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.

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.

Email Marketing Redefined: Service With a Side of Sales

The multichannel marketplace has blurred the line between service and sales. People expect to get answers to their questions while they are shopping and on-demand after an order is placed. Redirecting them to another channel or platform for pre-sale and post-order information has a negative effect on the buying experience and long-term loyalty

The multichannel marketplace has blurred the line between service and sales. People expect to get answers to their questions while they are shopping and on-demand after an order is placed. Redirecting them to another channel or platform for pre-sale and post-order information has a negative effect on the buying experience and long-term loyalty.

Unfortunately, technology has changed faster than the corporate organizational chart has adapted. Marketing and operational departments aren’t integrated enough to provide the seamless shopping and service experience that people want. It’s time to make the shift to integrated messaging across all channels, platforms and departments. The email program is the best place to start, because changes are quick and easy.

Transactional emails tend to be matter of fact announcements of order receipt, shipment and issues. They serve the operational side of the business well but do little to directly improve sales. Branding is minimal and the messages are rarely in the same voice used for promotional information. Failure to include marketing service messages is a lost opportunity.

Marketing is a service when it solves people’s problems. Transactional emails are one to one communication. The right combination of marketing and service messages benefit customers by helping them maximize the return from their investments. The key to successful execution is having the correct processes, careful planning, and good application of business rules. When done well, they keep customers informed and motivate them to buy more.

For example, the order confirmation email should thank the customer for the business, provide specific purchase information, and suggest other items that complement the original products.

An email for an order of earrings could offer a matching necklace or an order for a vacuum cleaner might suggest bags and filters. If the operational process allows combining the orders at the same shipping rate, the suggestion to do so creates a sense of urgency. The only catch is that business rules have to be accurate with personal messaging to optimize the return.

Inserting product images with a brief description will bump sales a bit, but it doesn’t have the same effect as: “Thank you for your order of the super suction vacuum cleaner. It will ship tomorrow. Please remember that the filter needs to be changed every month. Add one on to your order by clicking this link before midnight tonight and there will not be an extra shipping charge.” Of course your copy team will do a better job than me, but you get the idea.

Almost every transactional email sent to customers should include a marketing message. The exceptions to this rule are issue-related emails. Following “your item is out of stock until next month” with “buy this to go with your item” won’t win customer loyalty.

To get started with integrated marketing and service emails:

  1. Review your transactional emails. When are they sent? What information do they include? Is there a follow-up after the sale to encourage people to provide feedback? Do you ask people if they like their purchases? Document all of the transactional emails so you will have a starting point.
  2. Identify opportunities for marketing messages. Add-on sales are good for order confirmation emails. “New items just arrived” works well on shipment confirmation messages. Be creative when thinking about how to combine service and sales, it will provide more testing options.
  3. Select the emails and messages to test. Start small and learn quickly. Testing provides the best information for rolling out your program. Use simple business rules and build from that foundation. Complicated processes are recipes for disaster when you are starting an integrated program.
  4. Verify that the offers are deliverable. Promising your customers that you will combine orders when it is operationally impossible creates mistrust with customers and colleagues. Always under promise and over deliver. It surprises customers and minimizes dissatisfaction.
  5. Measure everything. What effect does the new messaging have on sales? Opens? Clicks? Lifetime value? Lifespan? The more you know the better you can create targeted emails that deliver sales and satisfaction.
  6. Revise as needed. Transactional emails are easy to set and forget. They continue to go out day after day without any maintenance required. This tends to make them a low priority. Scheduling regular updates to rework the emails keep them fresh and informative for customers. It optimizes the return.