The evils of no-reply email

Imagine you’re in a department store. As you walk down the shoe aisle looking for the brown suedes you saw in the catalogue, a staff member catches your eye and speaks to you.

“Apologies, the catalogue shoe range is not in this area.”

Useful information, but not enough. So you say, “Thanks. Where can I find them?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t answer questions. I’m just here to tell you this one piece of information. You’ll need to go to the reception desk at the other end of the store to ask that.”


This is intuitively wrong. If a person gives you important news you expect to be able to ask them for clarification. Or ask them for details in related fields.

Providing critical info for your audience in one place but telling them they must get more details in a separate place at a different time, is awkward and unintuitive.

So why do some of our largest service providers do it?

I had a notice of works from my ISP recently – from a “No Reply” email address. I want to know more details so I can understand the impact of their changes. But I can’t just hit “reply” to ask them. Why not? They just told me about this by email. It doesn’t make sense.

You can imagine the conversation that happened internally:

“This is big. When we tell our customers, we’ll get a bunch of questions.”

“Well, we have basically two options: we could prepare support to answer their questions. Or we could make it harder to ask us those questions in the first place.”

[Sideways glances.]

Using a no-reply email address is like using your voice to talk to someone but closing your own ears – and accepting their response only in semaphore.

Instead, make it as easy as possible for your clients to get into conversations with you and your team. Effective communication goes both ways.

How many perfect niches do you need?

There are 6 billion people in the world. Each one of us is unique, with our own experiences, friends, families, lives, struggles, desires.

Our own desires.

Each of us wants something, making each of us a unique niche, the most micro of niches possible.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, the difficulty is that each of us is also capable of creating a service that would satisfy at least one of our fellow humans.

Finding your niche in business is one of the most important and difficult tasks on the entrepreneur’s journey.

So how do you decide what niche to focus on?

The perfect niche is a combination of several things.

  1. Small enough for you to gain a reputation
  2. Large enough to provide you an income
  3. Consistent enough to target precisely
  4. Unique enough that they’re not already being served
  5. In need enough that you can solve a valuable problem for them

Think of your niche not just in demographic terms, but focus instead on their need being the common factor.

What group of people do you serve? How can you describe that group as tightly as possible?

Trusting Pareto

We hear it all the time: less is more.

Lighter interfaces have been made sexy by Apple. People who think about only one task at a time get more done. Eating less is healthier for our bodies. We even hear “less is more” being used to excuse wearing ever-smaller bathers at the beach.

Pareto was considering a similar wisdom when we spoke about what we now call the Pareto Principle: that 80% of our outcomes are due to 20% of our activity.

If only we knew which 20% of our activity was going to produce the most outcomes, all of us would be on board with Pareto. The problem is that’s not always obvious.

Which is one reason why, when it comes to marketing, I find many people still create a list for themselves that includes every activity they have ever heard that might be beneficial.

We all know that we should be doing less, and putting our energy into what is going to be most valuable. Yet it’s hard to cut out activity that you know might produce some results.

It’s difficult to have faith in Pareto.

Luckily, practicality is on our side when it comes to digital marketing. We can test our campaigns easily and quickly. Advertisements, for example, can give us valid feedback after only a few days, and show us whether they will work or not. Whether they are part of the 20% or the 80%.

So it’s not just about trust. Prove to yourself what will work and what will not.

And then do more of the less that produces the more.


Last touch gets the glory

Recently, while I signed up for a relatively pricey software package, the sales person insisted that I sign up with an email address I hadn’t used before when dealing with them.

It seemed like a funny request, but I gave him one of my nickname emails and went ahead with the purchase.

It wasn’t until afterward that I realised the truth about why he had asked this.

By using a unique email, he was able to claim the referral fee for my sale – rather than have it count to one of the previous salespeople I’d dealt with in my winding journey of demonstrations and questions before getting to this point.

It didn’t annoy me, rather I found it a little amusing.

But it made me think about something we don’t talk about much with statistics online: we’re not very good at tracking the pathway that leads to a sale.

Our Google Analytics referral tracking only show us the place a visitor has been to immediately prior to clicking through to our page. It doesn’t show what history they’ve had with us before, or how often they interact, or whether they’re a current client, or social media follower, or not.

