Should You Really Bother With Personalization?

If you weren’t a marketing professional, you’d probably find it hard to believe that there is a debate of sorts in rather large organizations about personalization in marketing. In many cases, it’s less of a debate than an absence of one — or serious consideration, or a plan to get there.

Database & CRMIf you weren’t a marketing professional, you’d probably find it hard to believe that there is a debate of sorts in rather large organizations about personalization in marketing. In many cases, it’s less of a debate than an absence of one — or serious consideration, or a plan to get there.

You’d probably say or think something such as, “It’s common sense … why wouldn’t they do it?!”

Yes, the great “unwashed” have high expectations of the brands that wish to share in their discretionary income.

When IBM’s Watson can carry on a conversation of sorts with Bob Dylan in a TV commercial, and beat a grandmaster in chess, why can’t it send a postcard reminding you to get your oil changed?

These all sound like reasonable expectations to the “Valued Customer,” as we’re referred to by the non-personalized brands we have all engaged with. Don’t they seem reasonable?

For the longest time, Amazon stopped sending “people who bought X also bought Y” emails. Granted, Amazon’s personalization is part of it’s “all of the above” strategy — the company literally invests in everything it sees value in.

Moving Beyond the Basics

Yet most organizations have limited dollars and are fixated on “covering the basics” in their outbound communication. As a result, personalization has been limited in the vast majority of cases. The low costs and high performance of emailing have kept many brands from investing in higher-value touches with consumers — even as the CRM waves hit ever higher crests.

Why? Personalization alone doesn’t add enough value. And the reason is that personalization without relevancy doesn’t work. The basics of personalization in email marketing have been around for years. The consumer is accustomed to it and, in some cases, may expect it.

Relevancy, however, is harder to come by.

“Thank you for your purchase, Mike” works. “Mike, to get the best performance from your new time-trial bike, try using Rock N Roll Gold oil to protect your chain from rust and dirt.” works better.

In order to accomplish this level of personalization and relevancy, you’d need to know a few things. You would need the dexterity with this data to get it into your communication easily. If you know I’ve purchased a time-trial bike, then you need to know about bicycles. This could be challenging for mass/big box retailers like Amazon or Jet. But consider that Amazon is already providing “video shorts” on the categories you spend time in — and obviously, the ideas in those videos fit perfectly with their inventory.

Relevancy can also mean things that personalization isn’t often used for. More often than not, personalization still means “insert variable here.” On the other hand, relevancy can mean very important things that shape and influence a customer relationship … like recognition.

Simple and Powerfully Effective

I’ve found that a simple “thank you” message to the most valuable customers a brand has, thanking them for being loyal, and choosing them ― even without an offer ― generated incremental sales upon open and in the following several days.

Think it doesn’t pay to show the customers you know them and appreciate them? Think that’s not relevant? Think again.

Yet, when was the last time you had any brand thank you? Brands I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars with have provided not-so-much as an email’s-worth of recognition.

How about the “profitability problem” that comes with one-time buyers? Does your favorite brand thank you when you make that all-important first repeat purchase? These individuals are categorically more profitable, and materially more likely than “one-and-done” buyers to buy the brand again and again. A little recognition establishes the context of their relationship — and the fact that they even have one with the brand … goes a long way.

Personalization can be easy without being valuable to the customer. Relevancy can be more challenging, especially if you don’t have your data house in order. Relevancy requires a strategy — but relevancy works, big-time.

Putting Relevancy and Personalization Into Action

Some examples of relevancy in action …

  • Announcing a Sale in a category consumers bought in previously, when they “missed” an expected purchase
  • Social Proof — don’t just say it’s the best product, show them how many stars it was ranked and by how many people. Show them a review from someone most like them. This is more doable than many brands realize — and the “content” is simply … free.
  • Localize — Instead of promoting product, promote Gene Smith in the golfing department (to folks who bought golf equipment). Not only will the employee morale increase, your customers can be nudged into multichannel buying. Think that doesn’t make a difference? Multichannel buyers spend more and spend more often in virtually every category.
  • Product Recommendations are “old news” — but they still work. Don’t leave this out. But combine it with social proof and watch conversion climb.

