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Can You Still Use Email Marketing During COVID?

We, as event professionals, are in the business of connection.  We help people come together, we develop bonds with our clients, and we create opportunities for relationships to be celebrated as they advance into their next stage.  The problem is, we have always worked our craft in person.  In these times, we need to take our skills online to maintain the connections we have with our prospects to make sure that we can continue booking clients for the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. 

Put Email Marketing in the Center of the Plate

While using the internet to market your business is more important now than ever, did you know that you are probably using social media incorrectly?  If you are like most people in the wedding, catering, or events industry, you post on social media in an attempt to get the attention of new clients.  Throwing up a photo of your latest event with a short caption seems like a quick and easy way to get the word out.  Low hanging fruit, right?  Unfortunately, even if you use hashtags, have gorgeous images, and post daily, you will soon be disappointed by how slowly your follower list grows and even more frustrated by the fact that all of the time and effort you are putting into social media isn’t turning into money in your bank account.

So, what’s wrong?

You are using social media for a client attraction tool instead of as a channel to reach people who are already members of your audience.  Your audience is not your follower list, it is your email list.  Your email list is a group of highly-engaged prospects who have been attracted to you by your advice and inspiration and join your list because they want to stay in contact with you.  When someone is on your email list, you have their captive attention.  They are considered part of your “squad” and have given you permission to contact them because they find what you have to say valuable. 

If you think of marketing as the five main components of a complete plate, email marketing would be the protein and social media posting would be the garnish.  The starch, vegetable, and sauce would be things like ads, blogs or podcasts, and publicity.  While many have social media as the center of the plate, you should focus more on activities that will have a bigger impact on the overall customer experience and your bank account.

Build Trust via Email to Sell More Effectively and Easily

As states are beginning to open and we get closer to being able to have in-person celebrations once again, your potential clients are feeling excited yet scared.  It will be amazing to come together for weddings, baby showers, and bat mitzvahs, but there is still a lingering fear for their personal safety and the wellbeing of their guests.  They are on edge and looking for someone they trust to tell them that everything will be ok. 

You can step into the position of a trustworthy advisor by building a relationship with prospects over time via email.  Send emails to your list that focus on being empathetic, offer credible advice, maintain an honest perspective, and are sent consistently.

Because the services you sell are most likely not low-cost impulse purchases, you need to build trusting connections with your prospects before you earn the right to sell to them.  Send automated, sequenced messages to their inbox, using the opportunity to curate your brand narrative in a way that encourages purchasing behavior and confidence. 

When someone first joins your email list, you should talk about the problem they are trying to solve and how you can empathize with what they are going through.  For example, if someone is set on having an outdoor winter wonderland wedding in the winter, they will have to solve for snowfall and cold temperatures.  If you are an event rental company, you might use a story to highlight how you have overcome that problem personally or for your clients.  You could talk about how you have used fully enclosed tents and heaters to create an unforgettably beautiful experience. 

The second email, sent a few days later, could introduce some expert tips to help them solve their number one problem.  In this case, these could be tips like how to choose the best tent or the best type of floor coverings for cooler weather.  That email might mention points that will underscore your credibility, like your certifications, how long you’ve been in business, or a relevant quote from a client. 

About a week later, you might follow up with your recommended next steps for them.  Seven days after that, you could send your sales email that would talk about why you are the perfect person to help solve their problem. 

By setting up your email list and sending messages automatically via your email service provider, like ConvertKit or Flodesk, you will be able to create revenue on demand.

The Best Time to Build Your Email List Is Now

Don’t wait to reach out to your audience when your business is back up and running.  Start now to be in the best position to support your customers in the future.  Building an email list takes time.  Your focus should be on the quality of people on your list, not just the quantity.  If you have a list of 5,000 people but only 100 are your ideal customer, you only have a list of 100.  A list of a few hundred engaged leads who would be your dream clients is much more powerful than a large list of random contacts or contacts who didn’t opt-in.

To build a quality list, you should attract your leads with an easy-to-understand solution to their number one problem.  That problem should be the one they feel most presently at the beginning of their buyer’s journey.  For example, a newly engaged couple may be concerned about the safety of the food at their wedding in the aftermath of COVID-19.  You could create a checklist called “The Ultimate Wedding Food Safety Checklist for the Conscientious Newly Engaged Couple” with a subtitle of “Make Sure Your Big Day Isn’t Ruined by COVID-19 Contaminated Food”.

To increase the speed at which your list builds, promote your checklists with social media ads.  In the ad, make sure to continue to talk about your ideal customer’s problem and how the checklist can help them solve it.  You could also write a guest blog post and include a link to your checklist.  Think about supporting your checklist by creating a 5-7 minute Facebook Live where you talk about the topic of event food safety in the age of COVID-19 and include a link to download your checklist.  The more you talk about the problem, the more likely you are to capture the attention of your squad.

Building connections online may feel foreign or awkward at first, especially when we are used to engaging with people in real life.  Embrace the discomfort now and learn how to build relationships via email to help your business thrive in a post-pandemic landscape.

Aleya Harris

Owner, Flourish Marketing

Aleya Harris, an award-winning marketer and former chef and catering company owner, is the Owner of Flourish Marketing, an agency that provides marketing education, strategy, and tools to help wedding, catering, and event professionals get and keep a consistent stream of clients.   Aleya is a StoryBrand Certified Guide and she uses that narrative-based framework to develop clear, engaging, and highly converting marketing assets, like websites and social media solutions, for her clients.  Aleya is the current Marketing Committee Chair for NACE and a top speaker at conferences...