How To Prospect The Gold Mine Of Transactional Messaging

Email marketers are so focused on explicitly revenue-generating campaigns that we often forget about the little guys: program enrollment confirmations, lost PIN requests, invoices, account update notifications and the good ol’ password reset.  But transactional messages such as these are some of the most highly opened and read messages -- and as such, have huge potential to drive incremental revenue with the inclusion of promotional messaging.  As we position ourselves for a profitable 2014, it’s time to give our transactional emails a once-over.

Many organizations are actively incorporating promotional marketing into their transactional emails.  As with all tactics, this one comes with some pros and cons. 

The Pros:

  • Potential to make a positive revenue impact.
  • Enhances a “standard” transactional message with more targeted, relevant 1:1 messaging.
  • Puts more content in front of the customer, reinforcing brand and value propositions.



The Cons:

  • May defy recipient expectations of a transactional vs. marketing message, which could have a negative impact on total email engagement.
  • May require additional review from your legal teams to ensure it complies with CAN-SPAM regulations.

With that said, the following are some tips on how to avoid the cons so you can sit back and bask in the pros of your promotion-infused transactional email messaging.

Ensure Your Message is Legally Compliant

When adding marketing messaging to a transactional email, you should review the email in conjunction with the CAN-SPAM requirements focusing on the contextual make-up of a transactional email communication. This can add time to your email development process, but it’s important.

The CAN-SPAM Act defines commercial messaging as “any electronic mail message, the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.”  But how does one categorize an email with both transactional and commercial content?

The primary purpose of the message is the deciding factor. It’s considered commercial, and the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act apply, if:

  • A recipient reasonably interpreting the subject line would likely conclude that the message advertises or promotes a commercial product or service; and
  • A recipient reasonably interpreting the body of the message would likely conclude that the primary purpose of the message is to advertise or promote a product or service (CAN-SPAM Act of 2003).

Factors relevant to that interpretation include the location of the commercial content (the message’s transactional or relationship content must appear mainly at the beginning of the message), how much of the message is dedicated to commercial content, and how color, graphics, type size and style are used to highlight the commercial content.

Bottom line: keep the written and visual focus on your transactional message, and conduct a careful review before hitting send to ensure that your promotion-infused transactional emails remain within the bounds of CAN-SPAM.

Zero in on Recipient’s Contextual State

To make sure your message is well-received, you need to, at a minimum, meet recipient expectations that this is a transactional email in response to a request she made. Stick to the purpose and keep it clear.  The majority of real estate and content should relate to the transaction at hand.  However, marketing messages can round out the consumer experience.

With that said, the moment a consumer transacts, you have a unique opportunity to draw some conclusions about customer intentions. Is she requesting her password? There must be a reason to do so -- find out what it is and enhance your “lost password” email accordingly.  Did someone just update her shipping address?  Send a transactional message to confirm the update, and include value-add content specific to her “new” location.

The goal is to capitalize on this golden messaging opportunity by using what we can surmise about the customer’s current intent.  Make it as personalized as possible. Consider moving away from generic advertisements (e.g., free shipping on your next order) and veer towards content directly tied to that customer’s recent transaction (e.g., check out these Floridian flip-flops to complement your new shorts).

Integrate Experience Across Devices

Over the past few years, your website, social media forums, even your conversion-focused emails have likely gone through some sort of creative refresh.  But how long has it been since your transactional emails were rejuvenated? Ensure that you’re building trust across the transactional experience through creative and content uniformity, regardless of which channel the consumer happens to be engaging with at any given moment.

Transactional emails contain a gold mine of opportunities to include marketing messaging that will increase engagement, drive revenue and enhance brand perception. 

1 comment about "How To Prospect The Gold Mine Of Transactional Messaging ".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, February 28, 2014 at 5:21 a.m.

    Exactly. Also, make sure all the content of a transactional email is relevant to the consumer - if they have been interacting with Winter Holidays in Europe, don't advertise Beach Holidays in Asia.

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