The recent downturn in the global and local financial economies has businesses searching for cost effective ways to develop and maintain quality relationships with their customers. The challenge for 2009 is for marketers to achieve cut through to maintain a competitive advantage and contribute to cost efficiency profitability in tough times.
Email marketing is an obvious choice for many marketers because the ROI of email marketing is second to none. This is why more marketers than ever before are using email as one of their key communications channels – not just for acquiring new customers, but also for strengthening relationships with existing customers.
But with more companies sending email communications to increase cost efficiency, marketers must ensure their campaigns follow best practice to achieve cut through and not get lost.
Here. maybe now is the time to consider a review of your email marketing strategy?
Is your email communications strategy achieving your business goals?
To answer this quite significant question I suggest you begin by examining 5 specific areas:
To keep customers interested considering refreshing the look and feel of your email design. Consider refreshing or even redesigning your template to bring new life. If you're on a tight budget then simply updating images or refreshing your color palette you can work nicely.
Ensure that your brand stands out and your key messages are not buried. In times when your customers are receiving lots of emails communications from various sources, possibly including your competitors, you need them to remember you most.
Most importantly maintain relevancy in your content. Content is what keeps customers engaged with your brand and communications. Include content that appeals to customers on issues that they are interested in to develop a solid relationship over time. The more you show customers you understand their needs, the greater the engagement with your brand. An effective way to build an understanding of relevancy is through an online survey, quick poll or analyzing click-through and page-view data.
You could also consider setting up a triggered email program to ensure that relevancy is strong. There is no better time to communicate than right after a customer has indicated that they are interested right now.
A quality database is essential. Marketers should always be on the look out for opportunities to grow their database. Having a customer's permission to send them email communications is going to be more profitable in the long run than sending an email blast to thousands of people who do not know you or your brand. Many companies make the mistake of simply renting a list of email addresses from a list broker and expecting a great result. In many cases it is a sure way to do damage to your brand and potentially negatively impact existing customer relationships.
If you're stuck for ideas here are six quick ways to start growing your database:
- Add a 'check-box' to client order forms for inclusion onto your database.
- Include a well placed opt-in button or link to your website or in your email campaigns.
- Include 'Sign-Up' forms at events, conferences, reception waiting area and other physical locations.
- Incentivise and facilitate your sales team to add prospects to your database or to register for your newsletter.
- Engage in 'Co-registration' (but ensure you follow opt-in procedures for Co-registrants)
- Grow the quality rather than the quantity of your database by regularly cleaning out non responsive members or bounce-backs.
Email technology is constantly evolving. To ensure your email campaign results do not go backwards it is important to keep abreast of key technologies, requirements and developments that might impact the way your email is viewed or delivered.
For example, when 'Microsoft Outlook 2007' was released marketers had to make changes to their email templates to consider the way in which images were blocked from being viewed. It became a priority to ensure email messages were readable by your customers who had disabled images. For delivery purposes monitor new IP addresses that might need reputation monitoring and try to have the IP addresses of your email servers white listed if you do not use an ESP that already does.
If your company sends a large volume of emails each month it is important to ensure your email servers (or your ESP's) can handle the send volume. Remember that even if your list size is relatively small you might be competitive with many other clients that are sending out large lists from the same server, which could result in your email send being delayed significantly. Also consider that if you are expecting to drive a large amount of traffic to your website you need to ensure your servers have capacity to handle the load otherwise your efforts may be wasted.
Remember that when it comes to ESP's you generally get what you pay for. So, if you have made a decision to go with a lower cost provider, ensure you compare their SLA's, deliverability and reputation before risking your important campaigns.
Keep a check on all the legal email marketing obligations. This will ensure your email marketing campaigns are starting off on the right foot. Failure to do so may result in damaging relationships with customers, and possibly having your IP address blacklisted – cutting you off from being able to communicate via email with anyone.
A hole that I have seen a number of marketers fall into recently is sending emails from promotions and applications hosted on web servers where the from address is spoofed in order to be consistent with the ESP that sends their normal emails. This has very quickly been addressed in the servers being blacklisted by major ISP's who have very sensitive SPAM traps without the marketers realizing until the end of the promotion. Ensure that you are integrating any promotions or triggered emails with your regular deployment engine. If you cant, it might be time to rethink who you are using to send your emails.
Reviewing your email reporting will unduly forget a lot of useful information that will help improve your email marketing results. Often the challenge is making the time and putting the effort into doing the analysis. A good place to start is comparing your performance over the last 6 months or year across all your email communications to compare performance on:
- Open Rates
- Click Through Rates
- Bounce Rates
- Unsubscribe Rates
- Email forwards
- Purchase rates
If you find, for example, that your open rate declined over the last year you might want to incorporate subject line testing to identify why customers are not opening your emails.
Including subject lines and body copy testing will enable you to identify keywords, themes and phrases your customers are most responsive to. If you can identify what makes your customers open your email, then you have an advantage over your competitors.
By concluding 2009 with an Email Marketing Strategy Review, Management can be confident you will be optimizing the email channel and best presenting your brand for your customers' attention. A sound strategy can help you get ahead and ensure cut-through in what is looking to be a very challenging year.