Personalization is important, but not without building relevancy to an ever-greater level. Consider the simple fact that the less relevant your communications are with your customer, the less they’ll find your brand relevant … and irrelevancy is where brands go to wither and die.

The Bottom Line: Relevancy Is the Value in Personalization

The upside to personalizing can be real. While blanket, low-grade personalization may have become passé, an authentic dialog based on relevancy is an investable business strategy. This requires having your data, your strategy and your knowledge of the customer, and the numerous cohorts that undoubtedly exist in every business.

The bottom line is simple: Personalization without a workable strategy may not be a good business value, and therefore may not be warranted.

Delivering relevancy to your customer experience, however, is priceless.

 

Flash (Sale) AAAHHH!!

Part of me feels like, since I revealed my obsession with song lyrics in my first entry, I can’t keep using it anymore—like that old magician’s rule. But oh well, I found myself way too amusing when I came up with this title so I’m going to get past that.

Part of me feels like, since I revealed my obsession with song lyrics in my first entry, I can’t keep using it anymore—like that old magician’s rule. But oh well, I found myself way too amused when I came up with this title so I’m going to get past that.

Today I’ve got just a quick A/B test result from a (wait for it … you’ll be shocked …) flash sale (gasp!) I did this past summer for our Direct Marketing IQ Bookstore.

We wanted to offer a 24-hour flash sale on some of our popular titles, but the question was how to get the most out of the offer. Would we get a better response by offering a discount on specific titles, or would it work better to simply toss out the discount code and give recipients free reign on what to use it for?

When in doubt, hit the split. We created two very similar HTML promotions, both promoting the flash sale for the same 24-hour period. We gave both the same subject line: “24-HOUR FLASH SALE—The countdown is on!” And of course, each version was deployed at the same time.

Email A offered the discount for three specific titles belonging to the same Boosting Direct Mail Response series. Email B gave a code which could be used on any title in the store produced by Direct Marketing IQ. The coupon codes themselves were slightly different for easy tracking of which email had prompted the purchase.

Any guesses as to which would be the bigger hit?

Get your guesses in now …

Drumroll, please …

  • Email A’s click rate was 1.2 percent; Email B’s was 0.7 percent.
  • Email A earned more than double the number of items sold than Email B.
  • Those sales amounted to Email A bringing in a grand total of $380.77 more than Email B over the 24 hour period.

So, there you have it. Based on these results, folks are much more likely to act immediately on a sale if the options are narrowed down and laid out for them plainly. It’s a test I’d like to try a few more times, but the difference in numbers was pretty significant this time around.

Look for future posts talking wedding emails, memes in email marketing, more fun with subject lines, or whatever else happens to poke me in the side along the way.

Channel Collaboration or Web Cannibalization?

Multichannel marketers experience the frequent concern that online is competing with, or “cannibalizing,” sales in other channels. It seems like a reasonable problem for those responsible, for instance, for the P&L of the retail business to consider; same goes for the general managers responsible for the store-level P&L. I like to do something that we “digital natives” (professionals whose career has only been digitally driven) miss all too often. We talk to retail people and customers in the stores, store managers, general managers, sales and service staff.

Multichannel marketers experience the frequent concern that online is competing with, or “cannibalizing,” sales in other channels. It seems like a reasonable problem for those responsible, for instance, for the P&L of the retail business to consider; same goes for the general managers responsible for the store-level P&L.

I like to do something that we “digital natives” (professionals whose career has only been digitally driven) miss all too often. We talk to retail people and customers in the stores, store managers, general managers, sales and service staff. Imagine that … left-brain dominant Data Athletes who want to talk to people! Actually, a true Data Athlete will always engage the stakeholders to inform their analysis with tacit knowledge.

Every time we do this, we learn something about the customer that we quite frankly could not have gleaned from website analytics, transactional data or third-party data alone. We learn about how different kinds of customers engage with the product and their experiences are in an environment that, to this day, is far more immersive than we can create online. It’s nothing short of fascinating for the left-brainers. Moreover, access and connection with the field interaction does something powerful when we turn back to mining the data mass that grows daily. It creates context that inspires better analysis and greater performance.

