How to Answer Customers’ Most Important Question

In my last column, I discussed the most important customer question an email marketer must answer to create a compelling email campaign: “What’s in it for me?”

But how do you determine the correct answer? Do you simply pick what most appeals to you or your creative team? Do you survey your employees, family, and friends and go with their consensus? Or do you do what many do — go with your gut feeling?

Nope, none of the above. To answer that question accurately, you have to actually do some real primary customer research. That means you need to identify consumers who are in the market for your product or service. Talk with them. Find out what they want and what motivates them to buy.

Once you’ve done that, you need to:

  • Prioritize the key objectives.

  • Come up with reasons the prospect should believe the benefits being presented.
  • Determine supporting objectives and features.
  • Construct the value proposition.

That information is then used as the basis for your creative brief (an overall summary of your findings, their relative importance, the unique selling proposition, and related marketing issues), from which you can create the concepts that deliver your message. After you’ve done all that, you’ll finally be ready to create a compelling email marketing campaign.

The consumer research itself doesn’t have to be expensive or lengthy, which is good because the information you glean from this process is so critical to your success we consider it a mandatory first step to developing every campaign.

To illustrate just how important research is to your campaign, let’s take a look at one of our own clients, Euro-Pro, which sells a new floor and carpet sweeper, the Shark Cordless Sweeper. The company’s situation offers an excellent example of just how important that initial consumer research is, because without it, we would have developed an offer that would have landed with a huge thud in every inbox. Instead, it has become a successful email marketing program selling a $79.80 product directly to the consumer.

We began with a mile-long list of features for the Shark Cordless Sweeper, which actually presented us with one of our greatest challenges. Many consumers already have vacuum cleaners and/or sweepers, so introducing a new model based solely on a laundry list of bells and whistles just wouldn’t cut it — unless we were content for it to look like every other sweeper on the market. Of course, we weren’t.

To figure out how the product could stand out, we gave out more than 20 units to consumers to use for about two weeks. After that time, we conducted interviews to determine how they used the product and what they liked about it. From this data, we developed our marketing outline, creative brief, and the actual creative for the email marketing program.

In other words, we got inside the customers’ heads and answered the critical question: “What’s in it for me?”

Internally, we anticipated the response to be: “the most powerful sweeper with features you can’t find on other sweepers.” It wasn’t.

Instead, thanks to our research, we were able to determine the critical issues that were necessary to successfully market the product. As it turns out, it wasn’t just cleaning ability that consumers considered important. It was the following, in order of priority:

  1. The product is light in comparison to other vacuums.

  2. It is cordless (so people don’t trip or get tangled up in electrical cords).
  3. It picks up all kinds of food, ranging from cereal to luncheon meats (in other words, whatever the kids throw on the floor), and it picks up dirt next to walls and baseboards.
  4. It is able to get into small spaces larger vacuums can’t.

With this information, we were able to construct our “what’s in it for me” value proposition: “The Shark Cordless Sweeper is the lightest and most powerful sweeper, able to easily pick up anything, anywhere without the problems associated with traditional vacuum cleaners.”

Based on this example, it’s easy to see why initial research is absolutely critical to the process of creating a compelling — and an effective — email marketing message.

Keep reading.

“Is Your HTML Broken?”: Follow Up

As a follow-up to my recent column on HTML email and the astoundingly high incidence of bad code, broken links, and other errors that render the email unreadable, readers have suggested a number of additional items to check for, including:

  • Screen resolution. What looks good to an email designer at a screen resolution of 1,024 x 768 or higher should be tested on screens with other resolutions; 800 x 600 is still the most common resolution being used by consumers.

  • Color resolution. Some colors look great when using “High Color” settings but look completely different, or not nearly as good, in a 256-color display.
  • Fonts. Specialized fonts are usually not available on many machines, and if you don’t specify an alternative, you don’t know what you’re going to get.
  • JavaScript. This is always a gamble, so if you must include JavaScript in your email, make sure the email will still look fine without it.
  • Graphic loading time. Just like Web pages, if graphics within email take too long to load, the recipient will not hesitate to hit the delete key.

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