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Email Tales: Using Storytelling Emails to Build Relationships and Foster Brand Loyalty

Learn the primary principals of storytelling, and how to implement them in your customer emails, to improve your relationship marketing efforts and boost customer loyalty.

Video Transcript

Welcome again. Last one for today. So, bear with us, and thank you so much for staying so far. Welcome again to PostFunnel Summit 2019, and thank you for joining our session.

We’re going to talk about email tales, how you can use storytelling in your emails in order to create relationship with your customers and foster brand loyalty.

My name is Stavit, Stavit Abish. I’m a team leader in the Strategic Services Team in Optimove. And I have here with me, Dana.

– Hi, I’m Dana Shirlen. I’m the Director of Email Marketing for Optimove.

– On our agenda, we’re going to start off by talking about one of the main challenges in email marketing today, which is your customers’ inbox. We’re going to share with you a suggested solution, which is using storytelling in your email marketing. We’re, of course, going to share a lot of examples and strategies of how you can actually do that, and we’re going to sign off with the main takeaways that you can just take home with you and directly implement into your own marketing funnels.

So, let’s get started. As mentioned, and this is something that you are probably all familiar with, one of the main challenges in today’s email marketing is your customers’ inbox state. Customers are being overwhelmed and bombarded with a lot of different messages. It could be from your own company’s competitors, but also from other vendors and verticals.

– So, as mentioned, customers are being bombarded with different messaging from different companies, and we are all trying to get the customer attention and actually to stand out in their emails.

Some of us have tried or are still trying to use strategies of giving away very high bonuses and high discounts in order to stand out in the inbox. This is a strategy that would probably work for the short term only and not for the long term. In order to create customer engagement with your emails, and also create their brand loyalty, the first step is to make sure you’re sending out the relevant content, this is probably why you’re in here as well, using different segmentation tactics and being very personalized with your emails.

The next step, and actually our suggested solution for today would be using storytelling tactics within your emails. We also know that consumers today are not looking for the transactional experience. They’re looking for the overall brand experience. We believe that storytelling can get you there.

What is exactly storytelling and how it relates to email marketing? Let’s talk first about that. By telling a story, you’re bypassing logic and touching directly emotions and feelings, okay? So you’re connecting to your customers on the emotional level. Try to think about the best commercial email or even billboard that you’ve seen throughout the last years.

Which one would you remember best? Is it the one that had the biggest offer in them such as “Half of everything we have in store,” or, “200% matching bonus on your next deposit?” Probably not. You’re more likely to remember the ones that had stories in them. One example that I remember the most is the Werther’s Original commercial.

When you consider a grandfather, that he can still remember the sweet taste of the golden candy he got from his grandfather, and he couldn’t think about anything else other than this sweet, sweet candy to give away to his own grandson. Researchers actually shows that once a person reads or hear a story, dopamine is being released, which is in charge for memory retention.

And this is probably the reason why you’re most likely to remember things that had stories in them. And this is also the reason why we believe that storytelling could be a huge benefit to us all in the email marketing area. Now, before we dive into the exact examples and strategies, bear with me for a few more moments where we’re going to speak theoretically about things that you must do and have in order to create an effective story in your emails.

First point is that you have to build trust when you’re telling a story. In order to do so, you must be very authentic, very straightforward with your story to your customers. You can tell your own story. You can share your own experience, who you are, what motivates you as a brand to become you, and what customers can expect from your emails. And, of course, after that, you have to deliver that.

The second point is that you have to be very relevant. Customers needs to know that you know who you’re sending your messages to. You can use the different data points that you have on your customers, their purchase history, all their historical activity in order to segment them and to send them the right story. For example, if you’re launching a new camera, an email with a story about the different techs aspects, tech aspects of the camera would be relevant for a professional photographer if you segmented him by the fact that he has already purchased a lot of cameras from you.