This best practice may seem obvious, but is missed so often. It is just too easy to get “sucked into the data” first for a right-brain-dominant analyst. The same thing happens in an online-only environment. I can’t count how many times I sat with and coached truly brilliant Web analysts inside of organization who are talking through a data-backed hypothesis they are working through from Web analytics data, observing and measuring behaviors and drawing inferences … and they haven’t looked at the specific screens and treatments on the website or mobile app where those experiences are happening. They are disconnected from the consumer experience. If you look in your organization, odds are you’ll find examples of this kind of disconnect.

So Does The Web Compete with Retail Stores? Well, that depends.
While many businesses are seeing the same shift to digital consumption and engagement, especially on mobile devices, the evidence is clear that it’s a mistake to assume that you have a definitive answer. In fact, it is virtually always a nuanced answer that informs strategy and can help better-focus your investments in online and omnichannel marketing approaches.

In order to answer this question you need a singular view of a customer. Sounds easy, I know. So here’s the first test if you are ready to answer that question:

How many customers do you have?

If you don’t know with precision, you’re not ready to determine if the Web is competing or “cannibalizing” retail sales.

More often than not, what you’ll hear is the number of transactions, the number of visitors (from Web analytics) or the number of email addresses or postal addresses on file—or some other “proxy” that’s considered relevant.

The challenge is, these proxy values for customer-count belie a greater challenge. Without a well-thought-out data blending approach that converts transaction files into an actionable customer profile, we can’t begin to tell who bought what and how many times.

Once we have this covered, we’re now able to begin constructing metrics and developing counts of orders by customer, over time periods.

Summarization is Key
If you want to act on the data, you’ll likely need to develop a summarization routine—that is, that does the breakout of order counts and order values. This isn’t trivial. Leaving this step out creates a material amount of work slicing the data.

A few good examples of how you would summarize the data to answer the question by channel include totals:

  • by month
  • by quarter
  • by year
  • last year
  • prior quarter
  • by customer lifetime
  • and many more

Here’s The Key Takeaway: It’s not just one or the other.
Your customers buy across multiple channels. Across many brands and many datasets, we’ve always seen different pictures of the breakout between and across online and retail store transactions.

But you’re actually measuring the overlap and should focus your analysis on that overlap population. To go further, you’ll require summarization “snapshots” of the data so you can determine if the channel preference has changed over time.

The Bottom Line
While no one can say that the Web does or doesn’t definitively “cannibalize sales,” the evidence is overwhelming that buyers want to use the channel that is best for them for the specific product or service, at the time that works for them.

This being the case, it is almost inevitable that you will see omnichannel behaviors when your data is prepared and organized effectively to begin to see that shift in behavior.

Oftentimes, that shift can effectively equate to buyers spending more across channels, as specific products may sell better in person. It’s hard to feel the silky qualities of a cashmere scarf online, but you might reorder razor blades only online.

The analysis should hardly stop at channel shift and channel preference. Layering in promotion consumption can tell you how a buyer waits for the promotion online, or is more likely to buy “full-price” in a retail store. We’ve seen both of these frequently, but not always. Every data set is different.

Start by creating the most actionable customer file you can, integrating the transactions, behavioral and lifestyle data, and the depth that you can understand how customers choose between the channels you deliver becomes increasingly rich and actionable. Most of all—remember, it’s better to shift the sale to an alternative channel the customer prefers, than to lose it to a competitor who did a better job.

How to Use Webinars to Increase Sales in 5 Steps

Let’s face it. Our baby is ugly. The word “webinar” has become synonymous with “boring.” But for a minority of B-to-B marketers, webinars are money in the bank. Are you wondering how to use webinars to increase sales and generate leads? I’ve discovered the answer: Helping viewers get so confident, so trusting, that they jump at the chance to engage more seriously.

Let’s face it. Our baby is ugly. The word “webinar” has become synonymous with “boring.” But for a minority of B-to-B marketers, webinars are money in the bank. Are you wondering how to use webinars to increase sales and generate leads? I’ve discovered the answer: Helping viewers get so confident, so trusting, that they jump at the chance to engage more seriously.

