Optimize E-Mail with Segmentation, Frequency and Different Message Types

Frame a long-term e-mail plan to take your initiatives to the next level.

Many companies market with email; few have a comprehensive email marketing strategy in place to frame a long-term email plan and provide a framework for success. If you’re looking to take your email initiatives to the next level, here are some tips for developing some aspects of that plan: types of messages, segments and frequency.

View E-Mail as a Channel

E-mail is simply another channel for delivering information. Sending different types of emails throughout the year can make for a more effective program, and can also help address the needs of different groups inside your organization. All will share some common graphics, so recipients will have consistency, but format, content and objectives will vary. Objectives may include:

  • Direct Selling
  • Lead Generation
  • Driving traffic to a Web site
  • Driving traffic to an offline store or location
  • Branding
  • Brand Involvement
  • Building Relationships

Some common “types” of email, based on corporate goals and key internal constituencies (i.e. brand managers, customer service, etc.) include:

  • Company-Wide Initiatives: Feature multiple brands offered by your company.
  • Single Brand Initiatives: Focus on a single brand offered by your company.
  • Segment-Based Initiatives: Focused on a specific audience segment, i.e. collectors of your company’s dolls, rather than people who purchase them as gifts.
  • Seasonal Initiatives: Based around key buying times.
  • Personal Initiatives: Like a birthday greeting.
  • Service Initiatives: Like a gift reminder with recommendations, or a re-order reminder for a product (printer ink, dog food) ordered a while back.

You may have other “types” of email you send, based on your company and your product, Define them and add them to the list. Don’t feel you must send all these types of emails. Some companies have only two to three types; others have five or more.

Each initiative often meets multiple objectives; a service initiative may sell, as well as brand and build relationships; a seasonal initiative may incorporate an interactive event (online game or otherwise) to involve the reader with a brand, while also developing a relationship and selling.

Segment Accordingly

There are many, many ways to segment a database; you need to determine which makes the most sense for marketing your product. Here are just a few examples:

  • Buying Behavior: Do they or don’t they, along with dollars spent (to segment small, medium and larger buyers); may also encompass past behavior, as in “they used to buy but don’t anymore.”
  • Customer Need: Are they a buyer or a recommender? What do they do with the product (i.e. give as a gift, collect, keep it as a non-collectable)?
  • Brand Interest: Are they interested in just one of your brands? Just one of your lines?

Set Frequency Strategically

Once segmentation is set, I like to break each segment into “active” or “inactive,” based on activity. This allows us to talk to our best prospects and customers as much as possible, and to limit spending money trying to communicate with less-interested people.

“Active” registrants include:

  • Those who interact with your email on a regular basis.
  • You may decide anyone who clicked on a link in one of your emails or logged into his online account in the past three months is active.
  • All registrants on file for 90 days or less. Assume and treat them as active for 90 days. If after 90 days they don’t meet the active standard, move to inactive.

“Inactive” registrants are defined as anyone on file longer than 90 days who doesn’t meet the active standard.

Once this is determined, you can create a chart outlining the number of sends, or “touchpoints,” each group will receive over the course of a year. Let’s take a small segmentation as an example:

Average Touchpoints (one year)
Gift-Buyers Collectors
Types of E-mail Active Inactive Active Inactive
Company-wide 2 2 2 2
Single Brand 2 0 6 3
Segment-based 6 0 4 0
Seasonal 3 3 1 1
Personal 1 1 1 1
Service 2 2 0 0
Totals 16 8 14 7

Here, we communicate with everyone over the course of the year, but in different ways (based on their segment, a gift-buyer or collector). And we communicate at different frequencies (based on their status as active or inactive). In general, I define an optimal frequency to communicate with actives, then try to narrow communications with inactives down to about half that figure (sometimes less).

Sound Confusing?

This can be difficult to convey with generic examples, but it’s a much clearer process when you’re working with real objectives, an actual database and a set number of message types.

Finally, just because you put a strategy in place for a year doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to tweak it. If you find after a few sends that one type of email just doesn’t get the response you want, you may decide to drop it.

Or if another type does extremely well, you can shift resources (read: sends) into that row to capitalize on your success.

Give it a try, and let me know how you make out!

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