3 "I'm ready to buy" signals marketers must recognize

Constantly hammering subscribers with "buy now" messages in between purchases is a recipe for increasing your unsubscribe rate. To avoid this, I recommend a strategy that I call "the permanent campaign." One of the essential elements of this strategy is recognizing when it is the time to shift back into "buy now" mode with a subscriber with your email marketing.

Most subscriber behavior does subtly (or not so subtly) change when they are shifting into buy mode. For items purchased on a short purchase cycle, the subscriber is almost always in the "buy now" state, but for longer purchase cycle products and services, there will be shifts in behavior that email marketers must learn to recognize and react to. Here are three of the things your subscribers are doing when they are shifting into "buy now" mode.

They increase email engagement

While on the surface this seems pretty obvious, most email marketers aren't actually prepared to react to this behavior with offers. If you have a good content marketing strategy, you should be able to keep subscribers engaged on some level on an ongoing basis -- or at least so they won't unsubscribe. Even so, if someone who has been opening the occasional email from you suddenly starts opening and clicking on your regular campaigns, it's time to start looking very closely at what they are clicking on and provide the right information and incentive in follow-up email communications, as well as in other channels where you interact with that subscriber. Sure, that person is going to buy, but you want to make sure they buy from you.

Think of a hotel chain email subscriber who only travels for pleasure, never for business. If this person takes one to two trips a year where lodging is required, six months could go by with nary an email open. If that behavior suddenly changes, it's likely that another vacation is being planned. Savvy email marketers will recognize this signal and act accordingly by sending enticing offers to that subscriber.

They make purchases

I hear you thinking to yourself "Wait, what?" But think about it. Truth be told, it's highly likely a person who has just made a purchase is still in "buy now" mode! So that purchase should be seen as a really big signal. How should you react to it? Assuming the purchase was made on your website, you are going to send the buyer a purchase confirmation. This is the time to dynamically insert some additional offers based on the previous purchase into that communication -- something along the lines of "people who bought A also bought B." If your email platform doesn't support dynamic product placement into a transactional email, you can always communicate the same information via your next email to that subscriber. The time lag will reduce your chances of success, so it's best to do it immediately if possible.

Let's revisit our hotel chain. Someone who has just booked a room might be interested in local attractions, a rental car, or a show (perhaps this hotel is in Vegas). The customer is going to buy these things from someone. Why not you?

They update preferences or profiles

If someone takes the time to update his or her preferences at your preference center, that should set off all kinds of bells in your email marketing brain. It's a clear indication of renewed interest in your brand, as well as a desire to refine the communications that person receives from you -- whether it's the frequency, the content, or just a desire to get in on your special email offers. People don't think about brands just for the sake of it. (I'm sorry to break that to any of you who think your brand is all that interesting. It's probably not.) People think about brands when they are thinking about making a purchase. And they are obviously thinking about your brand when they are on your preference center. Use what they tell you to create more relevant email communications that right away help you close the deals.

Think once again about that hotel brand. If a subscriber changes her preferences from content about European locations to the Caribbean, you can safely assume there is an island vacation in her near future. It's not enough to just send her the changed content; now is the time to hit that subscriber with the latest travel deals to those locations.

Regardless of the length of your purchase cycle, it's critically important that you learn to read and react to the signals your subscribers send out when they are ready to buy. Automated and triggered responses are best, as they are the timeliest, but even if you can only react in your regular campaigns, you'll still see results. The list is certainly longer than this, and many of them are product or service specific. But if you just focus on these three signals for now, you'll see an increase in conversions and a happier subscriber base.

Chris Marriott is the vice president of services and principal consultant at The Relevancy Group. Check out a webinar Marriott recently gave on the subject of data-driven email marketing here.

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