Despite the advent of advanced communication technologies, there is no denying the popularity of traditional email. Even as hip and innovative social media platforms dominate our consciousness with appealing interfaces and exciting features, almost everyone still uses email on some level. And as a marketing and customer engagement tool, industry experts are still predicting a continued rise in consumer usage.
Email endures as a vital customer engagement strategy because its wide range of capabilities allows marketers to achieve numerous goals. A solid email campaign provides a cost-effective and real-time way to measure rich performance metrics, generate valuable leads, and eventually transform initial subscriptions into real customer loyalty.
However, email marketing is certainly not without its challenges. Standing out in today’s overcrowded and rapidly changing marketplace is no easy task. Top brands are continually modifying their customer engagement tactics in an effort to secure those coveted inbox email clicks
This topic was recently discussed in detail at the 2015 LeadsCon in Las Vegas. During the panel presentation titled, How to Successfully Acquire, Nurture, and Retain Leads through Email, the featured speakers, including Shelly Alvarez, Director of Client Services at PostUp, and Bryan Hussey, Senior Director of Online Marketing at the Atlantic Coast Media Group, offered a range of insights and expert advice to those in attendance.
“It’s funny how often we all check email. Even though it is not the sexy, new, cool channel, email is still a prompt and engaging way to start a dialogue,” said Todd Boullion, the panel moderator and UnsubCentral GM. “I get emails from Facebook, I get emails from Twitter, I get emails from Groupon, and other companies that then prompt me to go to their site.”
So readers and potential customers are already widely available. But to be effective, it is up to the brands to understand and complete the lifecycle of email marking. These steps including first acquiring attention, nurturing and growing new relationships, converting a subscriber into an actual customer, and then working hard to maintain that relationship over the long term.
Hussey also overemphasized the need for quality content. The key is to focus on content that is short, keeps the customer wanting more, and makes them feel comfortable by not trying to sell something every single time. Strong content will ultimately drive sales but it must also be personalized. The generic mass blanketed approach can kill a campaign before it even begins.
“One size does not fit all,” Alvarez explained. “Every person will have all kinds of different knowledge of your brand. The last thing you want to do is upsell them immediately. You really want to add value to their experience. Personalization means nurturing paths that speak very intelligently according to that customer’s experience. Don’t think about marketing your company, think about marketing to that customer. What does that customer need next?”
Hussey echoed this sentiment.
“Be in touch with them,” he advised. “I would rather send 100,000 qualified emails, than send 3 million to people that just aren’t going to open them. If you don’t open my email, I am not going to send it to you anymore. It’s that simple.”
This is crucial advice because continuing to send emails that generate fatigue can have negative consequences far beyond simply alienating consumers. Ill-conceived emails can negate customer engagement altogether by raising the alarms of spam filters.
“The bad news is that it’s all about the engagement with the ISPs,” Alvarez said. “They are becoming more and more automated and intelligent. You are going to get into inboxes solely based on your Sender Score, which is based on the engagement of your emails. If you’ve been blocked, more than likely, it’s not because of what you put in the subject line. What you need to check is your email reputation.”
Therefore, creating quality, relevant, and targeted emails designed to meet the personalized needs of an audience isn’t only important to drive sales. It is also important to get your brand noticed at all.
“If people are not opening and clicking your emails, your Sender Score is going to go down, and then there is going to be an automated process in place for those ISPs to start sending you to the spam filters, and block you completely,” Alvarez continued.
In the end, there is no magic formula for success and no magic number of emails to send. Some customers will be perfectly happy to hear from their favorite brand every day, while other brands, insurance companies for example, might want to rigorously limit their engagement.
The entire email marketing process is a journey, not a destination. And it all comes back to understanding and engaging the customer on a personal level.
“Talk to them and don’t sell to them,” said Hussey. “You have to be able to make them feel like a client.”
“Don’t forget that you need to charm and remind customers why they bought your product in the first place,” she said. “Think of selling the person, not the product."
About the Author: Mark Johnson
Mark is CEO & CMO of Loyalty360. He has significant experience in selling, designing and administering prepaid, loyalty/CRM programs, as well as data-driven marketing communication programs.