Living Proof
On average, most webinars keep 40 percent of their listeners attention from start-to-finish. My webinars keep 94 percent of attendees to the end. My best webinar had a 29 percent close rate.

I’m not bragging; I’m following the success tips of others and sharing what I learned with you. Here’s how to use webinars to increase sales in five steps.

The 5 Steps to Success

  1. Go beyond relevant: Make the title irresistible. Your topic must be goal-oriented-specific to a pain, fear, goal or ambition of your customer. More importantly, your title must promise complete satisfaction in a way that customers cannot resist acting on (signing-up AND showing-up).
  2. Skip the introduction. Other than a passionate 30-60 seconds on why you are bothering to invest your time, skip it! After all, you’re talking into the air at them, alone in a room. You must be on a mission. This is where you connect with the audience. It’s do or die.
  3. Promise viewers something NEW. Literally say to them, “I know you don’t have time to waste, so I’m not going to waste it. Most likely, what I’m about to tell you about ______ (insert audience’s goal or pain) will be new to you … you’ve probably not heard this before.”
  4. Meet that expectation & create hunger for more. Give insights and next steps they’ve never heard before. Be crystal clear. Use stories to illustrate, punctuate. Guide prospects in ways that encourage them to ask more questions and creates intense curiosity in what else you can offer (e.g., what you sell).
  5. Help customers, and yourself, with a call-to-action. At the end of your webinar, if you’ve structured it correctly, viewers will crave more from you. They’ll want more clarity, more insights … more specific details about you or your business. Your call to action gives them a way to satisfy that hunger—and it gives you a lead (or sale).

Want to see a webinar like this in-action? Check out this LinkedIn webinar and come back to the five steps above—notice how it follows these guidelines.

Without This Essential Piece You’ll Fail
Many webinar hosts unknowingly sabotage their programs—even after following the above guidelines. They forget the basics of good communication. If you don’t follow the Golden Rule it will cost you:

  • Tell them what you’re about to tell them (the main insight, short-cut, better way or remedy)
  • Tell them the “better way” (at a high level, yet specific)
  • Tell them what you just told them (come back and remind of the main point)

This approach serves your most essential goal: Getting customers CLEAR on your message. Without clarity your webinar will fail

Remember the last time you were clear—really clear—on something? Remember how you felt? Remember the sense of confidence that came with your “ah-ha moment?”

That’s your webinar’s job: get buyers crystal clear, confident in themselves and trusting you.

Structure the entire webinar to follow this flow. Similarly, structure each section of your webinar this way. Doing so will help you sell toward the end.

Make Every Second Count
Most webinars are not bad. They don’t suck. The are horrible in every way. Don’t let yours fall into this category. Use the above “format formula” to structure your webinar. Make it grab and hold your audience to the very end. Make it generate leads. Make every single second of your presentation specific to “what’s in it” for them.

Here’s what I do: When done creating your images and script go back over your presentation. Ask yourself, “so what?” on each image.

Once you’re done crafting the message, it’s time to forget about “the what.” Focus on the WHY. If you cannot answer the question, “why does this matter to the viewer?” with conviction rip out that image and/or section of your scrip.

Push yourself. Now you know how to use webinars to increase sales. Good luck!

Content Marketing and Copywriting in Tandem

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But, is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of monetizing the marketing effort? As direct marketers, most of us would agree that getting the reader to buy should be the ultimate objective of any kind of marketing. But each of these skills—content marketing and direct response sales copywriting—can lead from one to the other.

Today we share five recommendations to strengthen both. Before we do that, let’s define each:

  • Direct response copywriting is all about leading the reader to action. It might be a sale on the spot, but it could also be lead generation, or perhaps an action as simple as getting someone to opt-in to a series of emails. Likely media used: direct mail, email, landing pages, video sales letters, print ads and direct response broadcast.
  • Content marketing, on the other hand, is about writing and freely delivering content of value to the reader. It builds trust, confidence and leads into selling from a softer angle. It may not get a sale on the spot, but it should have the reader predisposed to buy when the opportunity is presented. Likely media used: blogs, articles, online press releases, social media, white papers and video.

