As an email marketer, the challenge is to rise above the clutter and create an email that recipients will read. It sounds simple right? Think again. There are many factors to consider when developing an email marketing strategy. To increase the open rate of your messages, consider the timing and frequency of your campaigns, and the appropriateness of your message. Formulating a strategy for email marketing can help to increase the response rate and success of your campaigns. The goal of direct marketing should be reaching someone with the right offer at the right time.
The Right Offer
A great way to maximize sales and customer satisfaction is to tailor your marketing strategy to different types of customers. To determine your message content, you must first determine who your audience is.
It may be helpful to treat new email recipients differently than old ones and repeat buyers differently than those who have never made a purchase. Do you know what type of recipients you have? Are they actively purchasing your product and communicating with your company? Do you know if your email messages are being read? Are your customers ready to opt-out of your emails or are they forwarding them on to their friends?
Analyzing email reports is a great way to figure out what customers think of your messages. Take a look at recipients with high viral marketing forward rates, high purchase/ROI statistics and high clickthrough rates and segment those customers as "Active and Responsive." Then segment those recipients that have low open and clickthrough rates into a different list. Base your marketing message on how customers have responded in the past. Here are a few suggestions for different methods of successful customer communication.
New customers may appreciate receiving information such as:
- Welcome message
- Continuing education on your company, product or industry
- Educational content such as seminars
- New product information
- Newsletter subscriptions
Long-term customers or customers that are actively opening your emails, forwarding them to friends or purchasing your product may appreciate:
- Special deals/premium offers for their active participation in your programs
- Thank you emails
- Customer appreciation offers
- Educational content such as seminars
- Loyalty programs
- Up/cross sell
- Company news
Customers who have not actively responded may be resuscitated by:
- Special offers
- Thank you emails
- Customer service or satisfaction study
- Offline contact such as a phone call or direct mail
Once you determine who you are marketing to, tailoring the message is easy. Customizing your communications makes customers feel that you are in touch with their needs and desires and will lead to valuable long-term relationships.
The Right Time
Once you have determined what type of message to send, then you should determine when to send it. How many emails do you get in a typical day? Week? Month? When you show up for work on Monday morning, do you have an inbox stuffed with more messages than you can handle? If you are like most people, you don't read every email you receive. You skim, erase from those names you don't recognize and get rid of junk mail. As an email marketer, how can you make your message one that gets opened? Timing is an important factor in the open rate of emails. Ideally, your email should arrive when the recipient's inbox is not filled, to avoid your message being accidentally overlooked and deleted. Effective timing strategy depends on your customer base, specifically if you are sending B2B or B2C messages.
If you are sending B2B emails, the optimal time is generally Tuesday through Thursdays. Avoid sending these emails over the weekend; it is easy to have your message overlooked if it is sandwiched between 100 others on a busy Monday morning. The morning hours are also bad because most people are still catching up from the day before. Lunchtime works well, as does right before lunch. Many people organize and read their e-mails over the lunch hour. Think of your own work habits and office environment and send accordingly.
For B2C emails, nights and weekends are best because consumers are reading these e-mails when they are relaxing at home. Don't forget to stagger your mailings based on delivery time zone. A message delivered to someone in New York will arrive much earlier than a recipient in California. There is no hard and fast rule for success but experimenting with timing can lead to dramatic increases in campaign success.
As you have probably already realized, consumers are very picky about their email in-boxes. It is easy to wear out your welcome by sending communications too frequently, prompting recipients to opt-out, delete or filter your messages. One of the easiest ways to detect customer attrition is to monitor your unsubscribe and open rates. If an unusual amount of people are opting-out, you might be sending too many messages.
Consider surveying your audience to determine how often they want to hear from you. Asking your recipients is not only an easy way to decide frequency, but also shows your commitment to customer satisfaction.
Conduct tests to see what frequency yields optimal results. If results point to over saturation, it is time to reevaluate your strategy and content. Look for ways to reduce frequency without diluting the value you bring to customers. For example:
- Does every message contain valuable content? If you don't have something important to say, don't say it at all!
- Attempt to streamline multiple messages into one compelling promotion.
- Consider consolidating daily or weekly news into one weekly or monthly newsletter respectively.
In most situations, it is better to err on the side of not enough email, rather than too much. Over using email will lead to recipient defection and could cause permanent damage to your marketing efforts.
Timing, frequency and message content are just a few of the different things to consider when formulating a strategy for email marketing. To create a message that stands out from the crowd, keep the customer in mind and you will find success.
Michael Pridemore is the co-founder and CEO of Accucast, Inc. in Atlanta, GA. Accucast opened its doors as Socketware, Inc. in 1997 and began offering email marketing solutions in 1998. As a pioneer and leader in the email marketing industry, the company provides a powerful mix of email marketing tools and services that facilitate the creation and delivery of email marketing campaigns. For more information visit www.accucast.com or email Michael at [email protected].