The Evolution of Email Marketing and Social CRM

  |  June 28, 2011   |  Comments

Successful email marketing is powered by customer data, and you can't afford to ignore the customer insight that social media can provide.

Smart email marketers know that leveraging customer data is the key to creating relevant and effective email marketing campaigns. By tying into customer databases, email marketers can target emails based on key demographic and preference data. Integration with e-commerce systems can help trigger relevant messages based on past purchases. And web analytics data is key to delivering relevant messages based on page visits and shopping cart activity.

These are all excellent tactics that many email marketers are doing today (or at least know they should be doing), but what about fine-tuning relevance based on your customers' activities in social media?

While there are a number of definitions for social CRM, at my company, we define it as layering social media activity data on your customer database to enable more precise targeting. This information can be a real boon for improving the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. There have been a lot of discussions about making email marketing content shareable, which essentially has email driving sharing activity, but there is an even greater opportunity to have social media influence email marketing activity.

The first step is to find out where your customers are active on the social web, which can be done through a variety of social monitoring and listening tools. Carefully, evaluate what they are sharing, the topics they are passionate about, and any concerns that they bring up. Identify and acknowledge your most vocal brand advocates and empower them to increase their field of influence. Once you've identified a list of key influencers, mark them as such in your customer database and create specific campaigns that treat them like a most valuable customer, whether via special promotions, advanced access to products, or other ways to "surprise and delight" them.

By figuring out where its customers were active on the social web, Castrol was able to identify key themes and interests that they used to build out vibrant communities on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and other channels. In order not to overwhelm its customers with the same messages across all of these channels, Castrol gave each social network a focus - Twitter for news, Facebook for offers, Flickr for NHRA images, etc. As a result, Castrol saw participation in these networks soar, which was a key factor in the success of a recent multi-channel rebate offer campaign.

You can also identify what social networks your customers belong to by leveraging social media append services like Rapleaf, which can help you identify "influencer scores" and then append the information to your customer database. Once you have that data, you can then send more targeted email marketing campaigns designed to tap into the social networks of those influencers.

One of the most popular ways to leverage social media data is to generate and track the activity yourself with social-media powered referral campaigns, which I covered in my previous column. By launching a word-of-mouth acquisition campaign to your most loyal and active customers, you can then track multi-stage sharing behavior to identify your key influencers.

When you know the frequency of your customers' sharing activities and the size of the networks that they have exposed your message to, you can then identify your biggest brand advocates. As mentioned earlier, this information can be used to communicate to them in a way that recognizes their status - much like a loyalty program. This could include inviting them to participate in surveys and sending invitations to joining an exclusive advisory board. By giving them a level of status among their peers, they will likely be motivated to share your message with more frequency and gusto.

The bottom line is that your customers are interacting with your brand via multiple channels, and you should be collecting all of that data to be able to craft relevant messages that reflect the entire brand experience. Integrating social media activity data into your customer databases is a powerful way to identify your most loyal customers, as well as recognize opportunities to refine your messaging and offers. Successful email marketing is powered by customer data, and you can't afford to ignore the customer insight that social media can provide.


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Tal Nathan

An industry veteran, Tal Nathan has been helping organizations deliver valued and effective email marketing services for more than 10 years. In his role of vice president of client services, Nathan manages all client services for StrongMail to ensure that their respective clients receive the highest level of professional service available in today’s competitive marketplace. Previously, Nathan served as vice president and general manager of client services for Epsilon, where he led online strategy for the company’s top-tier clients, with a focus on the retail, travel and financial verticals. Prior to Epsilon, he was the vice president of client engineering at infoGroup, where he led and managed integration services for its Yesmail division. No stranger to technology, Nathan began his career at BDO Seldman, where he provided a range of business management and technology services to Fortune 500 companies. Nathan holds a BS in mechanical engineering from UCLA.

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