Creating an Integrated Email Marketing Strategy

Keeping email in the sales tool box limits the benefits and keeps it from helping your company grow. Electronic mail is well known as a marketing tool that generates immediate cash flow. It works so well that many companies send daily updates that contribute a significant amount to their annual revenue. Some might say that this is the primary purpose for email marketing. Maybe they’re right but I think it is a shame to waste opportunities

Keeping email in the sales tool box limits the benefits and keeps it from helping your company grow. Electronic mail is well known as a marketing tool that generates immediate cash flow. It works so well that many companies send daily updates that contribute a significant amount to their annual revenue. Some might say that this is the primary purpose for email marketing. Maybe they’re right but I think it is a shame to waste opportunities.

Email is the only tool available today that can economically provide a one-to-one communication between company and customer or prospect. Perhaps it’s the fear that people will overwhelm already stretched customer service departments that keeps companies from capitalizing on the opportunities available. Maybe they’re spending too much time working on creating content in the hopes that it will go viral. Or it could be that email works so well as a sales tool little thought has been put into other uses. After all, when resources are limited, management tends to take an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” approach to projects.

This is a dangerous position because email as a sales tool is breaking. The days where emails sent to unengaged subscribers generated significant revenue with little effort are disappearing. The changes in Gmail’s interface are the beginning of a new email marketing reality. Begging people to move messages to the primary inbox is not a sustainable solution. Building relationships that makes them want to find your emails is the only way to continued sales success. Fortunately, email is a multifaceted tool that works well in relationship building.

The companies that change their strategy to include retention and education will gain market share, improve customer loyalty and make sales messages more profitable. There isn’t a downside to doing this because it delivers results at minimal cost. This strategy is part of an integrated marketing and service initiative that has far reaching effects.

The content created for educational messages establishes expertise, builds trust and can be repurposed on other channels. Google’s shift to conversational search requires marketers seeking better ranks to provide quality content. The best information speaks directly to the people who buy your products or services. Incorporating educational messages in your email strategy allows you to discover what drives sales and keeps customers coming back. The same messages will attract prospects.

Much of the information about relationship marketing implies that people want personal relationships with companies. They don’t. People want personal relationships with friends and family. They want companies to make it easy for them to solve problems. It’s a bonus if the company solves the problem without participation from the individual. Trust is established when company’s consistently deliver on their promises. Trying to create personal relationships with people who don’t want them is foolish and a waste of resources.

A better strategy is to find people’s pain points and make them disappear. This creates a trust relationship. Email is an excellent tool for sharing information and learning about your customers’ needs. An optimized email marketing strategy includes promotional, educational, and informational messages. Personalization is a key component that can be added by connecting historical data with targeted content.

We are entering a new era for email marketing. The timing is perfect for retailers and any business that peaks in first and fourth quarters. Optimizing your email strategy when the volume is at its peak allows you to learn quickly what works best. You can do this while still sending the promotional messages known to generate cash flow. Waiting to see if the changes to email delivery have an effect will put you behind the competition. Start immediately, plan well, test everything and use the actionable information to improve the customer experience and your company’s success.

A Goodbye
This is my last column for “The Integrated Email.” It is been my honor and privilege to share my knowledge with you. Thank you for the opportunity. Godspeed.

Editor’s Note: It has been a pleasure working with Debra. We are sorry to see her go, and hope she will be able to contribute in other ways in the future when her time permits. The Integrated Email will return in November with a new blogger.

6 Ways to Use Email Partnerships to Increase Sales

Email marketing campaigns are typically limited to the people who subscribed to the company’s messages. Partnering with non-competitive organizations increases exposure to offers and helps grow your email address database faster. Finding potential partners is easier than one might think. The need to provide fresh content on a regular basis opens the door for partnership development. The key to doing it well is to find organizations that cater to people who match your customer demographics. Conduct extensive research before reaching out to potential partners.

Email marketing campaigns are typically limited to the people who subscribed to the company’s messages. Partnering with non-competitive organizations increases exposure to offers and helps grow your email address database faster. Finding potential partners is easier than one might think. The need to provide fresh content on a regular basis opens the door for partnership development. The key to doing it well is to find organizations that cater to people who match your customer demographics. Conduct extensive research before reaching out to potential partners.