But for a new customer, probably these kinds of stories could be very, very overwhelming. Next up is that you have to know your goal. Sometimes when people think about stories, they think about a very, very long text, right? And this is a trap that marketers falls into. They’re creating a very, very long email templates with a lot of different messages in them and a few call-to-actions.

We could be a little bit confusing for the customer. So you have to make sure that you can summarize your story, even in a few words or a few sentences. Following that, of course, you have to have actionable and very clear call-to-actions within your email template. Probably simple ones, like, “Shop now,” or “Come and play,” wouldn’t work in terms of storytelling.

You have to make your call-to-action align with the theme of the story that you are telling. The next point we touched a little bit, being very data-driven and personalized, you can definitely use the different data points that you have on your customers in order to create a one-on-one communication with them, even share with them their own story, their experience with your brand.

And we’re going to see afterwards a lot of examples that shows that. Last but not least, we’re talking about stories. So you have to have fun. You can be very creative. You can add different aspects and exciting elements into your email templates. You could use different animated GIFs, even embedded videos that have shown in the past for higher engagement with your emails.

We’re going to share throughout the session a lot of examples of how you can incorporate different and dynamic elements to your email templates. We have done it by using Dynamic Mail, one of Optimove’s features to create real-time content and also kinetic elements within the emails. So I’m going to pass it on to Dana.

– Thank you, Stavit. So let’s talk about three different strategies for ways of integrating storytelling into your own emails. First, use real people to tell your story. And it doesn’t have to be you. It can be your employees, it can be your customers. But the important thing to note here is that using relatable customers or relatable characters, I’m sorry, help to create an instant connection.

Take for a second, some stories that you read throughout the years, taking marketing out of the equation. Its characters that are the essence of stories, Gandalf, Sherlock Holmes, even Anastasia Steele. These characters help to bridge the gap between chapters in a story, or between the different books in a story.

And the same can be said with marketing messages, whether it’s multiple touches in a series or just a single template. When you have an actual character narrating your story versus the brand or even a figurehead, it becomes very relatable to the subscriber or the recipient of your message.

Because now they’re not relating just to a product, or a feature, or a benefit, but you’re able to communicate to them in a way that you wouldn’t have been able to on your own. They’re able to create a very personal and very emotional connection that is unique to each recipient. For example, what better way to connect with a subscriber then using yourself in the story?

We’re going to show you a tactic called the origin story where you can use yourself to help communicate the reason why you started business in the first place, whether it was a gap you saw in the marketplace and that’s why you started, or maybe what differentiates yourself from your competitors. It’s also a really great tactic to use in your welcome series or even when speaking to lapsed engagers or lapsed customers.

Let’s use this example for Crate & Barrel from Crate & Barrel, for example. It’s a really great way to help personify the idea of adding a narrator and how it can help to create more of an emotional connection with your subscribers. Here’s an email they had sent out with some editors’ picks of products for the spring.

This is the Bryce chair, beautiful green chair they chose for spring from their editors. It’s about $1,500 U.S., but it really lacks a narrator in telling this story. What if we wanted to add a narrator to that story? Let’s see what it does. Let’s say we use Mike as an editor. And now Mike tells us he chose the Bryce chair because it’s a fun pop of color for spring.

And by choosing the Bryce chair for his living room, he was able to add that fun, exciting pop of color for spring. And now he’s adding additional pops of color in his living room through the use of pillows and accessories. All of a sudden, you can, kind of, close your eyes and imagine what Mike’s living room looks like.

You might even be able to visualize who Mike is. You can, kind of, put yourself in that story. And if you really like the Bryce chair or the color green, you might want to follow Mike in additional recommendations he makes or in additional touches. That’s the power that adding a narrator to your story or to your email messages can create.

It’s that emotional connection, and that’s why it’s so successful. Here are some other examples from other brands. J.Crew does a really good example with it here by having their own employees choose products that they felt were their favorite to now share with customers. And the reason I like this is it’s really timely. Right now, a lot of us are thinking holiday, end of year.

