Digital Marketing Insights
March 06, 2014 | Amanda Hinkle
Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:
Email marketers are so focused on explicitly revenue-generating campaigns that we often forget about the little guys: program enrollment confirmations, lost PIN requests, invoices, account update notifications and the good ol’ password reset. But transactional messages such as these are some of the most highly opened and read messages -- and as such, have huge potential to drive incremental revenue with the inclusion of promotional messaging. As we position ourselves for a profitable 2014, it’s time to give our transactional emails a once-over.
Many organizations are actively incorporating promotional marketing into their transactional emails. As with all tactics, this one comes with some pros and cons.
- Potential to make a positive revenue impact.
- Enhances a “standard” transactional message with more targeted, relevant 1:1 messaging.
- Puts more content in front of the customer, reinforcing brand and value propositions.
- May defy recipient expectations of a transactional vs. marketing message, which could have a negative impact on total email engagement.
- May require additional review from your legal teams to ensure it complies with CAN-SPAM regulations.
With that said, the following are some tips on how to avoid the cons so you can sit back and bask in the pros of your promotion-infused transactional email messaging.
Ensure Your Message is Legally Compliant
When adding marketing messaging to a transactional email, you should review the email in conjunction with the CAN-SPAM requirements focusing on the contextual make-up of a transactional email communication. This can add time to your email development process, but it’s important.
The CAN-SPAM Act defines commercial messaging as “any electronic mail message, the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” But how does one categorize an email with both transactional and commercial content?
The primary purpose of the message is the deciding factor. It’s considered commercial, and the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act apply, if:
- A recipient reasonably interpreting the subject line would likely conclude that the message advertises or promotes a commercial product or service; and
- A recipient reasonably interpreting the body of the message would likely conclude that the primary purpose of the message is to advertise or promote a product or service(CAN-SPAM Act of 2003).
Factors relevant to that interpretation include the location of the commercial content (the message’s transactional or relationship content must appear mainly at the beginning of the message), how much of the message is dedicated to commercial content, and how color, graphics, type size and style are used to highlight the commercial content.
Bottom line: keep the written and visual focus on your transactional message, and conduct a careful review before hitting send to ensure that your promotion-infused transactional emails remain within the bounds of CAN-SPAM.
Zero in on Recipient’s Contextual State
To make sure your message is well-received, you need to, at a minimum, meet recipient expectations that this is a transactional email in response to a request she made. Stick to the purpose and keep it clear. The majority of real estate and content should relate to the transaction at hand. However, marketing messages can round out the consumer experience.
With that said, the moment a consumer transacts, you have a unique opportunity to draw some conclusions about customer intentions. Is she requesting her password? There must be a reason to do so -- find out what it is and enhance your “lost password” email accordingly. Did someone just update her shipping address? Send a transactional message to confirm the update, and include value-add content specific to her “new” location.
The goal is to capitalize on this golden messaging opportunity by using what we can surmise about the customer’s current intent. Make it as personalized as possible. Consider moving away from generic advertisements (e.g., free shipping on your next order) and veer towards content directly tied to that customer’s recent transaction (e.g., check out these Floridian flip-flops to complement your new shorts).
Integrate Experience Across Devices
Over the past few years, your website, social media forums, even your conversion-focused emails have likely gone through some sort of creative refresh. But how long has it been since your transactional emails were rejuvenated? Ensure that you’re building trust across the transactional experience through creative and content uniformity, regardless of which channel the consumer happens to be engaging with at any given moment.
Transactional emails contain a gold mine of opportunities to include marketing messaging that will increase engagement, drive revenue and enhance brand perception.
Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 12:00 AM
February 25, 2014 | Sean Wirt
While I was attending a M3AAWG event in San Francisco last week, Google announced that it has made it much easier for its Gmail customers to unsubscribe from marketing emails. While Gmail had offered an unsubscribe button in the past, it was buried within the user interface (UI). Now, Google is rolling out brand new functionality to all of its users that is activated by one click on an “Unsubscribe” link beside the sender’s name in the mailbox UI.
Now, email marketers can use the “List-Unsubscribe” header to enable recipients to unsubscribe via this new function. Google rolling out this functionality is particularly important because Gmail is one of the only major mailbox providers that does not offer a traditional Feedback Loop (FBL). Gmail also announced that it is testing a new FBL for ESPs, which seems to be aggregate data as opposed to individual complaints received by customers in traditional FBLs. Regardless of whether it adopts a FBL, Gmail’s new unsubscribe link finally gives recipients an opportunity to indicate they no longer want to receive a message from a brand without having to report it as spam.