When considering opportunities, clearly define your objectives, know what you have to offer, start small, and build from successful experiences. Choosing partners that have similar corporate values contributes to the trust level. Recipients who trust your partner tend to automatically trust your company and vice versa.

Google Offers
Google’s promotions are designed to work with Google Plus Local. It uses email and an android app to deliver messages to the people who have joined the program. The app delivers messages to subscribers when they are close to the location of participating companies and when chosen offers are nearing expiration.

Partnering with Offers is free at this time. There are minimal requirements for participation: Your business must have a physical location in the United States that serves customers, it must be verified using Google Places for Business, and the product line must be eligible. This partnership is easy to set up and cost effective.

Pinterest
The rich pins option for Pinterest has a new feature that sends emails to users when items they have pinned go on sale. The emails include good imagery and a simple marketing message that reads “Good news! Today your [item] pin from [company] is [discount]% less.” The message is followed with a “See Pin” call to action button and “Happy Pinning!”

Using rich pins is limited to movies, recipes, products and articles at this time. The products category is the only one that includes pricing making it eligible for the sale email notifications. Participation is free, but it requires oEmbed or semantic markup on your website for information collection purposes.

Non-Profits
Helping others is good for business. Non-profits have supporters that may not be familiar with your company. You have customers that may not be familiar with specific non-profits. Partnering with these organizations increases awareness of their cause and your company.

When partnering with non-profits, create multichannel messages that benefit all participants. One approach is offering a discount coupon when someone donates a minimum amount to the non-profit. Make it appealing to supporters by offering savings greater than the amount donated. Your objective is to gain new customers that will stay with your company. Monitoring the activity of newly acquired customers after the initial purchase validates the partnership. If you are acquiring hit & run shoppers, a different non-profit may be a better choice.

Publications
Keeping up in a high demand for original content arena is challenging. Partnering with publications, online and off, works well for companies that offer informational products. Create mini-guides from your larger offerings that can be given to readers.

Choose partners with content that matches your products well. Offering to host the distribution of the mini-guides gives you the opportunity to capture email addresses. (Test with and without gating to see which works best.)

Educational Organizations
Companies offering products that appeal to students or parents can partner with campuses to increase exposure and capture new customers. Credit card companies have this process down to a science. Learn from their processes so you can appeal to the people participating.

Choose to partner with campuses that offer degrees in the fields that match your product line. For example, if your company sells teacher supplies, choose a campus that teaches education. Giveaways, sweepstakes, and contests work well for students. Design them to appeal to the students and open the door for a long-term relationship.

Non-Competitive Businesses
No company offers everything people need to live their life. Test partnering with companies that offer complementary products. This introduces your company to people who are highly targeted. In return, your participation provides reciprocal information.

Monitor all messaging to insure that your partner’s communications are consistent with yours. Create an agreement that includes limits and the ability to verify accuracy in the information exchange. Choose partners carefully because you don’t want to provide your customer information to a potential competitor.

Gmail’s Tabbed Inbox: What Is Your Risk?

Marketers are vacillating between “no big deal” and “panic mode” when they think of Gmail’s interface that automatically sorts incoming emails. There are two questions that every emailer needs to ask: “What’s our risk?” and “How do we prepare?”

Marketers are vacillating between “no big deal” and “panic mode” when they think of Gmail’s interface that automatically sorts incoming emails. It continues to be a hot topic for users and marketers. Early feedback from Google suggests that users like it because there has been a strong retention rate of the tab experience. This isn’t surprising because the automated sort process simplifies life in the email world. Marketers can expect the tabs to stay.

The effect on email marketing results will fail somewhere between a complete derailing of campaigns and very little change. There are two questions that every email marketer needs to ask: “What’s our risk?” and “How do we prepare?” Answering those questions now makes it easier to respond if the changes have a direct effect on your business.

What Is Your Risk?
Assessing your risk begins with a review of your subscriber list. Estimating how many subscribers use Gmail isn’t as simple as one might think because there are two types of Gmail users. The easiest type to identify includes addresses that end with @gmail.com. They are confirmed users. The second is impossible to identify because Gmail provides email services to corporations, schools and government offices. You would have to have Google’s proprietary list of Gmail clients to know who to tag.

