Part Art, Part Science, Part 5: Integrate

Optimizing email communications is one part art and one part science. In this five-part series, we’re exploring the essential elements of creating effective and efficient email communications. The basic building blocks covered thus far include strategy, relevancy, dialogue creation, and measurement and analysis. Today, in the final installment of the series, we’ll address how to integrate your email communications with other elements of the marketing mix to help boost your overall return on investment (ROI).

Part 5: Integrate

Most buzzwords come and go. Usually we’re happy to see them go, especially the half-baked ones (“vortal” — vertical portal — is one culprit that comes to mind). But there’s a current buzzword that won’t go away and for good reason: “integration.”

Integration is a classic, proven term that makes sense. During the Internet boom, many marketers were consumed by the fallacy that one medium would perform so well that it would subsequently replace other channels. Banners would threaten the future of print ads. Rich media would supplant broadcast buys. And, more recently, email would totally replace direct mail. But over the past two years, most marketers were thankfully snapped back to reality. There’s a reason why the “mix” is one of the keystone tenets of marketing: It works.

Today, an increasing number of marketers are utilizing multiple vehicles to improve the overall effectiveness of their marketing communications. When implementing an integrated, multichannel marketing effort, there are several important points to keep in mind:

  • Even though individuals may be exposed to marketing messages in one medium, they often transact in another. For example, someone might see a banner ad for a new CD, then purchase it at a retail store. According to Jupiter Media Metrix, consumers will spend $647 billion offline by 2005 as a direct result of research they conduct on the Web.

  • Uniform messaging and branding across all channels provide the individual with a consistent experience regardless of the channel selected for a given transaction. This consistent experience boosts brand awareness, brand preference, and purchase intent.
  • Sequencing of marketing and communication efforts across channels builds response. Create meaningful, contextual dialogues instead of impersonal one-way blasts. Use each channel to target the individual throughout the customer life cycle, which will improve conversion rates and bolsters brand loyalty.

Email, thanks to its speed and flexibility, fits the integrated marketing bill perfectly. For example, retailers are increasingly leveraging the superior personalization and content customization capabilities of email to highlight specific offers within a corresponding direct mail piece, such as pointing out a specific offer in a large print catalog that may be of interest to an individual based on her profile. During last year’s anthrax scare, several direct marketers also turned to email to alert customers of “safe” mail or packages that were en route, which helped improve direct mail response rates in some cases.

In addition, email offers strong mechanisms for tracking the success of exposure in one medium by matching back an action taken in another medium. Individualized discount codes and links to printable coupons can be easily distributed by email and tracked back when redeemed in retail stores or through call centers.

At the same time, a growing number of marketers are tapping other channels to help boost email campaigns. A recent survey from AMR Research found that 61 percent of marketers who employ follow-up tactics — such as telemarketing or direct mail — to complement email campaigns reported a lift of between 5 and 10 percent in response rates. Six percent of those surveyed said response increased by 15 percent or more.

But the AMR survey also revealed that many marketers are surprisingly slow out of the gate — nearly 40 percent of respondents still haven’t integrated their traditional offline marketing activities with online efforts. For the 40 percent out there who are scratching their heads about where to start, collecting email addresses at every customer touch point is a great start. Those touch points include:

  • Direct mail

  • Telemarketing scripts
  • Point of sale
  • Business reply cards (BRCs) in print advertising
  • Web sites
  • Trade shows (primarily for business-to-business marketers)
  • Product registration cards

Over the past five months, we crossed several key stepping stones on the road to building efficient and effective email communications for any enterprise, large or small:

  • Think strategically. Establish organizational goals and draft a road map to success. Without established goals and objectives up front, there’s no way to accurately gauge your performance.

  • Be relevant. Deliver valuable, timely information to drive results. Take time to understand your customers’ needs, wants, and behaviors to refine that information over time.
  • Create a dialogue. Become a trusted resource and you’ll foster stronger customer relationships. Email is a uniquely efficient channel in which to build true one-to-one relationships with customers.
  • Measure and analyze. Understand your audience and optimize to fuel future successes. Leverage the intelligence gathered from each campaign to build more effective efforts on an ongoing basis.
  • Integrate. Build greater ROI by synchronizing your marketing efforts across all channels. An increasing number of customers interact with a brand across multiple channels. Marketers who strategically integrate their initiatives will improve each customer’s brand experience and ultimately create competitive advantage.

Each step along the way requires creative thinking, insight into your target audiences, technical expertise, and an ongoing commitment to being a student of your marketplace and competitive landscape. That’s why crafting a successful email communications program is part art and part science.

Until next time,

–Al D.


E-Mail Newsletter Publishing Fundamentals: A ClickZ Guide to E-Mail Marketing— an in-depth walk-through on how to start your own email newsletter for profit

$129 PDF

Author and e-business expert Alexis Gutzman undertook the complex process of starting and publishing an email newsletter and details her experience in this briefing. “Publishing Your Own Newsletter” originated as a multipart series on internet.com. This briefing is a compilation of Gutzman’s essential writings about the email newsletter publishing process. Along with tips, tricks, and advice on what works best and what pitfalls to watch for, this ClickZ Guide includes product evaluations, code for capturing user information, and sound advice on user privacy concerns before implementing some of the tools discussed.

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