Imagine that you’re at your favorite online cheesecake store. You find what you’re looking for, add it to your shopping cart and click "buy." As you fill out the online order form, you’re asked to check off your favorites on a list of 25 cheesecake flavors, "so we may better serve you..." You sign up because you love a good special and want to be informed of the latest in the world of cheesecake. And so it’s done. You’ve opted in.
Imagine, if you will, that you’re paying a visit to a favorite online store. You’re there because you want to buy cheesecake. (Just go with me here - I have cheesecake on the brain today...)
You find what you’re looking for (New York-style, no fruit), add it to your shopping cart and click "buy." Simple.
As you fill out the online order form, you’re presented with a listing of 25 cheesecake flavors with a note asking you to "check off your favorites, please, so we may better serve you in the future..."
Okay, you’ll bite (so to speak). You sign up for this offer because you love a good special and want to be kept informed of any and all new developments in the world of cheesecake.
And so it’s done. You’ve opted in. Two weeks later, voila...
"Dear Kim," the email starts, "We at CheesecakeLoversAreUs.com want to inform you that we just finished baking the most wonderful toffee-cherry-marshmallow-pineapple-caramel-crunch cheesecake that you told us you love so much. Why not go to our site right now OR - if you don’t have time - just click on the dancing graham cracker below and your cheesecake can be shipped within 24 hours..."
No fuss, no muss. A true no-brainer. (Or so it seems...)
Back to reality. Due to the latest developments in email technology, scenarios such as the one above are taking place more often. Dot-com companies are using similar methods to build their own email lists, and are segmenting them based on customer preferences.
They’re also testing offers and messages... tracking and analyzing results... applying any new knowledge to future campaigns. Traditional, complex direct marketing fare.
Which brings me to my point (and, yes, I do have one): A seemingly simple email interaction is actually quite complicated to create.
I would recommend several critical steps that companies need to implement in order to launch a robust email component. Following is a brief overview of each:
Design. This is the brainstorming part of your venture... the time when you plan how powerful you want this channel of your business to be. If you’re running a content site, your goals will be different from those of an e-commerce site. Some questions to keep in mind:
Build. It’s time to pull together the logistics that will help you realize the goals you set forth in the "Design" phase above. In the cheesecake example, the powers-that-be decided that personalization was critical, as was the ability to speak to each cheesecake lover differently and to deploy in HTML. The infrastructure was built accordingly.
Test. Simply put, this is the step that evaluates the various segments of your list. It also will help determine which types of offers should go out.
Deploy. All systems go. The final message is sent. As the days go by, all inbound responses are collected. Complaints and "unsubscribes" are managed, and you’re ready to process the resulting transactions.
Track. There are a variety of behaviors that you can track, such as how many recipients opened the message, which specific links were clicked, how many emails were forwarded, how many recipients made a purchase and more. You make the call as to what information is important to your goals.
Report. Even if you’re using a third party, this step is most effective when you, as the marketer, have complete access to the reporting system. Make sure yours is set up to provide reports in real-time - this kind of power can give you a lot of flexibility when making last-minute decisions and changes.
Analyze. This step is self-explanatory and certainly nothing new to traditional direct marketers. As each campaign is analyzed, the quality of the list is improved and subsequent campaigns can be optimized.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Keep in mind that if your deployment numbers are relatively small, you can probably handle most of this in-house, though it probably won’t be easy.
Outsourcing, however, can save you significant time and manpower - particularly if your ultimate goal is to market to tens (even hundreds) of thousands of... uh, cheesecake lovers.
Just remember: The dancing graham cracker gets them every time...
Kim MacPherson is President and Founder of Inbox Interactive, a full-service email marketing agency specializing in promotional copywriting, HTML design, planning, and deployment/tracking solutions. Kim is also the author of "Permission-Based E-mail Marketing That Works!"
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