There's no denying that email marketing can be a powerful and positive influence on your customers -- but you've got to make sure you get it right, right from the start. A good contact strategy can serve as a roadmap to email marketing activities -- and developing a solid contact strategy is key to email marketing success, whether you're sending to a list of 1,000 or 100,000. The following tactics serve as a solid starting point for developing and implementing your touch points for sending emails:
Know your product buying cycle: When it comes to higher dollar products and services -- those that would require a purchase order or approval from a supervisor-- the product buying cycle creates a built-in communication opportunity. You can engage with potential customers on topics including info on tech support and financing options, availability of additional modules or add-ons, or even time-limited special offers.
Product buying cycles differ for every business; understanding the steps your customers must take between browsing and buying will help you develop effective contact strategies for your unique audience.
Win back customers: While it may be tempting to ignore the portion of your email lists that isn't responsive -- they either don't open your email, or do open it but don't click through on any of the content -- it isn't a good idea. Allowing these recipients to languish on your email marketing list increases your chances of diluting the value of your email metrics and increases the risk of future delivery problems. Why not reinvigorate these readers with a little bit of special attention instead?
There's both an art and a science to winning back inactive customers -- and you'll need to try more than one tactic to see which one works the best for your audience. Consider offering an exclusive incentive for valued subscribers -- not the standard "free shipping" you offer every week -- to recipients you're trying to woo. Show them you value them and make sure you mention that the promotion is of a 'come back' nature, highlighting to the recipient that the company is aware that he/she hasn't recently made a purchase. Consider a survey of how you can do better or why they stopped interacting to improve your program.
If you're in the lead generation business and aren't actually making a sale online, think about what kind of incentives you can use to bring once interested readers back to life. Use your email and Web metrics program to uncover the original reason they signed up and what they showed interest in since then -- was it to receive a white paper on a particular topic, or was it in response to a cross promotion with a business partner? Pinpoint what got their attention initially and create a win-back email strategy that will reignite their interest in your brand.
Take advantage of onboarding: If you're dropping new email subscribers right into the middle of your existing email marketing stream, you're losing out on a great opportunity. By adding a series of onboarding emails that follow your initial "welcome" email, you're providing new shoppers or leads with valuable information about your brand and their potential shopping experience.
Reinforcing your brand positioning-by providing an informational email (a white paper, an invitation to a free webinar) or reiterating a strong area of your customer service offerings (free shipping, 24/7 tech support), are both ways to slide recipients into your email flow without leaving them gasping for breath.
Create an editorial calendar: Many businesses develop a six-month or 12-month editorial calendar that highlights promotions and corresponding educational information that they'll be offering in their newsletters throughout the year. Keep this editorial calendar in mind as you're developing additional sales-oriented campaigns to send to recipients -- watch your email metrics to ensure that your sending frequency isn't creeping up to unacceptable levels, and that your brand and product messaging is complimentary from issue to issue.
About the author
Stefan Pollard is director of email best practices for Lyris (www.lyrisinc.com), located in Emeryville, Calif.
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