Judging by the databases we’ve analyzed, B-to-C companies have a better ability to measure the risk than B-to-B because people tend to use personal email addresses for consumer shopping. B-to-C companies can look at known Gmail users to access the risk. B-to-B companies will have a harder time because their subscribers tend to use company or organization email addresses. There are always exceptions. One exception for B-to-B is companies that market to soloprenuers.

A large base of Gmail users doesn’t automatically translate into high risk. The tabs have no effect on emails opened in applications like Outlook. There are studies that suggest that direct Gmail opens are less than 4% of total opens. Globally, there may be very little risk. What happens globally doesn’t matter if your database houses a high percentage of direct Gmail users.

How Do You Prepare?

  • Segment known Gmail users. This makes it easier to monitor open rates and times. The timing is especially important if your company sends limited time offers. Placing promotional emails in a separate tab may delay opens instead of reducing them. If the delay extends beyond the offer expiration, it will have a direct effect on revenue.
  • Watch for consistent trends. Gmail users tend to be a bit erratic with their open rates. It’s not unusual to see fluctuations. A small drop may be a hiccup instead of the beginning of the fall.
  • Monitor individual behavior. If you can identify individuals who use Gmail and consistently open your emails, create a segment for them. These are highly engaged people that want to read your messages. A drop in their open rate indicates a problem.
  • Ask for help. If there is a negative Gmail tab effect, ask Gmail users to flag your emails so they will go to the Primary tab. Some marketers started doing this shortly after the tabs became available. I don’t recommend this preemptive move because the new inbox is being tested by users now. If there isn’t a problem, why bother subscribers with information that may be confusing for them? It may not work anyway. While people are in test mode, they may switch between the classic and new versions. When they do, the flagged addresses revert to their original status.
  • Make your content more valuable. When people want to read your emails, they will find them. It doesn’t matter where they are hidden. Avid subscribers look for the messages and will email you if they don’t find them.
  • Watch for trends. If one or more segments start showing declines in response rates and revenue, look for similarities in email addresses. It could be a Gmail issue where the service is being provided to a third party.

Are Your Emails Helping Your Company Grow or Maintaining the Status Quo?

It is 2013. Do you know where your emails are? Or, more importantly, do you know what they are doing? Take this mini quiz. If you don’t have the right answers, then you need to revise your email marketing program

It is 2013. Do you know where your emails are? Or, more importantly, do you know what they are doing? Take this mini quiz:

Our emails …
A. … motivate our customers to visit our store and/or site.
B. … provide timely information that our customers look forward to reading.
C. … desensitize our customers to our messages.
D. … create conversations on social networks.
E. … may or may not be doing the thing listed above. I just don’t know.

If your answer isn’t “A” and “B”, then you need to revise your email marketing program.

Companies Don’t Move Forward By Maintaining the Status Quo
Eighteen emails from multichannel companies arrived in my inbox before 9:30 this morning. Thirteen are from companies that I buy from on a regular basis. Five are from companies that I rarely shop. They all look strikingly similar.

Every one of the emails consists of a promotional offer with discounts ranging from 15 percent to 50 percent. Some include free shipping as an added bonus. If I were identifiable as a discount shopper, I would expect all of my emails to be sale driven. But, I’m not. I am a category seasonal shopper. My purchases are from specific categories for every company that sent me an email this morning.

So, why don’t they send me emails based on my buying patterns? It requires a new model and more work. I’m not suggesting that the marketing teams are lazy. Most of them work very hard. The problem is that they are working so hard, doing what they have always done, that there isn’t time to find better ways to market to their customers.

What Difference Does It Make?
Historically, a successful campaign delivered a 2 percent to 5 percent response rate. Today, these numbers are declining for most companies. Getting a 0.5 percent response is considered successful by some marketers. Technically, they are right. Email marketing is so economical that an extremely low response rate still generates a profit.

Diminishing rates continue their downward trend until something makes them change direction. External forces are working to accelerate the decline. Email volume for second quarter 2013 is up 17.9 percent over the same period in 2012. (Source: Experian Marketing Services “Q2 2013 Email Marketing Bechmark Study,” opens as a pdf.) The increase is projected to continue.

