As marketers, we all know how important it is to make sure that our email and other direct marketing efforts are relevant to our customers. We also understand that customers are taking more control of their relationships with us and are demanding that we engage with them in ways that work. Doing this effectively requires a marketing strategy that integrates efforts across channels, while allowing for us to continuously "listen" to our customers and adjust tactics based on what we "hear" from them.
As we enter 2012, here are a few of the main themes that our analysis shows will be on every email subscriber's wish list, as well as ways to engage with them and give them what they really want.
Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something. Utilizing "welcome" programs to initiate a sense of belonging -- letting subscribers know more about your brand and your email, social, and mobile programs and their benefits -- is a great way to make them feel part of your community.
This year, consider taking your welcome emails a step further and deploy a welcome series. Strategically crafted creative elements, calls to action, and messaging in each treatment of the series can enable continuous subscriber engagement and optimize results with double the open and click rates and three times the transaction rates of promotional mailings.
Integrating your digital programs can also create a sense of belonging and increase engagement. For example, leveraging Facebook to optimize email performance and acquisition by including email sign-up on your Facebook page can bring your digital programs together and make your subscribers feel connected.
A recent Experian CheetahMail study indicated that only 25 percent of brands have email sign-up on their Facebook page. What are you waiting for? Make 2012 the year you add it to yours.
As customers increasingly take control of the relationships they have with you, it is vital to treat them like individuals. Use what you know about your audience to personalize content as much as you can. This step can be as simple as using a subscriber's first name. On average, subject lines with a subscriber's first or last name have 58 percent higher unique open rates than those without.
Here are some great examples of subject lines we have seen recently:
Keep in mind, however, that a best practice is to use this tactic occasionally so that subscribers do not tire of it.
Here is another option that is even more effective: Showing products that subscribers are interested in can double transaction rates. For example, images of products left in abandoned shopping carts visually remind customers of the items they wanted and often make them more likely to purchase. This tactic can pay off just as much when it comes to ratings and reviews, as well as product recommendations in order and shipping confirmations.
What do you know about your email subscribers? This year start taking what you know and use it to personalize your customer communications.
Along with demanding more personalized interaction comes a desire to "feel special." Customers want to be rewarded for their loyalty and continued engagement with your brand. Consider "friends and family" emails or loyalty points and rewards communications. These types of email marketing initiatives are personalized and create a unique experience for each individual driving continued engagement and loyalty. Also, make sure to use language that evokes this sort of special feeling. Did you know that the word "exclusive" in subject lines provides a 14 percent lift in unique open rates?
Have you identified your best customers? Are you rewarding them? In 2012, make your subscriber feel special by launching a loyalty program.
You know that feeling you get when you're walking around a store and can't find any associates to ask for help? Emails, especially transactional emails, without "help" or "customer service" links can leave customers with that same feeling. Treat your customers the way you want to be treated -- or better.
Also, remember your manners and say "thank you" to your customers. Shipping confirmations that thank customers have 60 percent or higher click and transaction rates than those without a "thank you" included.
As much as we marketers like to believe that we know what our customers want, we have to recognize that their desires and needs change rapidly. Therefore, it's important to have testing, an analysis of subscriber behaviors, and a collection of subscriber feedback (via surveys, research, social media tools, etc.) as part of standard daily business practices.
Remember, recognizing and acting on what your subscribers want not only makes them feel special and produces happy customers, but will also increase their engagement and improve your program performance.
Regina Gray is vice president of strategic services, Experian CheetahMail.
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