email marketing is one of the simplest ways to create relationships, but only if you’re willing to let your hair down a little—if you’re willing to be vulnerable.

Email Marketing Is Only Dead if You Do It Wrong

Many people believe email marketing to be dead and gone—but likely, they’re just doing it wrong.

My friend landed on sudden success because he got real. He was vulnerable and he was raw, and people responded. Reading his email, even I felt like he was speaking directly to me.

So why did it work? Why did I respond on an emotional level when I do this for a living? Because he was baring his emotions, showing me his true self, and implicitly asking me for my acceptance (while showing me that he trusted me enough to ask).

I would have to be inhuman not to respond to that. It reached past my cerebral brain, back to a time when we were half-chimpanzee, when all we had was each other, some fire, and a big stick or three to keep the monsters at bay.

His customers had the same reaction, and relationships improved.

So if you’re struggling to get reactions out of your email marketing, maybe it’s time to pull up a chair, loosen your tie, and get real for a minute.

You might be blown away by the result.

Use Emotion Bombs Lightly

A simple word of caution from my buddy’s tale—don’t go overboard on this whole emotional email bomb strategy. It can certainly work to a point, but if every email your customers get from you is a deep, soul-searching exploration of your most recent existential crises, you might start losing their attention.

Emotional exhaustion exists. I think his email was so effective because it was unexpected—his customers didn’t see it coming.

Unfortunately, he doubled down on this strategy, and after the fourth or fifth emotionally charged email, open rates and click-through rates started to plummet. Sprinkled in lightly among other forms of strategic content, these vulnerable emails can be highly effective.

But when it’s your only strategy, it must align evenly with your brand (as in, you better be Cosmopolitan magazine and your customers better be heavily invested in this type of content).

Otherwise, instead of coming off as just a little vulnerable from time to time, you’ll seem whiny and needy—and this (as in real life) will send customers running for the hills.

So get vulnerable every now and then (carefully), and then check out Sam Hurley’s 3 No-Nonsense Ways to Grow Your Business (Faster) in 2019.

And good luck out there, marketer.

A better way to define your VIPs

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Adam Fout

Adam Fout, resident content and brand sorcerer at BlueSteelSolutions, guides brands through the mystical process of creating website and blog content that enchants customers and entices leads. He also writes fiction in his free time at My Website

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