And then there is that pesky email fatigue issue. When people are bombarded with the same message from so many sources, they become desensitized to the offers. They don’t even bother to open the emails most of the time.

The only way to reverse the downhill slide is to change the email marketing model. It needs to shift from generic promotional messages to customized personal ones designed to appeal to specific individuals. The tools and tactics used by direct marketers to target catalog buyers are effective with a little tweaking. Get started by:

  • Re-evaluating the effectiveness of your email marketing program. Running on auto-pilot works for a while, but regular maintenance and updates are needed for improvements.
  • Identifying email subscribers by type. Are their purchases seasonal, category, discount or a combination of all three?
  • Creating and testing targeted emails. Be careful that you don’t overshare what you know about customers. Too much information is creepy.
  • Adding “how to” emails in to the marketing mix. A reputation for providing helpful information encourages people to open your emails.
  • Optimizing emails for individuals and search. Changes are happening in the search arena that make optimization necessary on all digital content.

How to Create Win-Back Emails That Actually Win Customers Back

Effective win-back programs are the simplest way to increase revenue and profitability. Once the acquisition costs have been reclaimed, retained customers are the most profitable segment in a company’s database. I often wonder why every business doesn’t have an aggressive campaign in place

Creating and implementing effective win-back programs is the simplest way to increase revenue and profitability. Once the acquisition costs have been reclaimed, retained customers are the most profitable segment in a company’s database. I often wonder why every business doesn’t have an aggressive campaign in place.

The typical win-back program consists of an email or two that declares, “We want you back!” with no acknowledgement of the recipients’ buying history or relationship with the company. It’s as if the marketers think that changing the subject line and mentioning that the customers have been missed is enough to make people come running back.

Generic win-back emails come from B-to-C and B-to-B companies. The first example is from 1800PetSupplies. There are three mentions about wanting the customer to buy again. The first is in the subject line. It reads, “Psst! Come Back for 25% Off Your Entire Order.” The two other mentions are in the body. They are, “We Miss You! Come Back & Save 25% Off Your Entire Order!” and “We Miss You! Come Back & Save!” There is something missing from this email. While you are thinking about what it could be, let’s look at the second example.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek sent an email that looks like it might be designed to win subscribers back. The subject line reads, “Welcome Back Rate – Save 88%” but there is no other mention of wanting the recipient back in the email. The message is personalized with [insert name here] technology, but there is nothing about the subscriber’s history.

What Is Missing From Typical Win-back Campaigns?
People stop buying, subscribing or donating for a reason. Knowing why they left is the first step to getting them back. The typical win-back campaign is missing the personalization that entices people to come back. It’s very hard to convince customers that they were missed when you don’t recognize them.

Creating personalized emails designed to engage recipients’ requires detailed analytics and business rules that insure the right message is delivered. How much more effective would the 1800PetSupplies email be if it mentioned the recipient’s name and pets before noting that she was missed?

Information in an individual’s buying history can be used to create detailed emails designed to bring people back. Win-back campaigns that limit selection criteria to last purchase date can do more harm than good. Customers who leave because of service issues respond negatively to “we want you back” messages that don’t acknowledge the problem. The best win-back programs are designed to speak to individual needs. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start the win-back campaign as soon as the first order is fulfilled or donation is received. Customize the marketing message to include follow-up information from the first transaction. A soft win-back approach keeps people from leaving.
  • Separate people who have had issues from everyone else. Winning back an unhappy camper requires special care. The investment in TLC will pay off because people who have negative experiences resolved to their satisfaction are more loyal.
  • Build the program from the ground up. Adding some personalization to a generic campaign doesn’t deliver results like creating one designed to optimize reactivation. The better the foundation, the higher the return.
  • Develop a multi-level program. It is much easier to retain a satisfied customer with a recent transaction than one that has been dormant for months. It also costs less. Save the big incentives for the last resort.
  • Continuously test and improve. People are easily trained to wait for the best deal. Include activity patterns and seasonality in your segmentation so the big incentives aren’t offered when your customers are already scheduled to buy.

