Content is king again. Marketers create content trails for prospects and customers to discover our products and brands, which should inspire a purchase or conversion. Increasingly, we are judged by the effectiveness of each channel's contribution to conversion - and content becomes the glue by which we optimize awareness and demand generation in our socially-networked world. That's a big incentive to make the channels work in sync, supporting and energizing each other. (I'll talk about attribution in a future column, but meanwhile check out this excellent column by fellow ClickZ columnist Ed Henrich.)
A digital lifecycle approach works best in a multichannel environment - in large part because customers prefer to interact with brands via multiple channels. No one channel can take the prospect all the way from discovery through close and satisfaction (and renewal). At the early part of the relationship, search marketing is great for introducing many leads to the brand or product promise, but quickly loses track of them once they hit the landing page. E-mail marketing can pick up the ball and run with it to a conversion, both working alone as well as in tandem with social marketing and inside sales.
What's the e-mail gal doing at a search conference? Just talking about how a multichannel approach can improve the return on your search investment. E-mail and search are actually sort of like distant cousins - both alike and wildly different in equal measure. They have similar attributes like targeting, timing, and clutter. Yet, they are fundamentally different. Search is a pull medium and e-mail is push. Effective e-mail is based on permission - an explicit opt-in to the relationship. E-mail is more of a content creator for dialog and relationship, while search is really good at optimizing content to be found.
Like two puzzle pieces, together they create a continuum of touchpoints that build a relationship with the prospect/customer. I'm a firm believer that all channels contribute to synergy, which lifts the results of the whole marketing mix. There are three primary ways that e-mail can extend your search relationship:
Consider offering short-term e-mail conversations as an alternate to your newsletter. Offer prospects from any source the option to sign up for three to seven e-mail messages in a series about a particular topic. Set the cadence to match the lifecycle stage. Researchers of productivity software may welcome a daily message for four days, if it helps them evaluate vendor options. Someone interested in a Webinar on business trends might love to get five once-a-week tips on how to plan out a strategy for business growth this year. The series needs to provide the specific value promised (tips on business growth), but certainly can also sell. For example, suggest the appropriateness of your brand and product for solving key challenges, offer a quiz or poll to identify latent needs, or offer additional downloads. We've seen these series result in a 50 percent conversion of inquiries to sales call, as well as 75 percent conversion to the ongoing e-mail newsletter file. However, if all you do is hammer a sales message, you will likely see low response.
Please use the comments section below to share your experiences on connecting search and e-mail (and other channels) - and the risks of not doing so.
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.
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