Content marketing should inform, build trust and credibility with the prospective buyer, so that when harder-hitting, persuasive direct response sales copy with a call-to-action is presented, the response rate is higher. In other words, when both approaches are used in tandem, the sum can be greater than the parts.

Copywriter Chris Marlow suggests, “the term ‘content’ should be reserved for writing that does not have the express purpose of getting a lead or sale.” But she adds that, “sometimes you need ‘content’ to get the lead or make the sale.”

Whether you’re using content marketing or direct response copywriting, here are five recommendations to make both approaches stronger and logically flow from one to the other. Inspiration for this list comes from American Writers and Artists (where I teach a copywriting course), copywriting clients and personal experience:

  1. It all starts with the headline and lead. Use proven direct mail formulas like the four-Legged Stool (Big Idea, Promise, Credibility, Proven Track Record), or the four U’s (Useful, Unique, Urgency, Ultra-Specific), or any one of many other direct response copywriting formulas. The headline formula often works better when you fit your main idea within eight words or fewer. Using a proven direct response letter writing formula can make all the difference in your success.
  2. What’s the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)? Get the attention of the reader and quickly demonstrate you understand their pain. Most everyone has on their minds fear, uncertainty, and doubt in their personal lives, relationships, finances, career, retirement or health.
  3. Is the message confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward? Review the copy with a small inner circle of people. Reading copy aloud with someone listening and evaluating it is a must. If it’s confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward, you’ll hear it when voiced. I was again reminded of the importance of this step after logging several hours by phone when reading a long-form letter aloud with a client so we could both hear it. The extra investment of time strengthened the story, benefits, false close and call-to-action items for the right flow to build the sales message.
  4. Gather a small group to review copy and the lead. Ask each person to assign a numerical ranking (1-10 scale) on whether they’d keep reading or not. If less than 80 percent of the responders wouldn’t read beyond the headline and lead, then the writer needs to fix the headline and lead, or start over.
  5. Is it clear? When your customer or prospect reads your copy (whether using content marketing writing style or direct response copywriting), has the issue been laid out clearly? Was a complex message simplified? Did the message build rapport and trust? Does the copy naturally flow so that the prospect concludes that your product solves the issue? And check the call-to-action. Is there one? Keep in mind that if you’re using introductory content writing, the CTA may be only to opt-in, subscribe or click a link to request or read more in a series.

Bottom line: what are you asking the prospect to do? Is it advancing the prospect along in a planned spaced-repetition contact strategy that leads to your ultimate desired action: a sale?

Whether your copy style is content marketing that is conditioning the reader to make a future purchase, or direct response selling asking for an action on the spot, what you write ultimately needs to justify its existence with a strategy that leads to monetization.

Is Your Customer Service Killing Customer Loyalty?

As marketers, we spend a lot of time, money, energy and brain power designing and building programs that will drive inquiries, close sales or increase brand engagement. And once a sale is secured, we move into loyalty mode—lovingly nurturing that customer to buy more and buy more often in order to derive a long term revenue stream and ROI for the marketing investment. … So what the hell is wrong with the customer service folks?

As marketers, we spend a lot of time, money, energy and brain power designing and building programs that will drive inquiries, close sales or increase brand engagement.

And once a sale is secured, we move into loyalty mode, lovingly nurturing that customer to buy more and buy more often in order to derive a long term revenue stream and ROI for the marketing investment.

So what the hell is wrong with the customer service folks?

Didn’t they get the memo that says, “Our customers are those people who make sure you get your paycheck. So let’s treat them with respect, concern and understanding. Because if we do, they’ll keep buying from us again, and again and again.”?

Apparently, the customer service folks at Dell never got the memo—and shame on them, because they’ve now lost my business for life.

Granted, I run a smaller agency and my lack of future purchases will not put Dell out of business. But I think there’s a big lesson that many companies can learn from my experience, and that’s to take a moment to really examine what goes on inside these departments.

For the record, we’ve been purchasing Dell products for well over 10 years now. Laptops, towers, printers, screens … you name it. My IT guy likes the ease of ordering online and the ability to carefully customize each of our purchases for the user.

