Does anyone else lament the commoditization of "friend" amid our socially connected, digital lives? I can like you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, subscribe to your e-mail program and join your community.
But that doesn't mean I want a relationship.
And that is a problem for marketing and sales people. There are lots of ways for people to connect with brands, but there are not many actual connections. Consider these stats from a national e-commerce retailer with a social forum on its website:
Your mileage may vary on those engagement stats, but the point is probably applicable to every marketer. Our challenge is no longer to be present, but to be valuable.
This matters for response – the holy grail of all marketing measures – but it also matters for inbox deliverability. Most mailbox providers and corporate system administrators use complaints as the primary measure of engagement. The fewer people who click the spam button, the stronger the connection. However, the global mailbox providers like MSN/Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo increasingly see the limits of complaints as a singular measure of subscriber value, and want to see not just that people don't hate your message, but that they actually enjoy receiving them. This might include things like:
Mailbox providers don't think of "engagement" the same way that marketers do, it's not about opens and clicks. It's about identifying the subscribers who actually find value in their inbox. Marketing messages can be valuable. Witness how important it is for customers to receive an e-mail confirmation of an order, for readers to receive their newsletter before 9 a.m. and the amount of revenue e-mail promotions drive. Clearly there is value there.
Yet, too many of us consider a deliverable address a "relationship." That is just not so. Permission is not a relationship. Permission is just the starting point. Marketers must re-earn permission with every message we send. Only when subscribers are fully engaged – opening, clicking, sharing, converting – is there a relationship.
Most e-mail broadcast systems make it possible to segment your e-mail file, send triggered messages post activity (e.g.: purchase or download), automate customization of content as well as cadence by audience segment. Take advantage of these to nurture your subscriber relationships. While there may be some value in broadcasting, the value will only be for a small percentage of the audience with each message. Penalties for non-activity in e-mail are going to get harsher, as mailbox providers insist that marketers prove worthiness to be in the inbox by engaging larger segments of the audience. This will not be possible with a broadcast strategy.
As we move into the final quarter of the year and the inevitable rush of e-mail and other marketing, consider two to three ways to boost engagement and maintain a connection with a larger portion of your file. These might include:
How do you define "relationship" today? Let me know any questions or thoughts in the comments section below.
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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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