One important thing to note – even though a sender may include the List-Unsubscribe header in their emails, there is no guarantee that the “unsubscribe” link will appear. As has been the case in the past, the sender’s reputation will determine whether or not the link will appear. Taking the time to occasionally review Gmail’s Bulk Sender Guidelines can help improve your sender reputation.
While some marketers may see this negatively due to the fact that Gmail is making it easier to unsubscribe, it should also be seen positively as fewer recipients should report unwanted messages as spam, which affects future deliverability.
As always, the best way to ensure that your recipients do not unsubscribe or report your messages as spam is to continually monitor your engagement and react accordingly. Sending relevant messages to customers who want to continue to receive them will lead to a happier, more engaged audience.
StrongView clients can learn more about configuring the List-Unsubscribe header in via this article in Spark, StrongView’s online user community.
Posted by: Sean Wirt at 5:35 PM
February 25, 2014 | Katrina Conn
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
Consumers live in the now. They have constantly changing needs and they expect instant gratification regardless of the engagement channel. If you're not aware of your customers' present-tense context, here's what you're missing:
1. Reaching your customer at the moment they are most inclined to take action, on the channel they are using at that moment.
Imagine a consumer who has previously purchased from you - you know the what, where, and how of their purchase. You also know how they prefer to engage with your brand, whether it's online, in-store, via mobile app, or even through your social sites. This answers the "where" should I engage them part of the contextual equation. Now, you have to understand the "what," or the purpose of their engagement, which can always be identified (or at a minimum, inferred) by their behavior. Were they browsing certain products or information, comparing features, functionality, or pricing, or reviewing terms of service or support information? Each of these behaviors answers or indicates the "what" or their goal. The key here is the where and what are dynamic, sometimes changing moment by moment. You need to respond to your customer's present tense context in the here and now, in real-time before it changes.
2. Providing them with additional information that syncs with who they are and what motivates them.
Who are you messaging? Are they a returning customer or potential new one? What do you know?
What does their profile tell you? Just because the police aren't allowed to do it doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't. Customers expect us to know what they want and need.
A current profile tells who you are engaging with and what they want. Figure out who they are, what makes them tick, what their pain points are, what problems they need solved, what they've tried but hasn't worked, what they value, how they spend, how and where they purchase, what will motivate the desired action.
If you understand "who" they are and "what" will motivate them to take action, this insight will drive the right messaging and create an action-based experience. If you truly listen to your customers, they'll listen back and thank you by taking the desired action.
3. Understanding your customers' buying stage and providing information to help them take the next step.
Decision and buying cycles are being compressed. The attention span of a customer has decreased dramatically, and any brand loyalty is being challenged by competitors offering the right information to provide ease of use and convenience. A successful company needs to reinforce the value it provides to its customers on a continuous basis and during all stages of any buying cycle - from research to comparison to trial and finally purchase.
In addition, the time between when a customer has a new desire and when they expect companies to meet that desire is also shrinking. If you don't react quickly enough, the customer will find someone who will. Have you ever been in the situation where there were so many options or you didn't have enough information to make a good decision? Sure, we all have, but what was the one thing that made you take action, or go in one direction vs. another? Typically, it comes back to ease of use and availability of information and convenience to take that next step.
Most marketers understand the value of collecting customer data, but they also realize the challenges of leveraging this knowledge to create intelligent, proactive pathways back to the customer. Applying a present-tense marketing strategy addresses consumers' high expectations, including the immediacy of information and service. However, it requires a real-time view of the contextual data to understand the when, where and what to provide in response to the customer's need. Recognizing and tracking patterns within data helps businesses sift through layers of seemingly unrelated data for meaningful context, where they can anticipate, rather than simply react to, customer needs.
Your customers are living in the present tense. Your marketing must meet them there.
Posted by: Katrina Conn at 12:00 AM
February 20, 2014 | Catherine Magoffin
Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:
Today, the true challenge for marketers is driving engagement and conversion across every imaginable variety of consumer, including the one-eyed, flying shopper. The common theme with consumers is that they’re incredibly distracted, moving fast and looking for a clear, very personal, present-tense value proposition to inspire action.