So when we recently did a little expansion by hiring a new employee, we turned once again to Dell for a new desktop PC. Little did we know it would be the last transaction we’d ever make with them—and all because of how we were treated when something went wrong with the order. Here’s a quick factual summary:

  • Friday, Aug. 24: Order placed online.
  • Monday, Aug. 27: Order ships.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 4: According to the FedEx tracking number, the order was delivered and signed for—unfortunately, FedEx delivered it to the wrong company at the wrong address!
  • Thursday, Sept. 6: FedEx reroutes package to us. It arrives and appears to have been opened and resealed. Since this is a PC, I don’t want an opened box, so we try to refuse the delivery. FedEx persists and requires us to contact their customer service to arrange a return to sender.
  • Monday, Sept 10: FedEx picks up tower.
  • Monday, Sept 10: Alert Dell; they promise to “expedite” a replacement order.
  • Friday, Sept 14: Dell informs us the PC is still “being built.”

I must interrupt the facts to say “Wha–?” When we ordered the first time, it took them 2 days to build it. But when we ordered our replacement, it’s now taking more than 5 days to build the same computer? It only gets better …

  • Monday, Sept. 17: Dells says, “Still building.”

What on earth are they building for us? We try to reach a “customer care” rep. (BTW, I HATE that term. I wish organizations would call a spade a spade— it’s plain old customer service. Or perhaps since “service” doesn’t seem to be part of the equation, that’s why they changed it. So they “care” but they cannot “service”?)

Net-net, phone numbers we are provided don’t work. (Ring, ring, ring… apparently Dell hasn’t heard of that new-fangled technology called voicemail.) Emails go unanswered, emails to the supervisor bounce back as “out of the office.” Did I mention my new employee is twiddling thumbs doing idle work as she can only get so much done on her smart phone?

  • Tuesday, Sept. 18: Dell emails us saying the order will now be “escalated” and we’ll be kept aware of the status.

Okay Dell. It’s been 25 days since I placed my order and there is still no confirmed delivery date is sight. I give up. I cancel the order and buy from a local retailer.

No apologies from Dell to try and retain my business. No offers on a future purchase. Nothing. Nada. Apparently Dell’s customer care folks forgot that those marketing millions spent on driving in leads, nurturing relationships and transacting sales have all been an investment in their job security.

Not only did Dell blow it, but I won’t even attempt to make another purchase from them—ever.

As a customer, I get infuriated just thinking about this incident. As a marketer, I cringe.

If you are responsible for marketing in your organization, do you spend any time at all investigating what goes on in “customer care”? You should—because it may be the reason you’re not making your marketing and sales goals.

5 Surprising Email Metrics That Transform Businesses

Email is the most effective under-utilized marketing tool available. The instant revenue generated with each send lures marketers into the trap of sending one sale email after another. Measuring these metrics will begin the process that moves email programs from one-off promotions to campaigns designed to acquire prospects and convert them into loyal customers.

Email is the most effective under-utilized marketing tool available. The instant revenue generated with each send lures marketers into the trap of sending one sale email after another. Investing the time to create a program that builds long term relationships seems almost wasteful. After all, the low hanging fruit is easy to get and there are so many other things that need doing.

Measuring the following metrics begins the process that moves email programs from one-off promotions to campaigns designed to acquire prospects and convert them into loyal customers. The people who subscribe to emails are highly qualified candidates for long-term relationships. They are interested in your company’s offerings and have given you permission to share information with them. Providing more than the latest sale prices opens the door to unlimited potential.

