Saturday, 2 April 2011

How to keep e-marketing relevant / Sam Cece, CEO StrongMail

Companies run the risk of alienating their customers if they don't keep email marketing relevant, says Sam Cece.

Digital messaging (otherwise known as email to me and you) is at the core of every business’s marketing strategy and despite growth in SMS and social media, it remains central to building and maintaining relationships with customers. And even customers themselves agree, with 73% of consumers naming email as their preferred communication channel.
The group-buying model, which is currently taking the globe by storm (just look at Groupon as an example of a grou-buying company going great guns), goes some way to highlight the importance of email. But while flash sales and group-buying are seen as new and emerging concepts, they are in fact being fuelled by a long-standing and proven tool: email. 
Yet, despite the fact that relevant and targeted emails drive 16 times more revenue than traditional broadcast mailings, many companies continue to blast the same email to all of their customers. Given the lack of personalisation I see in my every day in my inbox, it is clear that businesses are still barely scratching the surface of email’s potential.
So, where are we going wrong? When it comes to email marketing, the term 'relevance' gets used a lot, and for good reason. Quite simply, if your messages aren't relevant to your customers, they are more likely to complain or unsubscribe than follow through with your call to action. Here are a few tips to ensure that your customers are clicking through to your site - or even better, a payment page - and not hitting the 'unsubscribe' button.
Understand and manage expectations
From the moment a customer opts-in, you need to understand what their motivation was for signing up for your campaigns. Think about it: someone who made a purchase and decided not to ‘opt-out’ of your email campaigns is probably not going to be looking, or expecting, the same type of information as someone who found your sign-up page through another means and actively opted in.
No matter how you add contacts to your database, it is important that you manage expectations during the sign-up and welcome process. It is during this initial interaction that the end users will get their first impression of whether or not your campaigns will be relevant to them. And we all know how important first impressions are.
Use customer data wisely
So now that you have set their expectations and your subscribers are confident that there is value in allowing you into their inboxes, you need to decide how you are going to make each interaction with your brand relevant. This is where your data really comes into play. It’s time to get to know your customers.
The trick is to gather as much data about your subscribers as possible and use it to help you optimise and target your campaigns.  Initially, this can be obtained during the sign up process, but it is important that it doesn’t end there.

Customer feedback should be considered a valuable source of information. By measuring responses after each campaign, you will be able to build a deeper understanding of your subscribers. This will help to ensure that all your communications are timely and relevant, which in turn will give you a greater competitor advantage.
By setting expectations, knowing your customers and tracking their feedback, your email campaigns will become more effective and fruitful for the business. Suddenly, email communications become more than just a marketing technique, and are instead viewed as a way to improve brand recognition, build customer loyalty and ultimately increase ROI.
Maybe email isn’t dead, after all…
Sam Cece is CEO of StrongMail
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