As one of these distracted, on-the-go consumers, I can share personal examples of one-eyed, flying conversions. These experiences with Amazon.com happened months before Jeff Bezos announced Prime Air back in December, conjuring up visions of delivery drones aimed at my doorstep. Even before that act of sheer marketing genius, I was an Amazon one-eyed, flying shopper. Cue the science fiction music . . .
One-eyed shoe shopping
Like many humans, most days when I wake up the first thing I do is access my mobile phone or iPad to tune into the world’s happenings. This past winter, during one pre-caffeine session and before I had even inserted my contact lenses (and was thus legally blind in my left eye), I happened upon an email from Amazon.com with an array of shoes that enticed me.
Before I knew it, I was searching, selecting and buying boots on my mobile -- all with just my one good right eye and before I had even made it into the kitchen for some caffeine. I had become an early morning, one-eyed shopper.
Flying and buying
Another early a.m., I boarded a plane to spend a day in the sky, aiming east. Shopping from my mobile device via airplane WiFi, I searched the Web for backyard fire pits, headed to Amazon, and quickly found a great option at a great price, with star-filled reviews. I purchased right then and there in the air. I had arrived at a new shopping height, literally and figuratively. Two days later, the fire pit arrived and has since provided some quality marshmallow-melting time.
Consumer demand at new heights
Recent stats show 65% of emails are opened on a mobile device. And, while a small subset of consumers may actually be shopping without their contact lenses or from an airplane, the majority of mobile consumers are flying through their days at faster paces and with more distractions than ever.
As marketers, the opportunity and challenge at hand is offering consumers cross-channel experiences that are positive, fast and frictionless. Amazon sets the consumer bar higher every day by doing three things incredibly well and consistently:
Make it about me: Deliver personalized communications that lead me down the conversion path more quickly. Paying attention to clear consumer value and WIIFM (what’s in it for me?), tuned to my precise needs and wants, is the only way to drive action with most consumers. And it has to happen in the here and now -- mobile-centric interaction is driving the need for hyper-relevant messaging and impeccable timing. This speaks to data that fuels interactions meaningful to every “me” out there, in whatever their present tense may be.
Make it fast and easy: Once I’m heading down a path to action, make it fast and easy for me to access the information I need, complete my transaction and move on. This speaks to the need for optimized content and experiences across all channels. Data and automation enable an understanding of the state individual consumers are in, delivering value by getting them closer to what they want when they want it -- and of course they want it now.
Lead and exceed: Setting expectations high and delivering on them is key. With the rapid improvements on user experiences, consumers expect organizations to keep innovating to improve on consumer experiences they may not even imagine yet, such as delivery drones and mind-reading (in the form of predictive shipping that anticipates what I may purchase before I hit the “buy” button, as Amazon recently announced).
As Amazon pushes consumer expectations to new heights, is your organization tuning into the needs of your one-eyed, flying shoppers in the present tense? We’d love to hear more in the comments.
Posted by: Catherine Magoffin at 12:00 AM
February 11, 2014 | Amanda Hinkle
Here's an article I wrote for iMedia Connection:
While recently making a retail purchase, I was asked by the sales associate to sign up for the company's "Thanks for Sharing" program -- an effort to raise millions of dollars for charity. After a $25 enrollment fee, you get 10 percent back on purchases through the end of the year. Sign me up! It's a win-win for the charities, the retailer, and my own pocketbook. Unfortunately, my ongoing experience with this program has left me feeling more confused than appreciated. Let's start at the beginning.
My customer journey started off well. The sales associate said today's purchase counted toward the program, meaning I'd already earned back the $25 enrollment fee. Great! She encouraged me to track my rewards progress on future paper statements. A week later, I went back to the store, and the same associate couldn't find any record of my enrollment. I assured her that I had signed up just one week prior and went home to await my paper statement to verify.
I was looking forward to seeing all the rewards rack up on my paper statement, but when it arrived in the mail, there were no rewards, nor any acknowledgment that I was enrolled. There was, however, an advertisement for the "Thanks for Sharing" program. It dawned on me that maybe I wasn't enrolled after all.
I logged into my online account hoping to find some answers, but there was no mention of this program. I needed to make a phone call.
After being forced to listen to 13 different phone tree options, I finally got through to an agent who informed me that I was indeed enrolled in the program. However, the large purchase that had inspired me to join in the first place wasn't eligible because the sales associate had signed me up before the program officially began. What? Given that it's a charitable cause, I didn't have the desire to debate the issue.
