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Are You Delivering Emails That Matter?

  |  June 29, 2011   |  Comments

Four strategies that you can use to make your newsletter and promotional content more relevant to your subscribers.

Back in February, BtoB Magazine reported that more than half of the respondents to its "Email Marketing Benchmarks: Best Practices" survey said "Delivering highly relevant content" was on their "to do" lists for 2011.

Although many marketers have the best of intentions, they don't know where to start to deliver on email's promise of relevancy.

This week we will discuss some strategies that you can use to make your newsletter and promotional content more relevant to your subscribers.

1. Collect preferences regularly. The information your subscriber offered you a year ago or even just a few months ago represents their interests at that specific point in time and could be very different today.

Reach out to your subscribers regularly to encourage them to update their preferences. Include a regular reminder in the header or footer of your newsletter or promotions.

Also, schedule a standalone email or newsletter feature at least every quarter that reminds subscribers to update their preferences and reinforces the benefits they will receive from accurate preferences.

Update your preference center to present categories of the type of email messages you send. This will give you the flexibility to add or subtract programs over time. Examples include promotions, alerts, your newsletter, subscriber account information, etc.

2. Track behavioral data. Consistently categorize the links in your email and website content. Track the kinds of content your subscribers interact with most often.

Email click data and website browse behavior are among the most effective ways to determine what your subscribers are in-market for at the present moment. Below are several examples of these categories:

  • Product type to gauge specific product interest
  • "Buy now" versus "learn more" to gauge where the prospect is in the purchase cycle
  • Social links to identify subscribers that are more likely to interact with you in the social channel as well

In the short term, you can use the category to segment the list and follow up with customers who clicked on a specific category of content. This kind of campaign is highly relevant and typically has one of the highest conversion rates.

In the long term, track the kinds of content your subscribers prefer, and use this data to optimize your creative and set your newsletter editorial calendar.

3. Leverage hot content. Build your content around industry news and hot business trends important to your subscribers to boost your credibility and authority in your industry.

Follow important trade magazines. Survey subscribers to determine the month's hot topics. Publish comments from an authoritative employee in your organization on these issues in order to establish your company as a trusted advisor in the industry.

This timely and helpful content will lead to increased email sign-up as the word gets out in the industry that you are a valuable information source.

4. Develop modular content. Making your content more relevant to a specific segment is often as simple as changing one piece of content in your email. To do this effectively, you have to think about the parts of your email promotion or newsletter creative instead of the content as a whole.

Designing your creative with modular content offers you the flexibility to change one piece of content dynamically without having to burn additional creative resources to design, build, and test the content you are not changing over and over again.

Just one new module, created with minimal incremental effort can make your newsletter content become more relevant for a specific segment.

Modular content also gives you the ability to spread the creative workload over a longer period of time, rather than just the typical build time for a campaign.

For example, your header or footer might need to be created only once and used again and again. Other content might need to be updated only quarterly or monthly. This allows your creative team to spend more time creating modules relevant to a specific segment.

The Last Word

Delivering highly relevant content isn't as daunting as many marketers believe. It is often as easy as identifying some key segments through subscriber preferences or behaviors and changing the content in one module to address their specific wants and needs.

Although we are wrapping up the first half of the year this week, it still isn't too late to cross "Deliver more highly relevant content to our subscribers" off your 2011 "to do" list.

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Mike Hotz

Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.

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