Part Art, Part Science, Part 1: Think Strategically

Optimizing your email communications is one part art and one part science. In a five-part series beginning today, we’ll explore the essential elements of creating truly effective and efficient email communications. Over the course of the next five columns, I’ll detail real-life examples and case studies, share lessons learned, and offer simple suggestions aimed at helping you optimize your own email communication efforts.

Part 1: Think Strategically

The basic rules still apply — a well-thought-out plan can help build success and competitive advantage. Optimizing your email communications means:

  • Taking the time to develop the goals behind your programs. Create the metrics for evaluating success and — just as important — measure your results. Without a clear understanding of the desired outcome, you have no way to measure return on investment (ROI).
  • Building a 360-degree view of the customer. Look at all of your customer touch points and create a universal knowledge base of your customers. The customer overview may surprise you.
  • Extending the customer life cycle with relevant email communications that meet your customers’ needs. Think in terms of acquiring a customer’s email address, converting the customer, retaining and building loyalty, and executing win-back offers if necessary.
  • Asking the right questions. Listen to your customers’ needs and wants, and deliver targeted communications accordingly.
  • Always questioning your assumptions. Don’t assume. Leverage the power of the email technology platform for its ability to test and provide you with real-time intelligence.

Case Study: A Leading Software Manufacturer

Background. A leading software manufacturer recently launched a new product and wanted to build an enterprisewide email communications program aimed at creating an ongoing dialog with users. It hoped to cross-sell its extensive line of products and services and build overall brand loyalty for the company and its offerings.

Solution. The software manufacturer first developed a comprehensive audit of all customer touch points to help build its knowledge base. Working with Bigfoot Interactive, the company then embarked on creating a monthly email communications program to its customers based on its new intelligence. The goal of the program was to ultimately increase sales and brand loyalty. The solutions included:

  • Creation of a consolidated customer knowledge base, fed by marketing, sales, and customer service, yielding a 360-degree view of the customer and tied directly to the email communications platform
  • Development of a consolidated preference center and new newsletter series aimed at providing personalized tips and added value to users of the company’s key software products
  • Implementation of a viral marketing component to help spread the word and lower overall customer acquisition costs

Result. The marketer finally had a complete view of its customer base across divisions and product lines. The detailed preference center, which also featured a viral marketing component, included questions about company size, industry, and title and yielded unprecedented intelligence about product users. Among the rich data collected as a result of this program was increased real-time insight on customers and their needs and preferences for the products. Finally, the company discovered an untapped audience for its new product, which differed slightly from the original target identified. Subsequent offline marketing and channel efforts were adjusted quickly to increase overall sell-through and distribution of the new (and now highly successful) enterprise-level software product.

Lessons learned. Challenge your preconceived notions, gather all the information you have across your organization about your customers, and think strategically. A fresh perspective can often yield valuable insight to help you break new ground and provide vital intelligence about your customers. In addition, a third-party provider can also help expedite internal roadblocks that can sometimes develop in a large organization and impede rapid progress. Finally, view email communications as an integral part of the marketing mix. We live in a multichannel society; leverage each channel to build success across all your communications programs.

In next month’s column, we’ll explore the art and science of “Keeping It Relevant.” We’ll look at a leading retailer and how it uses segmentation and targeted communications to optimize ROI. Until next time…

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