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3 Tips for Maintaining Customer Engagement in the Inbox

  |  January 22, 2014   |  Comments

Learn how to improve email performance by building long-term customer engagement through emails.

Open rates and click-through rates give us a quick idea of how an individual email is performing. We can easily fall prey, however, to the belief that a falling trend in these metrics is indicative of problems within individual emails, rather than the program as a whole.

To maintain and improve email performance, we need to consider how we can build long-term customer engagement with our emails. Here are three ways to do just that.

1. Build and Deliver on Expectations

The brand/subscriber relationship is like any other relationship; it’s a good idea to go slow, be consistent, and earn trust over time. In personal relationships, someone dealing with an inconsistent friend or partner will perceive that person as untrustworthy and avoid developing a deeper connection. In the same way, email subscribers will avoid engaging with brands that have inconsistent email messaging strategies by ceasing to read or act on the brand’s emails, unsubscribing, or even complaining.

To help create consistency and foster trust, a welcome/onboarding email program can reliably set expectations about what, how, and when your brand will email subscribers. Consistent from names, subject line structures, and content will also build expectations in a positive way. It’s OK to make changes, but avoid changing everything around in every single send (imagine how hard it would be to process a brand’s email if it had new templates for every email).

Of course, consistency is not enough. If you’re consistently annoying, that won’t help you build engagement. That’s where tip number two comes in.

2. Be Useful, Always

Why should subscribers open your emails? To earn your subscribers’ attention, your brand’s content needs to be useful. "Useful" content could include special offers, details about new products or services, or information about a recent purchase.

Leverage technology to make your emails even more useful to your subscribers. Personalize your content based on purchase history. Send offers and highlight products based on an individual customer’s category affinity. The value of increased customer data is realized when you use it to become more relevant, and therefore more useful, to your subscribers.

The most advanced email marketers leverage several data sources to add relevancy and usefulness to their email messaging. But even the best of the best can improve their programs with tip number three.

3. Ask Your Subscribers What They Want

The most basic email program has the fewest possible levels of subscriber preference: you get the email or you don’t get the email. To increase engagement from your subscribers, allow them to craft their own preference levels.

Offer different options for what, when, and how subscribers can receive your emails and other communications. Perhaps one subscriber is best served by weekly promotional emails, alerts by SMS only, and absolutely no emails about credit cards. Maybe another subscriber wants daily emails, alerts by emails, and special offers by email. Later on, that subscriber might want to switch to alerts by SMS and email. Can your program accommodate and respond to those individual preferences? If not, increase engagement by increasing your ability to collect and respect subscriber preferences. One size does NOT fit all.

Implement these three tips in your email programs and your subscribers will begin to trust your brand, rely on your useful communications, and feel like their preferences are being heard and respected. These three things will go a long way in building lasting customer relationships that are reflected in strong engagement levels that expand beyond any single email mailing.

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Justin Williams

As one of StrongView's in-house marketing strategists, Justin Williams helps email marketers develop and implement strategic lifecycle marketing campaigns that are continually optimized to increase engagement and revenue. For the past five years, Justin has applied his expertise in email marketing, social media, web design, and other interactive marketing disciplines across a variety of industries, including retail, finance, media, and technology. In addition to founding his own consulting company, Justin has built go-to-market strategies for early-stage startups and worked with brands like Cisco, Qualcomm, and Geeknet. Justin holds a BA in cognitive science from the University of California at San Diego.

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