Santa in swim trunks, polar bears and penguins living in harmony, my holiday stocking, stuffed with gadgets. What do these things have in common? They are very cool-- especially my stocking.
And what is cool in email marketing?
This year saw a select few email service providers and marketers begin to implement three tactics that promise to build trust and loyalty and generate fantastic returns. So without further ado, here is my holiday gift to you: Three cool things you can do with email in 2007.
1. Incorporate surveys as relationship-building tools
When we think of surveys, we tend to think of research-oriented questionnaires designed to gauge customer satisfaction or public sentiment about an industry or brand. The results give us insight and help us to steer corporate direction. But a great thing to do with surveys is to use them for direct marketing. For instance, you could use them in your email program to gather information from customers incrementally rather than all at once when they opt in. Think of this as a next-generation preference page strategy.
Why would you want to do that? People value their time and their privacy. And they want to share personal details only with those who have earned their trust. Research has shown that the more information you require from potential recipients on your email opt-in page, the less likely they are to complete the process.
But surveys help solve this dilemma by allowing you to gather actionable information a little at a time. So instead of asking your would-be recipients for everything you want, consider asking for just enough information to get the ball rolling, and gather the rest as it's warranted, and as you've earned the opportunity to ask.
To get underway, you'll need to have survey capabilities integrated into your email application. But the concept is pretty straightforward. Decide what information you want to add to your database and then create a question designed to elicit that data. And be sure you have a good reason for asking, because an integrated survey tool not only enables you to put a poll in an email, it enables you to respond with an email based on the results of that poll. In other words, you can create true one-to-one dialogues with your customers based on what they've just told you. If that's not cool, I don't know what is.
2. Send when customers are most likely to open
What's the best day and time to send email? Some say Monday morning, others swear by Saturday night. But the only way to really know what works best for your particular list is to test. Even so, testing still only narrows it down to a time that's best across your entire list. What would be really great is to send at a time that is best for each individual recipient.
In my book I share one of my favorite case studies. Using past mailings as a baseline, online retailer eBags experimented with sending messages at a unique time targeted to each recipient-- the day and time each had opted in. The results were amazing:
- Clickthrough rates grew 20 percent
- Conversion rates grew 65 percent
- Average value per order grew 45 percent
- Overall average revenue per recipient grew 187 percent
eBags was a pioneer in this effort, performing all this time-based targeting manually, and they suffered the arrows that went with it.
The good news is that technology has begun to catch up to marketers' needs. In 2007, companies will start to apply this truly fabulous technique with no more difficulty than scheduling a traditional mailing-- except that, in this case, the email system will take care of each recipient's individual send time and constantly fine tune it according to recipients' previous behaviors or marketers' needs.
3. Dress up those plain messages
Another great way to extend your brand and cultivate customer relationships is by adding marketing elements to messages you may not have thought of as a part of your traditional marketing mix: transactional, account status and administrative messages. Because these messages have tended to reside in IT departments rather than marketing organizations, they have remained relatively untouched by marketers.
But research shows that these kinds of messages are the most highly valued by recipients. According to a 2005 Quris study, "The View from the Inbox," the types of messages U.S. email users find most worth reading are transactional confirmations (56 percent) and account status messages (50 percent).
These messages enjoy:
- High anticipation
- High open and click rates
- Zero unsubscribe rates (since they don't require an opt-out under CAN-SPAM)
- Low complaint rates
- Recipient trust in the sender
The good news is that advances in email marketing technology are making it easier than ever for marketers to transform static transactional and account status messages into high-volume, powerful marketing communications delivered just seconds after they are triggered. And by applying branding and adding cross-sell and up-sell offers at a time when recipients are thinking most favorably about you, you transform an already engaging message into one that is even more memorable, appealing and useful. With such typically high open rates, broad ranging appeal and a proven ability to generate revenue, look for these messages to take a serious turn in the limelight in 2007.
As we head into a new year, I encourage you to give these tactics a try. This holiday season, a lot of us are going to get at least one well-intentioned but irrelevant gift. But when it comes to email, you don't have to send the equivalent of this season's ugly sweater. Be kind to your email customers. Give them the gift of relevance all year long.