First impressions count, right?
The first few communications you send to a customer can literally make or break your relationship with them. My time in direct-to-consumer startups taught me a thing or two about email marketing, and how the customer experience holds the key to building loyalty, and ultimately generating future demand for your products. That’s why I loved receiving this simple welcome email from Alice Williams, founder of Ovira, an Australian startup on a mission to end period pain. It landed in my inbox the day after I ordered their Noha device, and it's a great example of a customer communication that creates instant connection and turned me into a brand advocate—and I hadn't even used the product yet.
Backing up for a minute here, let's address the social media elephant in the room. An active presence on social is obviously important (and the Ovira team do a brilliant job of it—a post for another time!), especially when you're launching or building a brand. Social is the ideal vehicle for meeting customers where they are. But your public content is still, for the most part, a one-to-many broadcast. It's not personalised. And for all the creative opportunity social media brings, it's still quite challenging to leverage it in isolation to drive measurable sales or referrals. It's also undeniably time-consuming. Creating stories that resonate requires consistent ideation and content development typically reserved for larger teams, or brands with dedicated content resources.
So, what if you're running a super lean team, or have minimal resources to deploy in the first place? Outside of the high pressure of daily e-commerce sales (just mentioning the Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday to an e-comm marketer is guaranteed to make them break into a sweat), email is often overlooked as a channel that drives measurable results. And no matter what vertical you operate in, if you get email right, it can easily become your top performing channel.
Here’s why this email works:
1. Simple formatting for the Updates tab win.
A plain-text email that isn’t trying to sell me anything is much more likely to land in the Updates tab in Gmail, where most of your transactional emails usually live (think shipping notifications, customer service responses, and stuff like that). Now this is clearly a marketing email, but it very cleverly walks and talks like a transactional email, which is the key to getting out of the Promotions tab. I was so curious, I opened the email right away. The likelihood that this is a targeted send vs. a large email blast, combined with the personalised subject line, the use of Alice’s name in the From line, and the absence of promotional messaging in the email itself, are all great tactics for shifting your more targeted, story-driven comms over to Updates. This will increase your open rate, and more opens = more opportunities to tell your brand story and create connections with customers, without getting lost in the deluge of daily promotional emails.
2. Personal outreach from the CEO.
Hearing directly from the founder about why she created Ovira in the first place is a great way to remind me why I decided to buy in the first place. As someone who lived with chronic pain for the best part of 2021, my decision to invest in their device was a considered one. Alice’s message reminded me of the trigger events I experienced during my buying journey (most of which really sucked and were not fun experiences in the slightest), helping me feel seen and less alone. And now that this connection has been established as part of my onboarding journey, I'm much more likely to do the things she's asking me to do.
3. Value over volume.
This email contains just two links, and one call to action. The simplicity is what works here—Alice isn’t asking me to follow five social media accounts or read a bunch of blog posts, she’s focused on the few things that matter at this point in my customer experience: (1) join the Ovira Facebook group (it’s a safe space for you to share your experiences!), (2) claim your device on private health insurance if you have it (get some money back in your pocket!), and (3), just reply to this email if you have a question for Alice herself (wait, the CEO wants to hear from customers directly? How good!). A newsletter-style email is also useful as part of your customer lifecycle, but multiple links and calls-to-action can dilute performance. By sticking to a few simple messages, the email stands out. It brings utility to the customer relationship without overwhelming the reader.
Your story will set you apart.
One of your biggest opportunities to drive new word-of-mouth referrals—a critical growth driver for DTC brands with limited SKUs—lives inside the existing customer experience. Don't underestimate the email channel. Your customers have given you their details and demonstrated clear intent. Now that you've got their attention, a strong engagement strategy is one of the easiest ways to keep it. Your story is powerful. Stay consistent. Remind your customers why your product is well-positioned to solve the problems they came to you for in the first place, and do it in simple ways without going too heavy on the sales pitch all the time. Balance is key.
I often talk about why every story you tell has the potential to create new customers in the future, and it all comes down to connection and value. If your customers feel a genuine connection to what you're building, they're going to join you for the ride, which means they're much more likely to tell people about what you do. The Ovira device had been all over my socials for some time, and while the customer testimonials were always really impressive, I found myself wanting validation from someone I knew. This is what got me over the line in the end—a firm recommendation directly from a friend, a friend I trust implicitly who had already derived value from the product.
P.S. Don't forget to deliver on your value proposition.
This might sound extremely obvious, but you can have the best customer engagement strategy in the world, but if your product doesn't do what it says it's going to do, well, that's a big problem. A happy customer, like the friend who recommended Ovira to me, is the best kind of customer you could hope for. Happy customers like to tell others about their positive experiences, but you better believe unhappy customers tell even more people about their negative ones.
Listen to your customers.
Your customers are the key to driving future demand for your products, so don't forget about them. Ask them what they think about your product, and listen to what they have to say in response. Always be adding value, but most importantly, don't annoy them (they might be happy, but they're also busy). If all you do is bombard your full email list with promotional emails seven days a week, you're very much missing the point.
Look after the customers who already paid you to provide them with something of value, and they will add measurable value to your business in return.
You've already got their email address, right?