Five Fantastic E-Mail Tactics

It’s an age-old story: it’s easier to point out what’s wrong than what’s right. We’ve all experienced it. For every compliment, there are 20 complaints. The negative angle sells — it’s juicy, controversial, and at times appropriate and helpful in motivating change. I, too, have been guilty of this and can be critical of marketers’ messaging tactics in the hopes of facilitating change through best practices.

Yet as we move into the fourth quarter, I’ve never been more optimistic about the email channel and the opportunities to leverage it to build truly relevant email dialogues with key customers and prospects. I’m also very encouraged and inspired by what I see from several marketers’ regular email messages. They truly delight. This month, we focus on great email tactics we can all benefit from to maximize our marketing return on investment (ROI) and customer relationships.

Preferences, Please

In an age of phishing (define) and heightened information security sensitivity, marketers should rethink their existing preference centers, including content, layout, and design. Some of today’s best-in-class preference centers provide full transparency and include information icons and links to privacy policies. Threaded messaging runs throughout the subscription process, summarizing the use, value, and benefits of the specific data requested and captured. Several leading financial services and mortgage firms as well as retailers have made significant strides enhancing the registration process with these best practices in mind.

Welcome

“You had me at hello.” –Dorothy in “Jerry Maguire”

Few marketers ever say “hello.” If email is about building a long-term relationship throughout the customer lifecycle, first impressions mean a lot. Once you’ve acquired a customer’s email address, trigger a welcome message that exposes her to the benefits and value of the subscription and relationship.

Many of our travel clients have been enormously successful implementing triggered lifecycle email communications. They often start with a welcome message at the first booking. They send subsequent messaging throughout the customer lifecycle, which may include the latest news about the recipient’s destination as well as money-saving travel tips, assistance, and relevant up-sell opportunities (car rentals, etc.). These communications continue to generate high click-through and conversion rates due to their timeliness and relevance.

Personalization and Control

Smart marketers deliver the control over and relevance to continue relationships consumers demand. E-mail is about building a relationship over time. A well-designed preference center is an instrument for communicating control and maintaining profiles and preferences up front. But it must be married with an existing email strategy that allows consumers to customize their email experience further with every interaction.

A leading newspaper client’s efforts include a contextual relevant-personalization option within its newsletter. Subscribers are encouraged to select additional topics and columnists of interest to their subscriptions. A link within the newsletter allows them to “Personalize this email further now.”

Interest-Based Triggers

Amazon.com does it. You can, too. Retailers are already scrambling to grab their share of the multibillion-dollar online marketplace this holiday season. Critical to success will be the careful development, timing, and deployment of interest-based products mapped to each customer’s purchase history, actions, and profiles. For example, “Customers who have purchased X product also purchased Y product. For a limited time, you can preorder Y at a savings of 20%. Click here.”

Being relevant and first has never been more important in the competitive online retail industry.

Customer Service

Great customer service is pivotal in building customer loyalty and satisfaction. As marketers prepare for another record e-commerce season, they must consider strengthening their interactive customer service initiatives. Incorporated into those initiatives should be relevant email responses that follow online chat sessions and inbound customer requests.

In a June 2003 study, Jupiter Research found only 54 percent of sites responded to incoming email inquires within 24 hours, despite the fact 88 percent of consumers expected complete resolution to their inquiries within 24 hours. It also estimated 21 percent of the total online CRM (define) spend will be applied toward inbound email automation and management by 2008.

Marketers must integrate relevant email responses to such consumer actions. One online commerce site triggered an email that included a transcript of my online chat session immediately following the correspondence. This powerful use of email is too infrequently leveraged by today’s online e-commerce powerhouses.

Basics to some, best practices to others. Though its sometimes difficult to move quickly in a large organization, doing nothing or the same old thing is no longer an option. Leading brands are getting smarter with plotting, planning, and practicing best-in-class email strategies and tactics like those mentioned here to build customer satisfaction and loyalty. It’s an exciting time with almost limitless opportunity for those who can move quickly to leverage the medium’s true power to build customer relationship, marketing ROI, and competitive advantage.

Make this holiday season great by fine-tuning those email communication strategies and tactics.

Till next time,

Al DiGuido

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

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