It’s a great time for you to tap into your own employees and say, “Hey, what have been your favorite products throughout the year? What have been the best games that you yourself have enjoyed playing and why? Let’s aggregate that into an email, or into a template, or into a series of messages for the end of the year that we can send to our subscribers and say, ‘These are things we feel you should engage with or convert on.'” Because these people, first name, characters, real people have really recommended it and why.

And here’s an example using real people from MVMT Watch. But this time, it’s their co-founders that are telling the story. They’re giving a little hint as to why they started the company, but more importantly, telling you what their favorite products from the brand are and why using quotes. And what’s great about this is I can build an emotional connection. I can say, “Am I more like Jake or am I more like Kramer,” and I’m more likely to connect with them in future touches.

So the next time I get an email featuring Kramer, I’m like, “Hmm, yeah, that’s a watch Kramer recommended.” And I feel like I relate to Kramer, so I’m more likely to convert. The origin story, which we mentioned earlier in our teller tip, is a great way to convey the story of how you got started. And we’re doing that here in conveying the Optimove story using some Dynamic Mail components.

They’re dynamic, they’re kinetic, they’re incredibly engaging. And we’re using video to showcase Penny telling the story of how Optimove started, as well as Instagram to rotate images of the actual employees that make up the personality and the brand of Optimove. It’s engaging, it’s reflective, it’s authentic, and it’s using real people to narrate our story.

Secondly, share your experience. Stories of personal experience have a huge impact on customers. Think, for example, of the “People do not buy from brands or companies, they buy from people.” It’s why Yelp is so popular. You tend to purchase after reading a review, or you make a restaurant reservation after reading something on a website.

I personally like to look at pictures of food on Yelp and decide what I’m going to order when I’m at a restaurant. So it’s these experiences that create such a relevant experience and a connection with the subscribers. And if you can integrate that into your storytelling technique, in your message, I mean, you’re just going to see huge engagement and conversion.

But more importantly, if you engage your subscriber to provide you with some of that content and user-generated content, for example, it allows you to utilize that, whether in email or even in social media, to have it as an opportunity to use as an acquisition effort. Here’s a great example from Spotify.

And this is an email that they’ve been using since 2016, but I wanted to note that because they’ve become so popular since, and because there’s so much content in this template, they’ve truncated it after 2016. So, it, kind of, ends here, and now you have to click through to the site. But in 2016, this email became very viral.

Because what happened was is that subscribers were getting this experience shared with them, but it was their own experience Spotify was sharing. They were sharing how many minutes each subscriber spent with the service, what was your favorite songs, who were your favorite artists based on your listening.

It was an experience, and it was a one-to-one emotional connection. But what surprised them was how many people were sharing that with friends and comparing the results. “Oh my gosh, you like Kanye West?I like Kanye West.What else do you listen to?” It also got their subscribers to use the service a lot more simply because of this message, and that’s why it is so incredibly successful. Uber does the same thing.

But this is just for the month of March. And using subscriber data, they shared how many trips you made in the month of…I’m sorry, in the month of October, how many trips you made in the month of October, and what your writer rating was for the month. But they also include additional points of relevant content simply based on timeliness, knowing that Halloween falls in October.

So what are some haunted activities? Or, what are some of the most haunted cities? Really relevant, great way to tell a story. And then Juno, on the other hand, while Uber is telling your story, Juno tells their own story. In celebration of their third birthday, they’re sharing their story through information from their founder, their drivers, their employees.

Very relevant, has a narrator, and it’s very engaging. Here’s a great tactic for sharing experiences with your subscriber on a one-to-one emotional basis. It’s using something called the chronological story, and it allows for a lot of data points and a lot of content.

And it’s how we’re used to reading stories because there’s a beginning, and a middle, and an end, and it takes you from a point A to a point B. Here we’re sharing the story of a users’ experience through a loyalty program. What we’re trying to do is get them to convert a little more, make another purchase or two, so they convert over to VIP status.

