The one thing that rings true about marketing is “the right place at the right time.” On the Internet, this is more important than ever, even though most people think place and time no longer exist in cyberspace. In fact, because the Internet is used in an active, engaged manner rather than passively (like TV), the right message delivered at the right time is the only thing that really matters.
This notion is clearly illustrated by an effective email marketing campaign waged by BabyCenter on my wife and me while we were expecting our first child. Let me explain why the campaign was so successful on this curmudgeon. Forgive me if my tone is so positive this time — must be beginner’s giddiness.
- My wife opted in to receive the email newsletters early in her pregnancy as a way to learn about this adventure in life. She provided her due date, a key to making this campaign work.
True opt-in email marketing was exercised here because a compelling reason existed to opt in — my wife needed baby information. The concept many online direct marketers have not gotten yet is that to most regular consumers, “opt-in” does not mean “Get that little box checked at all costs.” It means “You have my information, now you better send me something worth my valuable time.”
- An invitation email was sent to my wife to invite dads-to-be to also receive email — a “Dads Baby Bulletin.”
BabyCenter knows that viral marketing works. Most viral marketing campaigns, unfortunately, have no reason to be. This one has an excellent reason: For every mom-to-be there is usually a dad-to-be who can receive another kind of email. Thus viral marketing succeeds because BabyCenter is counting on this assumption as opposed to counting on accidental emotions such as altruism or early-adopter excitement to compel a recipient to pass along the invitation. It takes a lot to get people’s attention these days, and you should expect to fail if you don’t think of creative ways to get it, especially virally.
- I started getting the emails as well, and to my surprise they were fantastically laid out and informative.
The HTML emails I received were formatted ` la the “sample page off the Web site” approach. But the content was not just some page off the Web site.
It was a well-crafted, easy-to-use piece of email that got to the heart of the matter: what is important to a dad- or mom-to-be. Things like how long until the baby is born, developmental facts, how to be a good dad/mom. Things that matter, things that make me want to read.
Also the content was organized logically and consistently every time the email arrived. I always looked for the navigational aid to help me figure out what was in the current issue. This is critical.
The amazing thing is that BabyCenter fits at least 20-30 pieces of content into one email without overwhelming the reader. The links almost always point to the Web site for more info rather than including all the text in the email. Again, usability here is king.
More to the point is that the content for dads-to-be centers around “taking care of business” such as thinking about paternity leave and packing for the hospital, while mom’s email focuses on baby’s health, breastfeeding, and so on. Rarely do they overlap in content, which is excellent — my wife and I were reading each other’s emails sometimes.
- No place for the “hard sell” here.
Oh, there were coupons and advertisements, but they didn’t get in the way of the content. And that is probably why we bought several items from BabyCenter after clicking on the unobtrusive ad in the email. The sell was always oriented around our needs. Witness the text near the store link.
The $25 off the order didn’t hurt either.
- Customer service (even in email) is king.
Look at the opt-out message below. Clear as crystal, thank goodness. It covers as many bases as possible and endorses the fact that people like to click on links better than replying to an email and writing cryptic commands in the subject or body of the message.
Oh, and why not solicit feedback here? Is this not the perfect place for it?
- Personalization that really works — no kidding.
After the baby’s due date came and went, we received this email with this text “above the fold.” This is personalization plain and simple, and it works without any really complex personalization technology. All you need is a clear target to shoot for, such as a due date for a pregnancy or a ZIP code of the recipient, to personalize effectively.
In the end, the BabyCenter emails are some of the best emails I receive, and I look forward to getting them every few days or so. These interruptions make sense to me and my wife at this point in our lives, and they don’t get in the way as many of the consumer emails do these days. The right content at the right place and at the right time made this email campaign work very well.
And BabyCenter has not finished with us now that our child has been born, because there’s parenting to do. And that’s a whole other story, baby!