When Mistakes Happen

Mistakes are a part of the learning process. Every company will experience them at one time or another. Ideally, with good planning, they will be minor and won’t happen often. With better planning, there is an action plan in place to quickly right the wrong. Knowing what to do before it needs to be done simplifies fixing the problem.

My Coke Rewards Apology Email
This My Coke Rewards apology email was delivered quickly and followed the four best practices of making amends for a marketing mistake.

Mistakes are a part of the learning process. Every company will experience them at one time or another. Ideally, with good planning, they will be minor and won’t happen often. With better planning, there is an action plan in place to quickly right the wrong. Knowing what to do before it needs to be done simplifies fixing the problem.

Handling mistakes well is a great loyalty builder. You can measure the effect by conducting a comparative analysis. Pull two segments to compare from customers who made their first purchase five years ago. Choose customers who are very similar in order source, size and selection. Select people who had seemingly perfect orders for the first segment. “Perfect orders” describe orders that are processed quickly and delivered without issues. Place people who had problems quickly resolved for the second segment.

Detail sales history, average order and returns for each segment. Use the information to compare the value of the customers who had problems with the ones who didn’t. This analysis almost always finds that the people who had problems quickly resolved are much more valuable than those who had a perfect order. I believe there is a simple explanation for this: People who have problems resolved to their satisfaction trust the company more. Trust and loyalty go hand in hand.

Planning for failure seems counterintuitive, but it is the best way to be prepared. The first part of the action plan is determining the extent of the problem. Will an apology suffice, or does something need correcting? Apologies are sufficient when the mistake is simple and doesn’t overly inconvenience the person or create an expense.

My Coke Rewards provides us with a good example of a mistake where an apology is enough. Last month, the automated points’ expiration notice malfunctioned. Members received a notification that they needed to add or use points or they would expire. The deadline for keeping the account active was two weeks before the email was sent. The apology came quickly and followed best practices (refer to the image in the media player):

  • Be direct with the apology and explanation.
  • Tell people what they need to do (if anything).
  • Thank them for their business.
  • If necessary, offer a reward for the inconvenience. (If you offer a reward in the form of a discount, make it dollars off with no minimum. This is a payment for a mistake, not a marketing promotion.)

The email from My Coke Rewards was simple, to the point and didn’t offer compensation. The mistake was minor, so an apology after the correction was enough. Bigger mistakes require more. There isn’t a magic formula that determines the ideal response for every problem. Customers are individuals with unique expectations.

The second part of the action plan is determining the specific resolution for each problem. Creating a general list of potential problems and resolutions provides a guide for the customer service team. Anything that satisfies the customer and falls within the guidelines should be resolved immediately.

The best way to determine what needs to be done is to ask the customer with the problem. Lead with an apology and follow with the inquiry. For example: “I’m sorry this happened. What can we do to make it right?” There will occasionally be an outlandish demand, but usually the requested solution is less than you were prepared to do. Asking customers how to right a wrong simultaneously gives them respect and shows that you care. Here are some other best practices when a mistake happens:

  • Minimize customers’ investment in resolving issues. Strive to resolve issues on the first contact without involving other people whenever possible.
  • If you discover the mistake before the customer, reach out immediately. This shows your customers that you are watching their backs.
  • Use the appropriate communication tool. Email works well for most correspondence as long as the messages are not from “do not reply” boxes.
  • When the resolution process is complete, ask customers if they are satisfied with the solution. Every customer cannot be saved, but letting them go without trying is unacceptable.
  • Avoid fake apologies. Apologizing works so well in relationship building that people are making up reasons to do it. Don’t.

7 Email Tactics That Improve Customer Service

The quality of a customer service program determines the effectiveness of marketing. Enticing people to make additional purchases is much easier when they know that the experience will be pleasant. Service has long been considered a necessary expense of doing business. What if that view were changed to, “Service is an opportunity to solidify relationships and improve retention?”

The quality of a customer service program determines the effectiveness of marketing. Enticing people to make additional purchases is much easier when they know that the experience will be pleasant. Service has long been considered a necessary expense of doing business. What if that view were changed to, “Service is an opportunity to solidify relationships and improve retention?”

