Relationships Drive Business

Strengthening Customer Engagement to Propel Your Business

Four Ways Oprah Uses Email September 21, 2011

Oprah uses email marketing to engage with her fans even now that she’s not on TV.


What other media mogul do you know that gave out their personal email address on national TV? She gave it out during the very last show. The one where it was just her on stage for an hour saying goodbye after 25 years. Go ask your girlfriends, I bet they heard it, to.  I emailed her, that put me on her email list. Since then I’ve gotten a few emails from her. They read like Oprah talking, not like Oprah advertising.


O uses my email address judiciously. I have the sense she feels privileged to have it. She’s careful not to abuse the relationship.

There are 4 things Oprah does with email.

  1. Takes interest in my world – she asks how things are going.
  2. Updates on her – She tells me what she’s been up to
  3. Asks about 1 thing – She’ll ask my opinion on 1 topic
  4. No sell – She’s never asked me for money.


And BTW – she never uses a belittling Subject Line. There’s no “10 things you don’t know about X.” Her typical Subject line is “Happy 4th of July,” or “The next right decision.”  It’s respectful.


The opposite is true of another self-made millionaire who has an entrepreneur’s conference coming up in Dallas. I’m registered to go, but honestly I tuned out her emails 6 months ago. So much so, I can’t even tell you who the keynote speaker. Every email she sends is her trying to reach into my pocketbook to pad her own.  “Upgrade your registration for exclusive access” or “advertise my stuff to your friends.” It got old after email #2. She’s clearly only interested in how much money she can get out of me and my network.


Oprah has a lot to sell. Can you imagine trying to start a network? That’s a B-I-G job. In her email in August she said flat out it’s 10x harder than she thought it would be. And yet she’s never begged me to watch or asked me to buy an ad. She’s asked me what I think of a show. I mean, I know she’d like me to watch, sure. But she’s using my email the same way a girlfriend would – by asking my opinion and telling me a bit about her life.


I don’t have any friends who ask for money every time we talk.


Who else do you know who uses email really well?



“Shine” a Women’s Entrepreneur Conference April 14, 2011


In January I registered to go to “Shine.” It is a women entrepreneur conference held in Dallas. The founder is Ali Brown, a self-described entrepreneurial guru for women. It’s the 1st weekend of November.

I first came across it while researching a client’s blog. Somewhere within Fabulous After 40’s blog posts and comments I stumbled onto conversation about Shine 2010 and it piqued my interest. The event is designed to help women entrepreneurs kick start and inspire one another. After poking around a bit more, I jumped in and signed up.

Three elements that pushed me over the edge to sign up:

  • The monthly payment plan. Instead of diving in with cash to register, I can bill $79/month on my credit card. That was brilliant.
  • Dallas is home to one of my oldest friends, Liz. And I can visit her. (we’ve been friends since Kindergarten) Bam. Double duty value.
  • As an early bird registrant to Shine, I get to bring a friend, for free. Guess who’s coming with me? Yup, Liz.

Since I signed up some of the communication I’ve seen from Ali International has me going “hmm.” She, Ali, is VERY self-promotional. “Buy my DVD set and change your life!” “I’m going to be on TV, don’t miss me!” ” Buy this and I’ll show you the secrets to success!” “Save $50 bucks for a limited time.”  “Don’t miss out!” Not exactly my style.

Most of this is on her Facebook Page. I finally “unliked” it. Her page is set up for one-way communication only. Just her.  If fans want to add a comment to what she says, OK. But a fan can’t just post “Hi” or “What speakers are on tap for Shine 2011?” That goes against the gospel of social, and rubs me the wrong way.

The email communication that has come through about “Shine” has encouraged attendees to go to Facebook and introduce themselves to each other. Except you can’t because we can’t post. I emailed her in February about the disconnect. No response, and no change to the way the Page is set up. And the “I’m selling this!!” posts just kept coming. Hence the “unlike” and the wondering about what’s really going to take place at “Shine.”

There has been an event created on Facebook for Shine, and the women showing up there seem cool. That’s what I’m interested in. Am I still going? Yes. (‘Cause I get to see Liz.) We’ll go to the first day of “Shine” and see what we get. If it’s a huckster fest, Liz and I will bail and turn Dallas upside down. She’s going to take me garage sale-ing, I just know it.

What do you think? Should I be suspicious or am I over reacting?

If you’re curious and want to come along, Liz and I would love partners in our adventure! Even if it ends up being garage sales.




7 Steps to Regular, Dread-free Newsletters March 24, 2011

Nearly a year ago I started sending out SocialPie’s weekly newsletter. When I started planning it, my friend Russ said, “Weekly? That’s a big commitment.” It made me step back, rethink and plunge forward anyway. Weekly, smeekly. I could handle it.

Fast forward, rubber hits the road. Weekly was a big commitment. Were there week’s I wished I’d bitten off something smaller? Yes. Have I missed a week? No (knock wood.)

At first the weekly churn from idea to article was a drag, it took so much time. Coming up with a topic, finding the resources, getting it down on the screen, editing. It all seemed to drag out and I found myself dreading it. Some week’s I was up until midnight finishing for a 5:00 AM post time. There was even one Friday morning I sprang out of bed realizing I hadn’t finished. It was discouraging.

Fast forward some more, now I have it down to a science, and that’s what I want to share with you, the process that’s evolved. With process and practice I’ve increased the speed it gets done, and that has been encouraging.