This can distort our understanding of what is working for us, as the action immediately prior to someone hitting our website and getting in touch, is the one most prominently shown to us in the stats.

Earlier steps in a campaign, if they are tracked at all, are often aggregated statistically.

How can we stop the last touch getting all the glory?

The answer is two-fold.

Yes, there is software that helps. CRM and marketing automation software like Infusionsoft can help you track individual people who respond to your messages in different places.

But a better way to understand your audience is through getting to know them personally.

If you talk with enough members of your audience, often enough, you’ll hear them tell you about what they do and why they are seeing you.

Pay attention to who interacts with you in different places, and find the similarities. Watch how they talk and what they are looking for.

Above all, ask. Then listen for the story of the entire journey.


How to create a sense of “Reveal”

Reality TV is ripe with programs that build a story around their characters as the season progresses.

Whether it’s home renovators, singers or amateur chefs, these shows all have two things in common when telling a story that keeps us watching.

Firstly, they set up tension between characters as they put people into unlikely scenarios of competition or team companionship. Stakes are high and pressure is on, and this provides drama that keeps the audience entertained.

Emotion is powerful.

I’m not suggesting you have a cook-off with your competitors. But you can show that you fight for a worthy cause, report progress, and build a team of people that believe in a common vision.

Creating drama in your brand story is a powerful way of connecting with your audience.

The second thing reality tv does is build a sense of “Reveal”.

The nights that get the highest viewer numbers, and are by far the most intense to watch, are the nights where we finally see the results of the previous episodes.

The story unfolds, the relationships simmer. The suspense is undeniably drawn out, with commentary and adverts – until, finally, the new room, or the last challenge, or the best meal, is finally revealed.

Why is this so compelling?

And, importantly, how can we create the same experience for our clients?

If you run events, then a “launch sequence” is a contrived way of building suspense and revealing your offer.

This works as a tactic, but I’m talking about something deeper and more important than that.

How can you make your clients yearn to hear more from you, to find the final piece of the puzzle, to hear the end of the story?

Create a story arc with your brand messages. Tell people where you have come from. Show them the results they will achieve. Guide them through the terrain they’ll see on their journey.

Use real humans as examples, complete with names and faces and experiences.

Your brand story can be as large or small as you need, and the more you think of it as a “story”, the more compelling you will be able to make it.

And you, and your clients, will live happily ever after.

Are you ready to serve?

The power of the digital marketing revolution is that it brings you in touch with so many people, so easily.

If you get it right, your message can be seen by thousands, even millions of people.

And if they feel a connection with your unique voice – well, that’s gold. You could end up with more enquiries than you know what to do with.

Actually, I mean that semi-seriously.

Some people get too many enquiries.

It’s a problem that the rest of the business world looks at with envy, but it is a problem nonetheless.

If you were to see your clients double, could you keep up? What about triple? Or grow by 10x?

Growing your client base comes with the responsibility of giving them all your best service.

Without a clear plan of how to grow the delivery side of your business, all those new enquiries will end up underserviced and unhappy.

This is why a marketing strategy that suits you and your business is required – so that you can set targets and plan accordingly. Your systems and capabilities need to grow along with your client base. Your marketing strategy must be integrated within a complete business growth plan.

At the end of the day, it’s not how many people have heard of your brand that matters. It’s how many people have experienced the great services you provide.

You are who Google says you are

When I was young*, it used to be that if you wanted to know something about that new girl in class, you had to ask her close friends. They would pass your questions through and return with answers only if they thought it suited the girl in question.

It was hard to get information about someone who you didn’t have direct contact with.

Nowadays, information is at our fingertips – about everyone, everywhere, and especially if you’re in business and growing your reputation.

Nowadays, your prospective clients will Google you before they get in touch.

Even if they’ve been referred to you by someone they trust, they will search you out online and click around the internet to learn more about you.

The results of that search determine whether or not they will call you.

In one sense, this is a call to action to ensure your website and social media are up to scratch, appearing well in search results, and representing you as well as possible.

You must publish content online so that you have your ideas presented in the messages that your clients see.

But it’s not just about what you say, it’s about what others say about you.

We need to recognise that we can’t control the flow of information about us as tightly as we might like. In addition to our own websites and profiles, any number of other sites and people might mention us.

Client satisfaction is more important than ever.

*This wasn’t actually that long ago

Originally published in LinkedIn.