  1. Acquisition—How many prospects did your email program acquire last year? What percentage was converted to customers? Email is an exceptional prospecting tool. It is low cost with potentially high return. Create a specific process designed to acquire prospects and convert them into customers. Measure it carefully so you have benchmarks for improvement. Set specific goals to insure that the marketing team’s focus extends beyond the daily revenue stream.
  2. Retention—How well are you keeping customers coming back? Who is participating in your email program? Are they platinum customers with consistent purchase patterns of regular priced and discounted items? Are they discount customers who only buy sale items? (This type may be mislabeled if you only send discount emails.) Or, are they hit-&-run shoppers who subscribed with their first purchase but have never ordered again? Knowing the retention rates and customer types helps create a program that keeps customers coming back.
  3. Engagement—Direct marketers know that motivating people to do something increases the likelihood that they will make a purchase. This is why direct mail pieces have scratch-offs, peel and stick labels, and other devices designed to motivate people to act. Email is a tool that makes it easy for people to do much more than that. It has the option for the two way communication that builds relationships. Personal messages encourage people to respond emotionally and create connections between customer and company. Strong connections keep competitors from stealing customers.
  4. Lifespan—Email customers have a different lifespan from customers acquired or active via other channels. Knowing how people behave from first purchase to last provides information that can be used to fine-tune the email program. Monitoring this data helps identify trends. Watch for course changing events that shorten or lengthen individual lifespans so you can adjust marketing and service as needed.
  5. Comparable Values—Customers acquired via the same channel who have similar activity typically have comparable value in annual sales and profitability. A wide variance in comparable value provides an early warning system before the bottom line starts dropping. If you see value inconsistencies, look for causes that include marketing fatigue, service issues, increased competition, and niche saturation.

The people who subscribe to your email program are like the ones who receive direct mail pieces or catalogs. They respond to the same triggers, so the tactics that work for direct mail work for electronic media too. Design a strategy that moves beyond sale flyers to build a loyal following. Creating an email marketing strategy designed to acquire prospects, convert them to customers, and keeps them coming back for more is simply good business guaranteed to generate a great return.

Emails That Target Customer Behavior Without Using Big Data

The ever increasing volumes of data used by companies like Target, Walmart and Amazon to carefully target their customers is cumbersome and difficult to manage. Analyzing patterns to find the right trigger that will motivate an individual to buy requires gifted statisticians that combine art and science into marketing magic. But what if you are not quite ready to use big data in your business? Can you still reap some of the benefits?

The ever increasing volumes of data used by companies like Target, Walmart and Amazon to carefully target their customers is cumbersome and difficult to manage. Analyzing patterns to find the right trigger that will motivate an individual to buy requires gifted statisticians that combine art and science into marketing magic. But what if you are not quite ready to use big data in your business? Can you still reap some of the benefits?

Fortunately for companies that don’t have a team of statisticians standing by, customer behavior and activity can be used to increase sales without the challenges that come with big data. It’s as simple as watching for specific activity or changes in customer behavior and being prepared with a customized response to encourage people to buy.

If this is your first venture into customer behavior marketing, start with the people who are the easiest to identify. Seasonal and discount shoppers are relatively easy to recognize because they have very specific buying patterns. Creating customized marketing for them increases their response and reduces costs. The dual benefits make this a logical place to begin.

Seasonal shoppers are the people who purchase items at specific times of the year. Traditional RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value) analytics flag them as top buyers shortly after a purchase and then systematically move them down the value chain. When they place the next order, they move back to the top and flow down again. Creating a marketing plan that sends materials when they are most likely to buy reduces marketing costs without affecting sales.

Discount shoppers only buy when there is a sale. This segment can be further divided into subsets based on how much discount is required to get the sale. If the marketing is properly tailored, this group of people serves as inventory liquidators. Minimizing the non-sale direct mail pieces they receive and heavily promoting sales increases revenue while reducing costs.

Both groups respond well to promotional emails. Capturing email addresses should be standard operating procedure. It is especially critical for seasonal and discount shoppers because they tend to be more impulsive than other segments. The emails that remind seasonal shoppers that it is that time again and tell discount buyers about the current sales are economical and effective.

The next step after targeting shopper segments is adding specific product category information based on the individual’s shopping history. When my daughter was younger, my shopping behavior with American Girl included two orders per year for regular priced items and sale purchases in between. The two full price orders were placed just before Christmas and her birthday. Sale purchases were impulse driven and triggered by emails announcing clearance items.

Bitty Baby was the category of choice in the early years of buying from American Girl. The shift to the character dolls didn’t happen until my daughter was nine. She received her first Bitty Baby at two. During nine years of systematic purchases, no one recognized that I only ordered certain things at specific times. How much would your company save if your marketing was tailored to customer purchasing patterns?

What about targeting people who haven’t purchased from a specific category?

The ability to predict what people want before they know it is one of the advantages of analyzing trends and activity in big data. Before moving to that level, start with the information that shoppers are providing. This trigger email from Amazon was sent two weeks after I searched for soda can tops on their site without purchasing.

