Whether you’re a long-time email marketer or just starting out, more than likely, you know all too well the perils of an uninformed, misdirected email-marketing campaign. With brands using multiple channels nowadays to reach customers, email may not always be the best approach for every marketing message. Marketers must use research and analysis to determine not only when email is the preferred path over other channels, but also how to send effective email campaigns that remain within budget. The following best practices can help add a little order to your email-marketing regimen.
Nix the Silo or Vacuum
Email marketing simply cannot be done in a silo or vacuum. In fact, most brands — famous or unknown, large or small, etc. — work with the wider marketing team and other channels. When customers watch your TV commercials, hear your radio ads, read your magazine articles, or visit your website, your message should align with whatever message you’re sending through email. Your strategy across all channels needs to be succinct and complimentary — but not repetitive. Repeating the same message and content across channels is not what we mean by ‘cross-channel’ marketing.
Start With the Customer
Before you even consider an email campaign, contemplate whether that’s the best channel for reaching your customers. Ask yourself, “What are my customers expecting? What did they do to initiate this conversation? Should I respond via the same channel? Am I delivering what they need? Am I meeting them where they are?” Answering those questions will help you determine whether email is the best channel to use.
For example, a large pharmaceutical company has been sending emails to healthcare professionals for years — informing them of new products, providing them with new research findings, convincing them to meet with sales reps, persuading them to order samples, and so on. Unfortunately, they’ve noticed their email metrics continuing to decrease significantly.
After helping the company analyze marketing data across channels and customer journeys, we began collaborating to change their overall strategy. Since healthcare professionals spend very little time at their desks or on emails, and plenty of time online reading articles and conducting research, the messaging will start there — where the audience is. As healthcare professionals read research and interact in online forums, messages to engage in further conversations are sent to them. Healthcare providers will then continue to receive emails, further nurturing them along in their journeys with various brands. This restructuring accomplishes many goals, including:
- Meeting customers where they are;
- Utilizing multiple channels and choosing the right channel at the right time, and
- Protecting healthcare providers’ overall email reputations by not sending unwanted messages.
Determine What Works
Are you employing a marketing tactic simply because that’s what other companies are doing? If you are, it’s time to reassess your approach. The best strategy will always be to compliment your brand and deliver your customers what they need — not just check off boxes.
One of our customers — a large brick-and-mortar home-improvement store with an online presence — wasn’t driving the kind of online revenue you’d expect from a retailer. Many of their most popular items were large, bulky, and expensive to ship — think lawnmowers, grills, building materials, and so on. The company was interested in setting up a traditional, shopping cart-abandonment program — the kind many retailers use to capture additional revenue.
At first, they didn’t believe their online revenue could justify the investment needed to build the program. Further, when they compared their number of abandoned carts and average online orders to the industry averages, they really doubted the ROI was there to build the program. So, we changed the whole concept — working within their budget — to a remind-and-educate program. The new strategy will leverage web-analytics data by sending a reminder email when someone is browsing a large, bulky item that — in most cases — either won’t be worth the shipping costs or won’t be available to ship at all. The email will also educate the customer, further explaining that the item can be shipped to a local store for free if ordered online. This program will allow customers to complete online orders, save money on shipping costs, and enjoy the convenience of picking items up later from their local stores. This approach will not only connect with customers in more meaningful ways, but also help the company reach its business goal of capturing more online sales — and all within budget.
If you’re a new email marketer — whether just starting out in the business or new to a specific company — this tidbit is for you: Start with your brand’s customer journey. Get into the minds of your company’s customers by becoming a customer yourself — starting with a vague Google search or from the homepage of your company’s website. Next, consume the website as a brand new visitor would, bouncing from page to page. Browse areas, start a new shopping cart, download a whitepaper, watch videos, or read articles on the blog. Interact — anonymously, of course — with the brand on social media. Search for your mobile app. Test various ways a customer might begin interacting with your brand, paying special attention to the messaging at each stage. And, don’t forget to sign up to receive emails from your brand! Did you immediately receive a welcome message? Now, interact with the email content both as a newcomer and as a brand loyalist.
Why is all of this important? As an email marketer, you have to know what message makes the most sense for each customer. It’s your job to educate customers about your company, its culture, and how they can best engage with your brand. It’s your job to forge a connection with each customer. It’s your job to be a brand evangelist and reinforce the value proposition of your organization.
Another bit of advice is to keep your emails short and sweet. Include one primary call to action and one or two others that are related in some way. Don’t bombard your customer with content; rather, consider what overall goal you want to achieve with each message, and then guide your customer through accomplishing that action. More than one or two calls to action can be overwhelming for the customer; keep it concise, clear, and simple. Don’t give your customer a reason to become distracted and watch cat videos.
Remember, sometimes an email-marketing campaign just isn’t the most effective route to take. The only real way to define your approach is to know your customers. Ask yourself and your teammates a ton of questions about the journey and study the data available. Once you determine whether email is the right channel, remember to be your customer. Guide customers throughout their journeys so they don’t have to figure them out on their own. Take that customer’s journey before you start your campaign. Energize your company’s values. Make your calls to action clear. Using these tips and tricks, you’re destined for success.