To satisfy my curiosity, I looked at my inbox to see what emails may have come from the retailer. I was surprised that the only two emails from the past 30 days were:
• Thanks for your recent payment
• Your statement is ready to view online
No "Thanks for Enrolling" email acknowledging that I had joined the program or promotions of any kind. I was beginning to feel un-thanked for sharing.
The moral of the story
It takes a certain level of planning and sophistication to successfully orchestrate a marketing campaign across multiple channels. While some marketing snafus can be humorous, others can send the consumer reeling.
Because today's consumers have a "get it now" and "get it right " mentality, marketers need to provide both. As such, we need unprecedented visibility and access to relevant data about consumers and the context in which they are shopping. So what do marketers need to gain the insight and contextual understanding required to enable the creation of sophisticated cross-channel customer experiences?
Marketers need a powerful and nimble system of record
A technology infrastructure that will support an integrated approach to marketing strategy, development, delivery, and measurement -- across the marketing mix -- is necessary. Carefully assess your current capabilities and develop a plan for investment in marketing technologies that will ensure you're in a position to leverage customer data in real time across multiple platforms and devices.
Marketers need to get collaborative
Organizations need to be more collaborative in how they plan and optimize campaigns. They must bring together individuals from different business units, such as IT, product development, and marketing. These groups need to work together in new ways to collectively understand consumer decision journeys and design experiences that will meet consumer demands.
Marketers need to design interactions that enhance the customer journey
Understand how customers interact with your brand and look for opportunities to enhance the experience across their journey by leveraging data and context for real-time response and dialogue.
A sophisticated marketing program can drive significant ROI. Because it is not feasible to manually act in the moment a consumer is making a decision, marketers need automated campaigns that are skillfully orchestrated across channels. Skillfully is the key word here -- we need the right technologies, people, and processes in place to meet the consumer's present tense demand for marketing.
As the call center representative said, "Thanks for calling and have a great night." (It was 10 in the morning.)
Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 12:00 AM
February 06, 2014 | Rob Brosnan
Oh brother, not another marketing needs big data webinar/blog post/conference session.
I understand and even sympathize if that’s your reaction. Like marketing cloud, big data feels like another buzzword that’s been overhyped by big vendors attempting to sell yet another big ticket item to the marketing department. When I was an analyst at Forrester Research, I frequently heard complaints like, “marketing has been dealing with big data forever” or “what we need is small data, not big data.”
Truth is, big data is one you need to pay attention to, for it pays dividends to both the bottom line and to customer experience.
StrongView recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to research marketing innovators: those who pushed to implement big data tools into the marketing technology stack. The study found significant increases in customer engagement, customer retention, and in upsell and cross-sell revenue. The study, which was conducted on behalf of StrongView, was published in December 2013.
I will discuss the results of Forrester’s Thought Leadership Paper, Marketing’s Big Leap Forward, during the free webinar listed below. All attendees will receive a free copy of the research findings.
Title: “Take The Next Big Leap Forward: How To Use Technology And Analytics To Harness Big Data For Competitive Advantage.”
Date: February 19, 2014
Time: 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT
Let me give you a quick summary of the research.
- Marketer’s big struggle is the twin challenge of performance and experience.
Forrester surveyed 155 US-based B2C marketers and sales leaders and also conducted additional in-depth interviews. Respondents name lifetime value, acquisition, retention and ROI as their key goals. At the same time, these respondents told us that one of the roadblocks to these goals is understanding and managing customer interactions across multiple channels and marketing technologies.
- Big data innovations provide an effective means of resolving these challenges.
Even if the bizarre sounding names — like Pig, Hive, Flume and Redshift — don’t float your boat, what they enable will. Unlike traditional database and data management tools, these applications can absorb and integrate enormous volumes of data without eating the entire marketing budget. Cheap, scalable databases with integrated analytics are the key to making sense of and acting on customer interactions.
- Innovators and early adopters have an opportunity to press their advantage.
Use the confusion surrounding these tools to best your competitors. Prioritizing big data in your future marketing tech stack enables you to: 1) create new interaction-based programs that guide customers through journeys and 2) incorporate advanced customer analytics at the point of maximum leverage. Let them scoff while you collect your reward.
- The payoff of big data tech is in customer engagement, retention and revenue.