Customer service is the best marketing tool available. People who have a positive shopping experience come back and bring their friends. The open forum known as social media is a perfect venue for sharing good and not-so-good experiences. Smart marketers partner with the service team to create great experiences and encourage sharing.

Email offers a one to one service connection at minimal cost. If your company isn’t using email to provide a better experience, you are missing an excellent opportunity. Use email to:

  1. Connect personally with customers and prospects. Capture as much information as possible so you can stay in touch with the people who make your company successful. Sending personal messages that say “happy birthday” or “thank you” without heavy promotions differientiates your company from the competition and improves relationships.
  2. Show how to use your products and services. The more people know about your products and services, the more likely they will use them. Consumption is a key component of the sales funnel. Unused items don’t need accessories or replacements. If your customers are buying without using, there are problems that need resolving.
  3. Keep customers informed about order statuses and new items. This is as close as you can get to automated service. Set up triggers that are driven by every change in order status. This significantly reduces “where is my order” calls. Create business rules that send emails when new items arrive that fit customers’ buying history.
  4. Remind people of special events. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays have a way of sneaking up on people. Create a tool or app for customers to input special events and request reminders. The reminder messages can be automated and should include suggestions for the perfect gift along with an order timeline.
  5. Make life easier. Studies have shown that people prefer easy to exceptional when it comes to service. Providing the information needed to resolve issues without calling your company pleases customers and reduces operating costs. Most people will start with the self-serve options; including the customer care number as a back-up option is still a good practice.
  6. Automate the ordering process. Simplify ordering to as few steps as possible. If your company sells consumable products offer the opportunity for automated ordering. The process should include advance emails with options to delay or cancel, confirmation of order placement and updates throughout the shipping process. This improves sales and productivity.
  7. Share industry news. The things that happen in your industry affect the people who use your products and services. Is there a new trend or invention that changes things? Share the information with your customers and prospects. It keeps them informed and your company in their mind.

Email Marketing: 5 Steps to Better Results

The biggest challenge with email marketing is that it is so easy to be successful marketers don’t reach for the next level. After all, when something isn’t broken, why invest time and energy in making it better? Most marketers don’t make the effort to optimize their strategy because “good enough” serves them well enough. For those who want more, optimizing emails delivers more than additional sales—it turns casual shoppers into long-term loyal customers by creating a better shopping experience.

This post is excerpted from the e-book “31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing.”

The biggest challenge with email marketing is that it is so easy to be successful marketers don’t reach for the next level. After all, when something isn’t broken, why invest time and energy in making it better? Most marketers don’t make the effort to optimize their strategy because “good enough” serves them well enough. For those who want more, optimizing emails delivers more than additional sales—it turns casual shoppers into long-term loyal customers by creating a better shopping experience.

There are four reasons to send emails to customers and prospects: Acquisition, retention, sales and service. Most companies are very good at generating sales with emails, but fail miserably at the other three objectives. People miss opportunities to acquire new customers, improve relationships and increase satisfaction because email marketing is so good at generating revenue. Simple changes to your email marketing strategy make a big difference in results.

The first step is to complete a mini review of your email marketing program to see how effective it is at acquisition, retention, sales and service. Make a list of the emails sent over the last year and place them into the appropriate category.

What percentage of the emails were designed to acquire new customers? This includes all emails sent to prospects and those that specifically ask customers to share the information with a friend. (Placing a “Tell a Friend” button in the email doesn’t count.) How effective were the acquisition emails at generating new prospects and customers? What changes made them better? How much did it cost to acquire new people?

How many of the emails were specifically designed to keep customers coming back? This question is often met with the response, “our promotional emails keep customers coming back.” If your company is Walmart or you can effectively compete with low price leaders, this response is right. If your company is like most, you don’t have the margins to guarantee the lowest prices and need to create loyalty-based customer relationships.

Do your sales emails consistently generate revenue, or are you seeing peaks and valleys? Email promotional programs are very predictable once you have enough historical data. Peaks and valleys that are not seasonal suggest that there may be underlying issues affecting your revenue. Subscriber fatigue is one such issue. It happens when people receive the same type of emails over an extended period of time.