The email avoids the creepy factor by saying, “are you looking for something in our Kitchen Utensils & Gadgets department? If so, you might be interested in these items.” Instead of, “because we noticed that you spent 14.34 minutes searching for soda can tops you may be interested in the ones below.”

The best practices included in this email are:

  • It doesn’t share how they know that the shopper is interested in a specific category or item.
  • The timing from the original search to email generation is long enough to allow time to purchase, but not so long the search is forgotten.
  • It makes accessing the items easy by providing multiple links.
  • The branding is obvious with links to my account, deals and departments.

Targeting customer behavior can become very complicated very quickly. Starting simple with specific segments and activity allows you to test and build on the lessons learned. The return on investment is quick and may surprise you.

Introducing ‘The Integrated Email’ Blog by Debra Ellis

Why is email marketing so effective? Is it the one-to-one communication, ability to connect with customers and prospects on the go, or the provision of instant gratification with one-click shopping? The answer depends on the company and the customer relationship, but there is one universal truth: The combination of interactive communication with self-service solutions makes email the most versatile tool in a marketing workshop.

Why is email marketing so effective? Is it the one-to-one communication, ability to connect with customers and prospects on the go, or the provision of instant gratification with one-click shopping? The answer depends on the company and the customer relationship, but there is one universal truth: The combination of interactive communication with self-service solutions makes email the most versatile tool in a marketing workshop.

My experience with email marketing began shortly after Hotmail launched the first Web-based email service in 1996. A client had compiled approximately 11,000 customer email addresses and wondered what we could do with them. Our first test was a 25 percent discount on any order placed that day. A text-only message was sent using the mail merge functionality in Excel and Outlook. It took over two hours to send all the emails.

Those two hours were quite exciting. We had two computers in close proximity so we could watch the progress of the outgoing emails and monitor sales on the website. Within minutes of starting the email transmissions, orders started flowing in. By the end of the day, more than 1900 orders were received. A handful of people asked to be excluded from future mailings. Over 200 people responded with personal notes. Some were grateful for the discount. Others apologized for not placing an order and asked to receive more emails.

Things are much different today. The novelty of receiving a personalized message from a company is long gone. Spam filters make getting emails delivered a near impossible mission. And the competition for recipients’ attention is at an all-time high. Even so, email marketing remains one of most effective marketing and service vehicles available.

The emails that deliver the best return on investment are the ones that are integrated with the other marketing channels to provide information and service to the recipients. They create a connection between company and customer that motivates people to respond. A successful email marketing strategy builds loyalty while increasing sales.

Many email campaigns today are little more than a systematic generation of one promotional email after another. Discount emails are relatively easy to create and deliver sales with each send, making them a quick way to inject some life into lagging sales. The simplicity of sale marketing combined with solid response rates creates an environment where marketers are reluctant to move beyond the easy, low-hanging fruit.

In addition to generating sales, discount marketing also trains people to always look for the best price before buying the company’s products and services. It is not a sustainable strategy because there will always be another company that can offer lower prices and lure customers away. A better plan is to develop an integrated email marketing strategy that educates and encourages people to develop a relationship with the company. This requires more effort, but it delivers loyalty and long-term results.

Every email that a customer or prospect receives is an opportunity for the company to establish itself as the best service provider and solidify the relationship. Best practices include:

  • Using a valid return email address so the recipient can respond with one click.
  • Sending branded emails that identify your company at first glance.
  • Mixing educational emails that provide “how to” information for products and services with new product launches and promotional messages.
  • Transactional emails that communicate shipping information and challenges so customers aren’t left wondering, “Where is my order?”
  • Highly targeted and personalized emails designed to engage customers and prospects at every point in their lifespan.

Finding the right combination of educational, event and promotional emails requires testing and measuring results for incremental improvements. The resources invested improve relationships, increase sales and create a sustainable marketing strategy.

Note: Over the next few months, we’ll feature winning and losing email marketing strategies and campaigns on this blog. If you would like to share your company’s killer emails, send them to Debra at dellis@wilsonellisconsulting.com.