By far, the innovators Forrester spoke with reported the most significant increases in customer engagement and retention. These increases in customers ready to hear about new products, services, deals and discounts also lead to improvements in cross-sell and upsell performance. Second to engagement, big data innovators reported increases in bottom line revenue from their investments.
If you feel the pressure to increase acquisition, lifetime value and return on investment, but you struggle with the challenge of understanding customers’ interactions with your brand, join me on February 19 for the free webinar: Take The Next Big Leap Forward. We’ll cover these innovations that enable marketers to accelerate acquisition, improve customer experience and drive ROI. We will also provide you with practical advice for getting started with your big data roadmap.
Posted by: Rob Brosnan at 1:07 PM
February 04, 2014 | Justin Williams
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
Segmentation analysis is just a fancy way of saying "don't generalize."
Many email marketers pour over open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates daily, hoping for that subtle yet undeniable improvement, fretting over any drop in engagement or lack of improvement.
Unfortunately, these same marketers are most likely measuring everyone's engagement from a single mailing and comparing it to everyone's engagement from the previous mailing, or the previous weekly, monthly, or quarterly average.
This method, while useful for a quick glimpse of performance, gives the marketer only a vague understanding of what actually drives engagement and conversion.
Did the users who didn't click on this email not like the offer? Was it not big enough? Was the email unappealing? Was it sent at the wrong time of day?
All of these things can affect whether or not a user clicks or converts. More often than not, however, there are more impactful factors involved. Does the recipient trust the brand? Is she in market for the product? Did she purchase the item being promoted or another item that serves the same purpose recently? Each of these factors could cause a recipient to simply ignore the message, no matter how great the offer or awesome the creative.
So how can a marketer know that the increase in performance on this message is due to the offer or creative instead of the recipients' current needs?
One answer is by conducting segmentation analysis.
Segmentation Analysis -- The Basics
Imagine a crowded Peet's Coffee (way better than Starbucks, in my opinion). You're trying to sell some women's yoga pants. You have a good supply, enough for everyone in the store.
You shout, "Hey, I've got yoga pants! Who wants some? $39.99 each, normally $45. Act now!"
Let's say there are 1,000 people in the store, and 20 people decide to buy some pants. Sweet! Fifty others asked about the pants, but decided not to buy.
So, you saw a 7 percent interest rate (similar to click-through rate) and a 2 percent conversion rate. Cool beans.
But imagine what it would be if you measured differently. Imagine if you added a simple level of segmentation to your analysis.
When you look at your sales more closely, you see that 18 females and two males decided to buy. Turns out there were 500 females and 500 males in Peet's at the time (this is a mega Peet's, and a popular one at that). So now you discover that, although your conversion rate for the entire population is 2 percent, your conversion rate in the female segment is 3.6 percent (18/500) and your conversion rate in the male segment is 0.4 percent (2/500). Obviously, the female segment performed much better.
Imagine now that you look further into the female group. You're going to use a psychographic segmentation this time. You're going to ask all the women to identify themselves as sedentary, active, or extremely active. Then you're going to see who purchased based on those groups
Here's what it looks like when you're done:
|Extremely Active||80||7||8.75 percent|
So it turns out that extremely active women were very responsive to your offer and your pants. Cool! Not to be forgotten are the active women. What are these two groups looking for? Is it different? Finally, is there something the sedentary women were looking for that they didn't see? What about the men?
Ultimately, the objective with segmentation analysis is to get a better understanding of who responded, and how the differences among these groups can help you better market to them in the future.
You must avoid analysis paralysis, of course. You can slice the data 100 different ways, but you only need to go as far as will help you test a treatment to drive better results. Bottom line: Conducting segmentation analysis in your email campaigns can help you understand how and where to focus your marketing efforts to achieve maximum campaign performance.
Posted by: Justin Williams at 1:43 PM
January 30, 2014 | Rob Brosnan
Consumer expectations of brands are changing fast. They increasingly look to brands for relevance — not only in delivering relevant offers on products and services but also in helping them learn, use, and get more value out of the products and services they have. While much of marketers’ work still focuses on campaigns and offers, the big takeaway is that targeted messaging around the customer life-cycle is essential to retaining customers. You need to build rich customer relationships in order to beat the competition, and the customer life-cycle is an effective method of building a differentiated customer strategy.
