Strategies to Meet 5 Macro Trends Altering Email

by , Jun 18, 2009, 1:32 PM
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Trend forecasts, like mine in my last Email Insider column, "5 Macro Trends That Are Altering Email," also need strategies to help you meet the challenges these trends bring. Here's how you can retool your email program to keep it fresh, relevant and productive in an evolving market:
 
1. Market with global sensitivity. The global economy you market in requires you to know and accommodate the different cultures that exist within your subscriber base.
 
--      Beware promotions based on cultural references that don't resonate in other countries. July 4 and December 25 are just days on the calendar to many readers. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving, but on a different day and without Pilgrims.
--     Watch your language. Idioms and slang often don't translate well, either across languages or across cultures.
·--     Collect country-of-residence data and use it to segment your database to avoid sending, for example, a U.S.-centric promotion, such as an Independence Day sale, to non-U.S. subscribers.
 
2. A media mix speeds communications. A "stair step" messaging system uses different channels for different messages. It will help you get out in front of the news, trends or developments when you have to, and provide options for more in-depth conversations:
 
--      Microblogging sites (Twitter, etc.), blogs and SMS text messaging are becoming your rapid-response channels, the media you use to get ahead of your competition or to react to comments about your company.
·-     Email can be a follow-up source, where you can provide details and supporting information to create a richer message.
 
Of course, not everyone is on Twitter or reading your blog bulletins. So, email still plays a vital role in urgent communications. But when your ecommerce Web site goes down, customers will often alert the world 30 to 60 minutes before you can email your customer base.
 
3. Fight the downturn with value. Almost every business is affected by the global economic slowdown, from squeezed margins to longer sales cycles. Competing on price and conveying greater value is critical. However, way too many companies are turning email into their discount channel.
 
-- Make your emails more valuable. Study customer behavior data to find ways to strengthen your relationship with your customers. Your brand-loyal, high-value customers are more likely to respond to targeted or lifecycle messages -- such as shopping-cart reminders, cross-selling and upselling that builds on purchase behavior and interests -- rather than getting hounded to death with free shipping and 20%-off promotions.
 
A high-end retailer such as Tiffany, for example, might use email to promote lower-cost accessories that match previous more expensive, ring or necklace purchases.
 
Yes, this takes more effort, but it will pay off in the long run, because you will avoid the fallout from careless high frequency: spam complaints, unsubscribes, inactivity and list burnout.
 
Read more about how frequency and list churn can affect your email performance in these two Email Insider columns:  "What's the Best Frequency? Who Cares" and "Have You Tackled Your List Churn?"

4. Build engagement to break through
"attention distraction." Your emails compete for your readers' eyes not just with other commercial email and spam but also with a new breed of messages: highly personalized alerts and reminders from their social networking services that are much more relevant and engaging than your usual 20%-off promotion.
 
To make it into the "inner circle" of valued email senders (an average of 10, according to marketing database company  Merkle ), you need to get to the point quickly and clearly, with relevant messages:
 
--     Stand out in the inbox. Your messages should show at a glance who you are and what your message says. Brand the "From" line, and personalize the subject-line content. Differentiate yourself from your competitors with targeted and relevant offers instead of the same old discounts.
--     Redesign your creative material for easy navigation in both the preview pane and full messages, and with or without images. Eliminate long copy blocks. Use visuals that direct the eye to your call to action. Link to your Web site for longer explanations if needed.
 
5. Humanize your email messages. People buy from other people. Your emails need a distinctive personality, which comes from your market positioning, value proposition, company culture, newsletter or email goals, and your readers and customers.
 
--     Give your emails a "voice." The email should sound as if it's one end of a great conversation, not a lecture.
--     When possible, have a real person be this voice. It can be your CEO, head of customer service, merchandising manager, marketing person or whomever, but have some personality show through.
--     Cultivate a reader-oriented approach ("you" rather than "I/we").
--      Write as if you were addressing one person, not writing a college paper.
 
Until next time, take it up a notch.
 
 

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