Here’s my 7 steps to regular newslettering:

  1. Bookmark an interesting article or comment.
  2. Capture random thoughts on the topic right in Emma (my newsletter platform), save the draft.
  3. Turn those thought fragments into sentences and edit.
  4. Walk away.
  5. Spell check and edit again
  6. Read aloud, edit again.
  7. Final formatting and scheduling.

This process came together over time. I can’t emphasis enough that weekly deadline I gave myself helped me hone a process. Now I turn out newsletters in 3-4 sittings, totally about 90 minutes of my time. Are they perfect, gosh no. But they ship.

Another thing that’s really helped is an editorial calendar. Within my calendar I created another “Newsletter Topics” calendar. That’s where ideas get dumped. Some week’s I get 3 ideas, but I only use 1 topic per newsletter. With the calendar I can dump the extra ideas and links to what triggered them in a convenient place. When I’m ready to write I go to the calendar to grab the ideas. It has made things much easier.

Have you struggled with the same thing? How have you handled it?


Groupon – The Good and the Ugly September 23, 2010

Too-good-to-pass-up deals in your city, emailed to your Inbox.

Groupon is the latest wunderkind of social networking. In the last 3 weeks they’ve been the feature of stories in everything from Fast Company to NPR, Today Show, Good Morning America, and was named the #1 Hottest Website for 2010 by Fox Business News. They offer hyper-local marketing in 140 markets in the US. Offering one too-good-to-pass-up discount everyday to their email audience. Here are some past offers.

Today I read a horror story from Posies Cafe. It got me thinking we need to talk carefully about who it’s right for and how to strategically plan for wild success and its aftermath.

How Groupon Works:
1. Each day they feature something from an advertiser, something cool to do at an unbeatable price.
2. The offer only goes live if enough people join that day… so inviting friends is encouraged.
3. Check back the next day for another awesome Groupon.

Groupon Target Audience:
They’re socially active, both online and off. Here are the demographics.
– 50 percent go out twice a week or more
– Habitual users of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media tools
– Savvy Online Shoppers

What the Groupee gets:

Exposure to highly targeted audiences.

– Sales at deep discount.

– Payment before the end user gets the product or service.

What’s in it for Groupon:

Groupon takes a commission on every sale. They provide the audience and the distribution channel. They process all the transactions and take a cut. Usually it’s 50%.

How it’s changed business

Groupon’s model rearranges payment’s spot in the transaction. Payment happens in advance of the consumer using the coupon at the retailer. It moves you getting paid closer to the front end of the process. That could be good for your cashflow.

In deciding if Groupon is right for you, look at it from all angles. Run the financial scenarios for 50 sales for 500 sales. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What will you do with the exposure when you get it?
  • How will you stay in touch with the new customers it brings you?
  • How will the influx of business affect existing customers, and can I live with a worst case scenario?
  • What are my true costs of the deal?

Groupon’s biggest competitor is LivingSocial. Some of the details are different, but it’s based on the same principles of group buying power, and people sharing good deals with friends.

Other articles to help you decide if Groupon or LivingSocial is right for your business:


Email Marketing + Facebook = Multi Tasking August 26, 2010

Filed under: Ideas — Carla Bobka @ 6:24 pm
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Taking one for the Team August 25, 2010

Filed under: Ideas — Carla Bobka @ 6:47 pm

So I made the time to follow the email-marketing-best-practice of setting up a trigger email for new subscribers to SocialPie’s newsletter. (Yeah, I know, it was over due.) Now that it’s been set up, I’ve gotten feedback. So I wanted to share.

The subscriber was thrilled to have the immediate gratification of “sign-up and get value.” So thrilled in fact, she took the time to send me a note. It made my day.

So find the time, it’s there, just grab it.


Plant Farm Perfection (almost) June 24, 2010

Filed under: Ideas,Learnings — Carla Bobka @ 3:02 pm
Tags: , ,

A few days ago I was at Groff’s Plant Farm. A friend introduced me to the place this summer. Groff’s is almost perfect. They have one of the most fantastic selections of plants ever, and they are cheap. It’s out in the boonies, but that’s OK.

After paying with a check they told me they’d add my address to their newsletter list, it would mail within the month. Of course, that peaked my interest. So I asked if they sent it via email, too. “No, a lot of our customers are seniors, so they like mail.” Bummer. I hate waiting on snail-mail. And with nearly 7000 people on their list, that’s a lot of stamps.

This gets me to wondering why a business owner only markets through 1 delivery channel at a time. Don’t get me wrong, these guys are clearly smart. They manage planting and selling a HUGE variety of plants both wholesale and retail. So huge they don’t even list the varieties on the website. It’s a monster operation. An emailed newsletter would have exactly the same content as the print version, you wouldn’t write two. You would just deliver the same thing through two mailing methods: “Send” and “Stamp.”

Think of the savings. Even if only 30% of their customers preferred the email version they would still save over $800 in postage alone. Not to mention print costs. And quicker delivery. Quick delivery has to be pretty important in a seasonal business.

In fact, as I write this, I realize delivering a newsletter via mail and email is exactly the same concept as having both a retail and wholesale business. You don’t sell different stuff wholesale than you do retail. It’s the same rose-bush, just marketed to two different customers.

What do you think? Do you send your newsletter one way or different ways to different customers?

BTW – Groff’s big sale is July 10. One day. Don’t get in my way.