Indeed, Forrester Research, Inc., in the December 2013 report entitled “The Rise Of The Customer Life-Cycle Marketing Systems,” recently highlighted StrongView’s focus on “present tense marketing.”
According to the report, written by Analyst Cory Munchbach:
StrongView’s competence in messaging across digital channels, and its focus on what it calls “present tense marketing” emphasizes the importance of messaging in context in different phases of the life cycle to be relevant to customers.
What is Forrester’s customer life-cycle? According to the report, the customer life-cycle “represents the marketing actions taken from the point of view of customers as they move through the phases of discover, explore, buy, and engage."
The Customer Life-Cycle Reveals New Methods To Beat The Competition
I believe that every firm needs to create strategies that address post-purchase consumer behavior. Here are some of my thoughts as to why:
- Post-purchase life-cycle stages opens new relationship opportunities.
Consumers are ever more willing to engage with brands outside of traditional branding or direct marketing actions. That willingness creates two strategic openings for brands. First, if you create and deliver content in those stages – education, usage, or community building – your customers will be more willing to listen to you when they are ready to buy or renew in the future. Second, each interaction will provide insights on who your customers are, humanizing them through revealing their interests and their affinities. Those rich insights are the foundation for future interaction strategies.
- Authentic engagement following a purchase drives future purchases.
Will dedicating budget and resources to helping customers better use your products help your bottom line? In the March 2013 report entitled “Fragmented Path-To-Purchase Demands Everywhere Marketing,” Forrester notes that “70% of consumers say that the experience they have using the brand/product or service influences their decision to continue using it.” Incorporating product or service usage into a life-cycle email program is a cost-effective and timely way to influence this critical customer stage.
- Engagement enables you to surprise and delight customers.
Purchase-stage messages drive the most conversions when they feature highly personalized offers. Yet a real customer relationship can’t thrive on offers alone. Customers who influence brand perceptions and purchases have expectations for surprising and engaging interactions. In the March report mentioned above, Forrester found that “45% of influencers care about … surprise interactions compared with only 22% of average adults.”
New Marketing Technologies Are Needed To Address The Customer Lifecycle
StrongView is well regarded for its ability to deliver personalized and relevant messages across channels and life-cycle stages. In the Forrester report, I found 3 critical aspects of the life-cycle systems, including capabilities to:
- Absorb “diverse data inputs” into an underlying data store.
StrongView’s Interaction Store provides marketers the ability to store unlimited customer interaction data; ingest and integrate real-time data; and deliver cross-channel insight quickly and cost-effectively.
- Exceed traditional automation with cross-channel interaction management.
In Forrester’s view, a customer life-cycle marketing system will be the platform for “data sharing and next-best actions … across outbound and inbound marketing.” Our platform enables marketers to manage both batch and interaction-based marketing automation across multiple digital channels.
- Rapidly deliver value to both the marketer and the enterprise.
Due to legacy investments, CMOs face barriers to adopting new approaches., As Ms. Munchbach writes in the Forrester report “Vendors that are committed to providing an integrated product will also need flexible progressive pricing structures that reflect the scope of the transition.”
StrongView is deeply passionate about providing marketers with advanced and flexible technologies that create rich and profitable customer relationships. I joined StrongView because of its passion and its commitment to incorporating disruptive and web-scale technologies into the foundations of its platform. I’m pleased that my former colleagues at Forrester noted in the report StrongView’s focus on “present tense marketing,” emphasizing the importance of messaging in context in different phases of the life cycle.
Contact us today to experience StrongView’s customer life-cycle management capabilities.
Posted by: Rob Brosnan at 4:21 PM
January 29, 2014 | Justin Williams
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
Open rates and click-through rates give us a quick idea of how an individual email is performing. We can easily fall prey, however, to the belief that a falling trend in these metrics is indicative of problems within individual emails, rather than the program as a whole.
To maintain and improve email performance, we need to consider how we can build long-term customer engagement with our emails. Here are three ways to do just that.
1. Build and Deliver on Expectations
The brand/subscriber relationship is like any other relationship; it’s a good idea to go slow, be consistent, and earn trust over time. In personal relationships, someone dealing with an inconsistent friend or partner will perceive that person as untrustworthy and avoid developing a deeper connection. In the same way, email subscribers will avoid engaging with brands that have inconsistent email messaging strategies by ceasing to read or act on the brand’s emails, unsubscribing, or even complaining.
