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Three Ways to Make Email Your Marketing Star

by Karen Talavera

03 14, 2013 | Posted in Email Marketing, Marketing Vision, Messaging Strategy | 0 comments

3 Ways to Make Email Your Marketing StarAs marketing channels go, email has always excelled at developing customer relationships. The key to thousands of successful email programs lies not in using the channel as a low-cost broadcasting medium, but as a relationship-building conduit. Email shines brightest when message purpose, timing, offers and value are matched to distinct customer relationship stages.

Designing an email program to fit customer relationship stages is often compared to dating. New relationships begin cautiously, with each party sharing limited information until mutual trust is built, then expanding their level of intimacy over time. Just as we don’t jump from first date to marriage, neither should your email marketing program ask too much too soon from your customers.

Consider these three intentional ways email marketing can be applied to nurture, grow and deepen customer relationships:

1.  Gently Coax Budding Subscribers

New email list members are interested in you – either because they’re considering becoming customers, because you enticed them to trade their email address for something of value, or both. You’re on a “first date” with them, so develop a welcome email series that not only delivers value, but createscomfort and trust by allowing them to get to know you.

A welcome series of emails can be more powerful than a single welcome message because it gives subscribers time to warm up to you, demonstrates consistency and commitment on your part, and affords more space to educate, familiarize, and share resources without overwhelming people.

A series also does something that may seem counter intuitive but has proven wildly effective: it slows down the sale. “Slowing down the sale” doesn’t mean wasting time or stalling, but instead means intentionally creating the time and space needed for trust, curiosity and affection to build into demand

Just as in real life the slow road to passion often results in deeper commitment and one-night stands rarely evolve into lasting relationships, so too should your email program welcome, familiarize and invite before asking for a deeper commitment to buy.

2.  Nurture New Customers

New customers (those who’ve transacted for the first time) have made a bigger commitment than just joining your list but may have done both simultaneously. A new customer relationship can be like a first kiss – you want it to be a positive experience and provided it goes well, do it again!

Take the opportunity to thank new customers via email, and consider following or bundling a thank-you email with a bounce back offer. A “bounce back” offer is a discount or coupon that’s given to a customer who has just made a purchase from you. The goal is to get them to purchase again, usually but not always at a discount.

Bounce back offers are normally discounts because rewarding customers for their desired behavior by saving them money if they repeat that desired behavior is appreciated and almost impossible to resist. Bounce back offers are also usually exclusive – they provide an incentive, discount or access greater than new email list member offers, or not generally available elsewhere.

Your bounce back or thank-you offer is your way of asking for a “second date”. If it isn’t acted upon, don’t lose heart. Keep delivering value and regularly inviting customers to engage again – even if it’s not by buying but instead by reading a blog post, watching a video or connecting on social media. Consistent nurturing will grow new relationships into stable commitments.

3.  Deepen Relationships with Repeat Customers

Your existing, long-term customers should be frequent recipients of your email and are likely very familiar with your offers, seasonality and cadence. The question to consider for customers in this relationship stage is, how can you add more value and variety to what you send them?

Long-term romantic relationships can lapse into routines and grow stale without an injection of spontaneity and passion; the same can happen between your established customers and your email program unless you’re applying some of these approaches to deepening relationships and loyalty:

  • Intersperse promotional email with content, information, or entertainment messages. Don’t be “the friend who only calls when you need something”. Offer value through educational or entertaining content, customer support services, reminders/alerts, and advance notices.
  • Pay attention to what customers routinely buy or last bought, and craft up-sell and cross-sell offers that match their interests. Up-sell and cross-sell offers follow a planned “progression path” you’ve created and help customers understand which step to take next. As in all relationships, the parties generally want to know where the relationship is headed next.
  • Segment your best customers into a “top tier” level and give them exclusive treatment. Make sure they know it!
  • Surprise and delight. Deliver the occasional “dozen roses” not for any particular reason, but just as a show of love and appreciation.
  • Keep your email newsletter going strong – it provides stability, predictability and continuity just like a “date night” in a marriage. It shouldn’t be the only email loyal customers receive, but it is a foundation of your program they’ll look forward to seeing among your message mix.

Designing specific email campaigns to support customer relationships at every stage isn’t as easy as blasting the same message to everyone on your list, but it is worth the investment. Welcome, bounce back and exclusivity campaigns routinely return five to ten times the response of un-segmented broadcast campaigns. Want to see your email shine brighter than ever? Map campaigns to unique customer relationship stages and watch email become the rising star of your marketing mix.

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