Say goodbye to mass emailing

by

iMedia Connection

Find out what’s making it possible for email marketing to finally deliver on its promise of relevant, one-to-one communications.

Email marketing has become one of the most valuable and best performing marketing channels today. Businesses are getting an incredible return on investment and consumers have benefited from industry best practices, technologies and their own online “street smarts” for managing their inboxes. Spam persists and pesters, but the war is being won as can be seen from a few recent studies that just scratch the surface of all the positive news about email marketing:

  • 88 percent of 2,500 consumers surveyed said they feel mostly or completely in control of their inboxes — up 9 points from 2004. Meanwhile, 58 percent surveyed believe email is a great way for companies to stay in touch with them, up from 45 percent in 2005 (Merkle, Inc.’s “View from the Inbox 2008” study).
  • Online retailers rated email-to-house files as their No. 1 marketing tactic; 93 percent surveyed said they plan to give email even higher priority in 2008 (Shop.org’s “State of Retailing Online 2008” report).
  • For every dollar spent, commercial email has a return on investment of $48 (DMA 2008).
  • Email campaign management is one of the top six investment areas for senior marketers in 2008 (CMO Council’s “Marketing Outlook 2008”).

Even more exciting than the state of email today is what is just now beginning to happen, and what is growing into a trend for the near future. Email marketing is evolving toward true relevance as the most savvy marketers move from one-to-many, or broadcast email tactics, to establishing one-to-one relationships with customers and prospects. This means that “less is more” will become the norm for email marketing — soon there will be fewer, more targeted and more relevant email messages — a growing trend that benefits marketers, businesses and consumers.

This trend is due in large part to the emergence of email automation.

Event- or action-triggered email campaigns and integrating email marketing with CRM data to automate the lead process are just two email automation approaches accessible to today’s marketers that can have a tremendous impact on improving email marketing relevance.

Event- or action-triggered automation
Event- or action-triggered automation enables marketers to automatically send relevant emails to customers at exactly the right moment based on a specified time, date, event or action. Marketers today use email segmentation to target specific content at unique list segments. Deploying automated event- or action-triggered email campaigns enables marketers to take email marketing relevance even further by ensuring that every email is not only targeted but is also being delivered at the right time.

Marketers using trigger email automation solutions are able to map out each element of the campaign, including:

  • The event, action or specified time that initiates the sending of an email
  • Filters to include or exclude contacts
  • Timer delays for scheduling and initiating message delivery
  • Select customized email campaigns to send to specific contacts or contact segments
  • Post-condition settings to assign value fields for tracking specific contacts once the campaign series has been executed

Let’s check out how it works.

Trigger campaigns in action
A brief case study illustrates how event- and action-triggered email campaigns can benefit a business.

The challenge
A regional health club chain wanted to reduce membership churn and increase customer loyalty, a challenge for any fitness organization that sees memberships ebb and flow throughout the year. The marketing team decided that an email marketing campaign would be the best way to reach members in every club with an attractive promotion or offer.

The solution
The health club marketing team crafted a promotion that would help it improve the quality of the email database while simultaneously engaging members with an attractive fitness program through a series of highly targeted automated trigger email campaigns tailored to individual member interests and preferences. The promotion began with club managers and directors informing existing members across all of the clubs in the chain about a new eight-week, in-club weight-loss initiative. Interested club members filled out a sign-up form that encouraged them to provide their email addresses along with additional information regarding individual health and fitness preferences and interests.

Members interested in participating in the promotion benefited from giving information because they then could be sent additional support information for the weight-loss program — further strengthening the relationship between club and member. Once the eight-week weight-loss program began, the health club was able to stay in close contact with individual members, not only about the program, but also with other messages and promotions that suited their stated preferences. With targeted follow-up trigger campaigns based on member profile data, the health club provided members with value.

Follow-up campaigns consisted of seven emails developed with highly relevant content tailored to the weekly experience of each member as he or she progressed through the weight-loss program. This meant that at the midpoint in the campaign there could be seven different groups receiving seven different messages. The campaigns also used dynamic segments, which meant a weekly email could be created that had different logos, different club locations and different messaging based on the member’s club location and join date.

All of this could only have been accomplished through an advanced email automation solution, which not only eliminated the physical management of the follow-up campaign processing and execution, but also assured that the emails would go out with the right message at the right time to the right club member.

Get more relevant with email and CRM data
Like event- or action-triggered campaigns, integrating email marketing with lead-generation systems is another email automation tactic that can significantly increase revenue-building opportunities.

Aberdeen Research conducted an extensive study that clearly illustrated the benefits of integrating email with lead generation. According to the report — “Success Strategies in Marketing Automation” (July 2007) — marketers revealed the following business benefits of linking email and CRM systems:

  • 95 percent surveyed reduce the sales cycle by integrating email campaigns with lead-management solution.
  • 66 percent pass leads back and forth between sales and marketing, creating more opportunities for qualifying, following up on and prioritizing prospects that are most likely to make a purchase.
  • 42 percent use automated email follow-ups for lead qualification, improving the overall efficiency of the lead qualification and sales process.

Imagine being able to automatically move individual leads through the sales cycle faster with email campaigns that launch automatically as CRM data changes for individual leads. Automating your email campaigns in this way will enable your sales team to concentrate on leads that require personal attention.

Steps toward an email marketing relevance plan
Email automation is emerging as a strategic approach for businesses of all sizes to dramatically improve the targeting, relevance and the timeliness of their email marketing campaigns.

Marketers still undecided or uncertain about how to begin should follow these best practices to take their email marketing programs to the next level of true relevance:

1. Build more detailed customer profiles: Take advantage of every opportunity to gather additional profile information from your customers. A data-rich email list that includes demographic, behavioral and transactional information can be used for segmentation and trigger campaigns, ensuring that your email messages are tailored to suit each contact.

2. Get to know your customers’ buying habits: Customer sales information holds insights to what your customers want and when they want it. Get to know your customers by their purchasing behavior so you can implement triggered campaigns for cross-sell or up-sell opportunities.

3. Synch email and CRM: In addition to proactively gathering customer data, synchronize your CRM and email marketing systems. Tools and technologies are available today that should make this a simple, painless process without having to involve your IT department or software developer resources. Taking this step will enrich your email list all the more with detailed behavioral and transactional data.

4. Nurture to close: Feed your sales team automated updates on email campaign activity. Sales associates can use information such as opens, links clicked and forwards to help them prioritize leads and nudge prospects toward making a purchase. Sales can also use this information to facilitate initial contact with a prospect and begin a dialogue, helping them begin “warm” instead of taking on the dreaded “cold call.”

5. Keep it personal: Putting a face to a name builds relationships and closes sales, and the same principles apply to email automation. Top email automation systems make it easy for you to give your automated messages personality by sending them “from” a person (on behalf of), including a personal signature and sometimes even a photo to build the relationship.

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