To help create consistency and foster trust, a welcome/onboarding email program can reliably set expectations about what, how, and when your brand will email subscribers. Consistent from names, subject line structures, and content will also build expectations in a positive way. It’s OK to make changes, but avoid changing everything around in every single send (imagine how hard it would be to process a brand’s email if it had new templates for every email).
Of course, consistency is not enough. If you’re consistently annoying, that won’t help you build engagement. That’s where tip number two comes in.
2. Be Useful, Always
Why should subscribers open your emails? To earn your subscribers’ attention, your brand’s content needs to be useful. "Useful" content could include special offers, details about new products or services, or information about a recent purchase.
Leverage technology to make your emails even more useful to your subscribers. Personalize your content based on purchase history. Send offers and highlight products based on an individual customer’s category affinity. The value of increased customer data is realized when you use it to become more relevant, and therefore more useful, to your subscribers.
The most advanced email marketers leverage several data sources to add relevancy and usefulness to their email messaging. But even the best of the best can improve their programs with tip number three.
3. Ask Your Subscribers What They Want
The most basic email program has the fewest possible levels of subscriber preference: you get the email or you don’t get the email. To increase engagement from your subscribers, allow them to craft their own preference levels.
Offer different options for what, when, and how subscribers can receive your emails and other communications. Perhaps one subscriber is best served by weekly promotional emails, alerts by SMS only, and absolutely no emails about credit cards. Maybe another subscriber wants daily emails, alerts by emails, and special offers by email. Later on, that subscriber might want to switch to alerts by SMS and email. Can your program accommodate and respond to those individual preferences? If not, increase engagement by increasing your ability to collect and respect subscriber preferences. One size does NOT fit all.
Implement these three tips in your email programs and your subscribers will begin to trust your brand, rely on your useful communications, and feel like their preferences are being heard and respected. These three things will go a long way in building lasting customer relationships that are reflected in strong engagement levels that expand beyond any single email mailing.
Posted by: Justin Williams at 12:00 AM
January 29, 2014 | Syed Mahmood
The Times They Are a-Changin', but as marketers we are adept at dealing with change. After all, in an effort to keep up with shifting customer preferences and industry landscapes, we've been investing millions of dollars to implement CRM and marketing automation systems that let us collect, analyze and act upon customer data to better understand these changes and remain competitive. However, industry analysts warns us that the advent of big data is bringing a different kind of change -- one that requires new technologies to deal with it. Can your old CRM systems and data warehouses handle the "bigness" of big data? Are these past technology investments equipped to process the exponentially increasing volumes of customer data that most of us now have access to? Can these tools help you find the nuggets of insights that will empower you to deliver deeper customer insights, finer customer segments and stronger customer engagements? Or has big data changed the game enough that marketers now need new tools to help us all become more effective?
In my opinion, traditional marketing platforms and business intelligence tools won't cut it in the era of big data. The challenge lies in the underlying design of these systems. For example, CRM systems and data warehouses were originally built to store data that doesn’t change very frequently. Demographic information and purchase history are good examples of this type of data. However, in the era of big data, customer interactions -- think click-throughs, searches, likes on Facebook, etc. -- constitute the majority of our data volume. As you can imagine, this interaction data changes much, much more quickly than current systems can store or analyze it.
The velocity of big data refers to both the speed with which data flows into organizations and the speed with which it must be analyzed and communicated in order to extract value out of it. Most current marketing systems fall short on both fronts. As marketers, we have all been there when analytical applications (i.e. marketing reports and dashboards) became outdated as soon as the company started selling a new product or added a new sales territory, as these new attributes were not part of the system’s data model. In our current era of digital interaction, customers expect that we as marketers understand their needs and respond in real-time (what we at StrongView call Present Tense Marketing), yet traditional marketing systems have not been designed for this level of quick response. With most systems today, marketers require the services of a business analyst or IT staff to extract desired insights, which takes time and manpower, thereby creating latency. Bottom line: these systems aren't made for the real-time insight-to-action customer conversation loops that marketers need to engage in today.
The three Vs of big data -- volume, velocity and variety -- have changed the marketing game and the tools we need to win at it. If these challenges sound familiar and you want to find out more about modern big data marketing analytics platforms that can provide marketers with the capability to go from insight to action in real-time, check out our A Practical Guide to Modern Marketing Analytics: How Marketing Analytics Becomes the Next Competitive Weapon in Building stronger Customer Relationships.