iMedia Connection

4 cardinal do's and don'ts of email marketing

Chris Marriott
Faithful readers of this column will remember that last month I wrote about a new consumer phenomenon called the "new marketing democracy." I focused on four "dos and don'ts" email marketers should follow when addressing the marketing democracy. I promised more tips in my next column, so here you are!

Just as a reminder, there are four basic truths regarding the marketing democracy:

Each channel has its own hurdles in regards to engaging the marketing democracy, and email is no different. In theory, an opted-in customer should represent someone who has turned on the faucet. In practice, we face that moment of truth every time they open their inbox and see one of our emails. At this point, they can turn on the faucet (open the email), or keep it turned off (ignore or delete your email). As we explored in my last column, they may return later to turn on the faucet, but there's no guarantee they will.

The four more do's and don'ts
In order to do everything in your power to cater to the mindset of the marketing democracy, here are four more dos and don'ts. If you follow these suggestions, you're more likely to start winning some elections in the marketing democracy!

Don't assume customers are not engaging with your emails because they don't open them. For too long, marketers have made the general assumption that an email unopened is an email ignored. As I've explored in previous columns, this may not be the case. They may be taking action in different channels, and on some level they expect you to know that. Purging their email address means you lose that connection with them -- and they are unlikely to opt-in again after the fact.

Do make every effort to recognize your email customers in other channels in which they engage with you. The marketing democracy doesn't give a second's thought to how you may be internally organized. If you are going to encourage them to engage with you in social networks, and to share things with their own networks, then use one of the methods available to link their social profile to their email address. If they are making critical comments about you on your Facebook page, don't you think that's a good bit of insight to have as you prepare your next email to them? Or if they are complimenting you, maybe that deserves something special in your next email? In fact, the two emails I described above could actually be triggered by that Facebook comment. Trust me; the marketing democracy will take note of the value you place on their opinions in situations like this.

Don't ever send customers an email offer about a limited-time sale when their opportunity to take advantage of the sale is over or almost over. If you think this doesn't happen, you weren't paying close attention to the emails you received touting Cyber Monday sales. Believe it or not, I received one Cyber Monday email at 11:55 PM that night. Even worse, I received another one at 11:00 am -- on Tuesday morning! And both were from brand names everyone would recognize. You spend a lot of time trying to get your customers to forward your emails to a friend -- well this is a sure fire method to achieve that goal! Unfortunately the commentary is likely to be along the lines of "can you believe this?!"

Do learn to recognize when the marketing democracy is sending out "I'm ready to buy" signals. Because they will, whether it is through cart abandonment, a sudden increase in clicks on certain links, or an actual purchase on your website. Again, this is when a triggered email comes in handy. It sends the signal you are paying attention to them (but not in a creepy way), and in the case of using transactional emails to cross sell, you are already thinking about what else they might need right now. I have yet to hear someone say, "Boy, that was really wrong of retailer X to recommend I purchase an HDMI cable to go with the game system I just purchased." In fact, they are much more likely to think "thank goodness I ordered the cable when I did or my new game system would have looked much less sharp on my HDTV!"  It's not that the marketing democracy doesn't ever want you to sell them something; it's just that always saying "buy now" shows them you have little understanding of the way they think.

So now you have solid techniques you can employ in the email channel to help you engage and thrive in the new marketing democracy. I'll be returning to this subject with frequency over the next few months. And while it may be too late to employ any of these suggestions for this holiday season, there's always next year! As this is the last column of 2011, I want to take a moment to thank you all for your readership. I never take for granted the time you spend with these columns.

Until January, have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukah, and a safe New Years.

Chris Marriott is VP of agency services at StrongMail.

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