Have you ever been a part of a one-sided conversation? Or had a friend who wouldn’t talk to you unless you called her? After enduring this behavior for a while you’re likely to get bored and will look for the nearest escape route.

The same is true of your customers and prospects on your email list. If all you do is sell, sell, sell, people will have a race to see who can unsubscribe the fastest. You might have all the outer beauty of and all the money of Donald Trump but if you aren’t concerned about your readers ¬†needs, they will certainly drop you.

Let’s look at some ways you can engage your readers in a conversation and how you can provide value to their lives without always looking for a sale.

1. Ask questions. You may have the demographics of your target market but have you actually asked them what they want or need? Even if you’re a part of the target market, your needs might be different from someone else in the market.

Send emails with specific, open-ended questions and encourage them to hit the reply button to send their answers. Create a simple survey with more open-ended questions and ask your list to participate (offering a freebie helps recruit participants). Ask your questions on your Facebook fan page and send the link to your list. This option is fun because with Facebook real-time updates it feels more like a real conversation.

2. Be a problem solver. After you read the questions from your readers, search for the answers to whatever they need. Once you have the answers, decide how best to deliver the information.

You could write a blog post answering the question then send an email with the post link. If the answer is more detailed, film a video and embed it on your site. Then send an email linking to the video post. A problem-solver also gets known as the go to person, which is a good place to be when competing for market share.

3. Share information. This can be content that you create from scratch or it can be content such as blog posts, articles or videos that other non-competitors have already posted.

Why reinvent the wheel? Instead of putting pressure on yourself and your already busy schedule to create numerous pieces of information, share articles, blog posts or videos that will help your audience. Be careful, of course, that the people producing the content are not direct competitors.

If you’re a landscaper who finds a video about the best ways to grow grass in the summertime, share the link with your email list. If you’re a chiropractor and a fellow chiropractor a couple of states away published an article about ergonomics, go ahead and share it.

Focus on email marketing as a relationship builder instead of a way to make money and you will have lifelong readers and clients who understand you truly want to help them.