Being Relevant

Let’s put ourselves in the online consumer’s shoes. Not a hard thing to do, really. We’re all consumers. Think of all the commercial email messages you received in the past week from legitimate companies to which you gave permission to send you email. How many did you open? How many did you read all the way through? How many did you click on? If you’re like most consumers, you read very few and clicked through on even fewer.

How many of the messages you opened began with an appropriate salutation, such as “Dear Bob”? In other words, how many were personalized? Probably most of them. But if you didn’t find relevance, you dumped the message. Maybe you read the email because you trust the company that sent it. But if it’s not relevant, why bother to click through?

Now reflect on our own email campaigns. We’re likely proud of the personalized content and compelling creative. We may even boast of good open or click-through rates.

But maybe that’s not the right approach. Maybe we should boast of rising customer satisfaction, long-term customer value, and the fact our email builds trust with customers and strengthens our commercial relationships.

Personalization and one-time successes aren’t enough. They help, but they don’t increase customer satisfaction or make that final sale. What matters is relevance.

E-mail becomes relevant when it’s sent in context of where and when a customer visited your site. Consider what products she viewed. Understand her behavior. Know what she bought. Determine what customer segments she’s in and at which stage in the buying cycle. Then, determine what message might be relevant to her. But don’t confuse personalization with relevance!

Over a quarter of email users will switch addresses over the next year. Increasing numbers will opt out due to overflowing inboxes. If your customers find they aren’t getting relevant messages from you or if they perceive your email to be spam, you’ll lose their opt-in permission.

To attract and retain clients, send relevant information. Become an important enough component in their lives to earn their email permission.

Remember that saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. It’s especially true for email subscribers. You may get permission once if they believe they’ll get relevant information, but odds are you’ll lose them if they don’t get the information they expected.

A beautiful email campaign isn’t enough, no matter how good the offer. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and send what’s relevant, what they need and can use at that moment. Sure, it’s more difficult. But it ensures significantly higher retention rates and will more efficiently drive satisfaction and sales.

Use technology to base email on customer profiles. Don’t think only of short-term sales. Fortify the trust the consumer has in your company. Always send email that is relevant at the right time to the right individual, not to an entire database. Personalization is great. Relevance makes an impact on your bottom line.

This column ran earlier on ClickZ.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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