There are a numerous tactics to deliver more relevant messages. However, when we aim to increase relevance, we don't mean that we simply want to deliver a few relevant messages here and there. Simply developing a compelling welcome email is not enough. The real challenge in email marketing is to consistently deliver relevant messages.
Equipped with perfect data, this would be an operational challenge. Sourcing and producing content is where aggressive segmentation plans typically collapse. Over time, messages delivered to these segments start to look very similar. Moreover, we don't have perfect data. Only a subset of our subscribers have complete profiles, and a smaller percentage have done anything worthy of a meaningful transactional email in the recent past.
Faced with these realities, one approach I've used for creating both manageable and scalable messaging programs is to leverage this three-tiered concept:
Level #1: Base Programs
These programs form the foundation of a messaging strategy. They may be weekly promotions or monthly newsletters or something similar. They may require ongoing development or they may be a time-based message sequence. They key is to establish an ongoing and regular presence in your subscribers' inbox.
One problem I regularly encounter is that marketers overcomplicate this level by creating too many segments. A few segments are sensible. Too many complicate production. Define segments based on which subscribers will receive the email template. For example, customers/prospects or online shoppers/in-store shoppers/multi-channel shoppers/prospects. Once templates are created for each segment, use dynamic content to personalize the email with specific product or service content. Just make sure to pay attention to developing default content that will go to those subscribers with incomplete profiles.
Level #2: Triggered Programs
A great triggered program doesn't eliminate the need for a good base program. After all, the majority of your subscribers are not likely to meet the criteria for one of your triggers in any given month.
Triggered messages are where email marketers can really scale their programs. Since these programs are event-dependent, not time-dependent, each new trigger you create becomes one more opportunity to drive additional revenue. Confirmation emails represent a simple triggered message. But consider the Best Buy email I received after buying a camcorder in-store, which highlighted complementing accessories. Opportunities like this are countless.
The best part is that triggered messages are "set it and forget it." Better still, they significantly outperform standard messages. Conversion rates are often at least 10X higher than typical promotional emails (I have seen as high as 70X conversion rates). The downside is that a relatively small number of these messages get triggered each month.
There are two keys to success for triggered messages. First, create a bunch of them. Each new message is like a deposit in a high-interest bank account. Keep making deposits and over time the revenue you generate from these programs will be significant. Second, put controls and frequency caps in place to prioritize triggered mailings. Some, like confirmations, will go out in real time regardless of other triggers in queue. Others, like the camcorder accessory email, need to be prioritized so the subscriber is not overwhelmed with triggered emails.
Level #3: One-off programs
There are always out of the ordinary emails to be sent, like holiday emails or emails to micro segments. In general, we don't need to develop an entire messaging strategy around small, highly targeted audiences. However, these messages do make sense from time to time. By planning for one-offs from the start, we can develop processes for adjusting the rest of the program when these situations arise.
Deploying relevant email messaging programs requires us to embrace two realities. First, developing and managing content is a hurdle we must overcome. Second, there will always be more segmentation and targeting techniques. To deliver on the promise of increased relevance, we must structure programs that allow us to scale despite these ongoing challenges.
Good luck as you start implementing!