But along the way, we want to share with them what they’ve done so far, so what their first purchase was in the loyalty program. And then the next step in the loyalty program, how many purchases they made, as well as what were their favorite purchases or their favorite products that they viewed or browsed. Additionally, we use a Dynamic Mail component to show them the closest brick and mortar store to their location, all parts of their story, all very custom to them, all very engaging.

And finally, it’s important that your story is authentic. And so there are some tactics we can use to make a very authentic story and to incorporate that into your storytelling, overall. And, in being authentic, it’s important that you’re real and straightforward. The longer it takes you to tell your story, the less believable it is.

And it shouldn’t be a sales pitch. But on the other hand, I think a lot of marketers fear that in telling their story, they can’t incorporate a discount, or an offer, or a promotion, or a sale. And that’s not true. There’s a technique called “the reason why.”

And that simply means you need to be able to answer questions as to why. Why am I getting this content? Why am I getting this offer? Why am I getting this deal? And if you can answer those questions, then it makes sense, and it’s relevant to the objective or to the story itself. Let’s take, for example, Tattly.

Tattly is a fake tattoo company, and they were celebrating their fifth anniversary. They have an offer in the email, it’s just not the primary message. The primary message is a message from their CEO and founder, and she’s revealing all the things she learned in the first five years of being in business. What makes this an authentic strategy, however, is that it’s no holds barred.

She’s honest to a fault. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything, and it’s not all sunshine and roses. She talks about some of the hardships she’s encountered. And what that does, by being so authentic, is she’s able to relate to subscribers and customers on a very real level because all of us aren’t perfect.

And then in the example from bareMinerals, the offer is the main message, but it’s relevant to the overall objective of the email, and that’s to reengage you. They’re saying, “Hey, we miss you.We haven’t seen you in a while.Come back.And you know what we’re going to do to get you to come back?We’re going to give you this really exclusive offer.”

So it’s relevant to the story that they’re telling. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a great tactic in incorporating an offer or a discount in your message, and that’s called “the reason why.” We’re doing that here with a couple of really cool components from Dynamic Mail. And, as long as you are answering these three questions, you can incorporate an offer, or a discount, or a sale in your message.

It’s answering, “Why are you sending this to me?Why are you making me this offer, and what’s the reason for this content?” Here, we’re assuming it’s the very first snowfall in your area of the year. You’re probably snowed in, you’re cold, you might be bored, so we’re giving you this cool discount, 20% off to warm you up, keep you excited, give you something to do today.

And that something to do is shop online. It’s relevant, and it’s exciting, and it creates an emotional connection. So I’m going to turn it back over to Stavit, who’s going to help wrap things up and talk about the key takeaways.

– Thank you, Dana, for the great examples. Just to summarize our session, we know that storytelling is a very, very powerful tool and strategy that is based on emotions, authenticity, real people, and real stories, as you saw in all of the different examples, all in all, to create higher engagement from your customers, open click rates, and eventually conversions, and, of course, revenues.

By using storytelling, you’re resonating with your customers to create their brand loyalty. And also, it helps you to make sure you’re able to influence their decision-making processes by tapping into their emotions. Something that you have to bear in mind is that email is a very personal space. Customers gave you their own email address, and it’s very personal to them.

You have to leverage that, but you need to be very cautious with the story that you’re telling them. As we saw also in the few examples, storytelling allows your target, your customer to become the hero of the story. You can also leverage your customer data to make your customers the narrative of the story itself.

So, put your data into a good use in this case. The last thing would be, and we talked about it throughout the session, storytelling speaks to emotions. So, you have to take that into consideration when you’re creating your own stories. We encourage you, either tonight or on your way back home from the summit, take a few moments by yourself or with your team members.

Write some notes down. Think about stories that you can tell your own customers, fun facts, different anecdotes, what motivates you as a business, and also which data points in your customers you can share with them as their own stories.

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