Technology unlocks several new ways to engage with the customer, but the quintessential email still holds its ground as the most preferred option. Email use worldwide is expected to top three billion users by 2020.
However, it does mean a marketer can simply blast emails, sit back, and relax! It still requires considerable hard work, in fact much more hard work compared to several other new channels, to get customers to click the email open, read it, and finally perform the desired call to action.
1. Target the Right Audience
A successful promotional campaign is highly targeted to specific recipients. Segmentation is not rocket science, but still requires some doing to get it correct.
While demographics are an obvious first place to start and the most popular method of segmentation, accurate targeting requires delving into a deeper level. Location, purchase history, psychographic segmentation, dividing customers into various benefit groups, again on a host of factors, and more, are all highly effective methods of targeting and segmentation. However, there is no golden rule or one-size-fits-all approach. The best segmentation takes into account the overriding objective or intention of the exercise before drawing up parameters.
As high as 42% of marketers do not send targeted email messages, and only 4% of them use layered targeting.
2. Get Permission
While it is easy and costs virtually nothing to blast emails to all and sundry, such emails invariably end up in the spam folder. People who are inundated with marketing pitches all the time, ignore messages by default, unless they have a special reason to look into it.
It is always a good idea to get the recipient’s consent before blasting off emails. It is an equally good idea to include an opt-out option in the email body. In fact, the CAN-SPAM Act requires giving recipients the right to opt out of receiving emails.
Co-opting some form of registration or email subscription as part of the purchasing process is the most common way to solicit permission to send emails. There are other ways as well, such as click-throughs from websites, launching a separate social media campaign for the purpose, conducting opt-in popup ad campaign, maintaining a database of inquiries over the years, harvesting emails from trade shows, webinars, and other campaigns, both online and the real world, and more.
While avenues to seek permission are many, securing permission requires establishing credibility or trust. This translates to not spamming the recipient, limiting emails to a reasonable amount, and offering real value in the email. The first follow-up email, ideally sent immediately on obtaining the email address, is a golden opportunity to just introduce the brand, but also set expectations as to receiving exciting and valuable content in future emails. From there on, success depends on walking the talk, or living up to expectations.
Quality is critical for the email address to remain in the whitelist. Spam could ultimately land your email messages in the blocked lists of all the major ISPs.
3. Understand the Audience
Regardless of the overall objective of the campaign, make sure the customer is the central theme of the campaign. The best email promotional campaigns serve the customer, in fulfilling their needs, or satisfying their want. Brand promotion is only incidental.
Before developing content for the email, the marketers have to find out answers to relevant questions such as what the prospect wants to hear, the problems or challenges for which they seek resolution, the type of content which inspires them most, and more. Smart marketers use analytics to seek answers to such questions, and reach out to the right customer at the right time, with the right message.
Evaluate the effectiveness of the message in terms of open rate, CTR, and other established metrics. A low CTR indicates that the message is not being targeted enough, or simply not getting through, highlighting the need to improve the copy. A high unsubscribe or opt-out rate relative to opt-in rate may indicate that something is wrong with either the message or the value on offer.
Evidently, only about 23% of companies have integrated their website and emails to track what happens after a click. Don’t be that kind of marketer. Identify the key metrics for success, such as increased conversions, new leads, revenue, etc. Deploy techniques such as A/B testing to discover whether the campaign has served its purpose. At times, course corrections may be expedient mid-way.
4. Clarify the Offer
People no longer have the patience to deal with time wasters. Hence marketers launching email promotional campaigns have their task cut out – their offers must be hardhitting from the word go.
Vague promises and blank discounts mean nothing to customers. Success depends on informing, in clear-cut terms, what the offer is about, and how such offer benefits the reader. Successful marketers explain what customers can accomplish, how their life becomes easier, and other specifics that realize on performing the stated call-to-action.
The call-to-action is the most important part of a promotional email content. All the hard work in luring the customer to open the email and read it fritters away if the message does not have clear and compelling call-to-action. Every email should ideally guide the recipient toward a single, clear action. Determining such specific action is the core of designing the campaign.
The best calls-to-action use precise, descriptive language. For example, “Shop for more products” transits a clearer action than “See more”. The extent to which recipients comply with the call-to-action also depends on what exactly the marketer asks the customer to do. For instance, “Shop now” calls for a lower threshold of action than “Buy now”. The customers perceive lesser commitment with the former, and are more likely to respond favorably.
5. Focus on Interactive Emails
Uni-directional messages or direct propaganda no longer work in today’s environment of high customer awareness. Email encouraging interaction right from the onset increase the prospects of customer engaging with the content and brand.
Email has traditionally been used to send a message across. Using it as an interactive medium is a challenge, but marketers are now up to the task. Some brands now even facilitate customers to shop for products and complete the checkout process without ever leaving the email!
A key dimension of interactivity is following up on email. Segmentation works at all levels of the promotional campaign. It can be applied to send a batch email to those who didn’t open the first email, and another batch to those who showed interest. It also becomes possible to split reply or follow-up email depending on geography, age, and other demographics.
6. Integrate the Email Campaign with Other Marketing efforts
Today’s customers are tech-savvy and access the Internet from various device and platform. They expect omni-channel experiences as well. The odds are that several email subscribers would be engaging through other channels as well. In such a state of affairs, a successful email promotional campaign strategy will not work in isolation. The campaign requires integration with the overall marketing outreach. Marketers should work towards applying a consistent theme and approach for all the marketing channels, including email, and deliver an integrated and consistent cross-channel experience.
7. Manage Expectations with Follow up Efforts
Follow-up is a critical factor for success. The email promotional campaign is at best a stepping stone to initiate engagement. The onus is on the marketer to strike a rapport, and carry forward the engagement, either through email or some other channel.
Marketing is all about expectations. The email campaign sets the expectation, and it is up to the marketer to take it forward and fulfill it to the customer’s satisfaction.
In meeting expectations, integrity and reliability matter much. For instance, if the promotional campaign promises one email a week on discounts and offers, and the marketer spams the inbox on a daily basis, the result is more likely to be counter-productive.
Despite several other platforms vying for the marketing dollar, email marketing still delivers the highest ROI for any digital marketing channel. Three out of four companies opine email offering “excellent” to “good” ROI. The best part is, crafting a successful campaign is more a question of skill and resourcefulness rather than investing money in infrastructure.