The first sign of subscriber fatigue is a decline in open rates. If there is nothing new, then why open the email? The second sign is a higher click-through rate on opened emails. When people are ready to make a purchase, they look for a discount. The combination of lower open rates and higher click-throughs indicate that your emails may have become a coupon mecca.

Are your service emails a statement of facts or a conversation with your customers? Order and shipping confirmation emails can be much more than “here’s your information, thank you for your order” notices. They can be entertaining and sharable.

A good email marketing strategy increases sales. A great email marketing strategy increases sales, introduces the company to new people, and keeps customers’ happily coming back for more. The only way to move from good to great is to optimize every email sent to customers and prospects. Tips for making the move include:

  • Partner with non-competitive companies and organizations to connect with new prospects. Selective partnerships help grow your company’s prospect list exponentially. Allies from corporate and non-profit worlds can introduce your business to new people that are highly targeted. In turn, your participation provides reciprocal information or financial support.
  • Customize emails to buying behavior. There are three very good reasons to invest time and effort into modeling emails around buying behavior. They are response, revenue and retention. Carefully crafting individually customized emails improves results. You don’t have to have the analytics chops of a large company to do this well. Even small changes can make a difference.
  • Analyze email customers differently. People who choose to receive your emails are different from other customers. They order more often and spend more money when they buy, but this doesn’t automatically translate into more profitability. If subscribers are primarily buying at discounted prices, they generate higher revenue and lower profits.
  • Use reminders to help customers. Your customers are busy people. They don’t always remember that cars need servicing or they are about to run out of consumable goods. People tend to take the path of least resistance. When your company makes it easy for them to take care of maintenance and replacement issues, they seldom look elsewhere. Pricing is less of an issue because purchasing from your company becomes a habit they don’t want to break.
  • Send people to the right place. The Internet is a wonderland filled with rabbit holes that take people away from your marketing messages. Your customers and prospects will become distracted and venture off to other activities if they do not have a clear path to follow. The emails they receive from your company are the starting point of a map to the final objective. Anything that isn’t easily recognized as the next step or requires the traveler to stop and think is a diversion that needs to be eliminated.

For more, check out the full e-book “31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing.” The e-book shows how to make simple changes that improve email marketing results with examples of what works and doesn’t.

7 Shopping Experience Tips to Make Holiday 2013 Your Best Ever

The holiday season is known as the time that makes or breaks companies dependent on seasonal sales. Competition is fierce. Already short attention spans are overstimulated with marketing messages, family demands and increased workloads. Breaking through the chaos requires more than super discounts and great copy. People expect a great shopping experience

The holiday season is known as the time that makes or breaks companies dependent on seasonal sales. Competition is fierce. Already short attention spans are overstimulated with marketing messages, family demands and increased workloads. Breaking through the chaos requires more than super discounts and great copy. People expect a great shopping experience.

Companies that want to win the holiday challenge start early, plan well and focus on the customer. They invest their resources in understanding what their customers want so they can deliver. Surprisingly, price is not the top priority when people choose brand loyalty. They care more about the experience than the discount.

This is really good news for companies that don’t have the negotiating power of big box stores. Instead of creating promotions that destroy profits, they can invest in programs that improve the shopping experience. There is one caveat: If your company has been participating in the “how low can we go” marketing strategy, you will have to retrain your customers. Once people have been trained to expect deep discounts, marketing that doesn’t include them won’t be as effective.

Marketing for the holiday season needs to start now to optimize your return. Connections have to be established between your company and the people who will buy your products or services. If you already have good customer relations, focus on making them better. If your relationships need improving, focus on fixing them. The things you do today make selling easier tomorrow. To get started:

  1. Think lifetime value when creating the shopping experience. Most marketing plans focus on sales for specific campaigns instead of looking at the long term value of loyal customers. This can create an environment where hit-and-run customers generate revenue while reducing profitability. By the time the problem is recognized, it may be too late to save the company.
  2. Walk in your customers’ shoes to find the pain points. The easier and more enjoyable you make the shopping experience, the less people care about the price. Test every marketing channel to see how easy it is to understand and navigate the buying process. When you have finished, watch someone who doesn’t normally shop your business test it. Fix everything that needs it.
  3. Integrate channels for efficiency and effectiveness. Consistent messaging and the ability to cross channels with ease provide quality branding and keep people engaged. Find ways to make the channels work together where they leverage strengths in one to offset weaknesses in others.
  4. Optimize communication to insure exposure and accessibility. Email deliverability, copy effectiveness, website usability and social media engagement can be optimized to maximize the return. Paying attention to the details makes the difference between a good communication and a great one.
  5. Educate visitors on products and processes. People that understand the products your company offers and how to use them tend to buy more. Create content that teaches the best ways to use products and services. Your prospects will convert and customers will keep coming back.
  6. Simplify Everything. Making the buying decision and purchasing process simple endears people to your company. Life is complicated. Shopping with your company shouldn’t be.
  7. Target to provide the right offer at the right time. Part of the simplification process is making it easy for people to buy what they need with minimal effort. Targeting people with the right message based on their behavior improves the shopping experience.

Why Is Customer Loyalty So Hard to Get? And How Can You Get It Now?

Companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Harley Davidson must have a secret formula. Customer loyalty for them goes beyond the norm. Calling the people who buy their products “customers” doesn’t do justice. “Raving fans” is a much better description. Billions of dollars are spent every year on customer relationship management in an effort to inspire loyalty. Reward programs are implemented and abandoned when the cost to maintain exceeds the return. Loyalty is hard to get and easy to lose.

Companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Harley Davidson must have a secret formula. Customer loyalty for them goes beyond the norm. Calling the people who buy their products “customers” doesn’t do justice. “Raving fans” is a much better description.

Billions of dollars are spent every year on customer relationship management in an effort to inspire loyalty. Reward programs are implemented and abandoned when the cost to maintain exceeds the return. Loyalty is hard to get and easy to lose. This is why the companies that have it guard their brand image with a vengeance.

The benefits of good customer/company relationships are well known. When people feel connected to a company, they become lifetime customers and advocates for the brand. Some companies naturally attract loyalty because of their product appeal and exclusivity. The rest have to earn it.

Earning loyalty begins with understanding relationships between customers and companies. Loyalty is hard to get because companies are focusing on the wrong things when they try to build relationships with their customers. Transactional and service relationships are the only type that people want with companies. All of the talk in social media about anything deeper is fantasy. Trying to connect with people beyond fulfilling their needs and expectations is a waste of resources.

Social media is one of many channels that companies use to communicate with customers and prospects. It is an excellent way to share information about the company, products and events and interact with people. It is not a replacement for taking care of the basics that provide the foundation for loyalty. Trying to shortcut the loyalty process by creating viral content is ineffective. If you want an interactive social presence, start with the fundamentals that are endearing to customers.

People want simple and easy more than anything else. Life is complicated and short. They do not want to invest time in the buying process. Simplifying the buying decision and making it easy to purchase, return and resolve issues will do more to create loyalty and increase revenue than anything else. Multiple channels and a variety of tools are available that provide economical and efficient methods to improve the shopping and service experience. To fast-track loyalty for your company:

  • Clean House: Review every process, procedure and policy to insure it is necessary and as efficient as possible. The shorter the paths from initial contact to purchase and problem to resolution, the better. It makes it easy for customers and economical for you.
  • Improve FAQ’s: Answer questions before they are asked. Sometimes this means you have to anticipate the questions because people don’t always know what they need to ask. Including the questions that should be asked in the FAQ’s improves trust and reduces resistance.
  • Supercharge Emails: Add service emails to your marketing mix. Service emails educate and inform customers and prospects so they know what’s happening and how to interact with your company. Educated customers are happier and easier to serve.
  • Offer Self-Service: People don’t really want to talk to your company representatives. They find it easier to solve their own problems when possible. Providing self-service opportunities pleases customers and reduces operating costs.
  • Invite Feedback: Your customers are the best source of information on how to improve your business. Invite them to share their thoughts and make the process as easy as possible. Be sure to always respond with gratitude and information on how the suggestions will be used. It gives ownership and connects people to your company.
  • Do It Yourself: Before expecting your customers and prospects to do anything, try it yourself first. If you developed the process and cannot be objective, ask someone outside the company to do it with you watching. The pain points are quickly identified when this is done.