Four More Vacation Lessons for Email Marketers

Travel broadens the mind, so the saying goes. In my case, it also sharpens my views on issues that are important for successful email programs.

In my previous Email Insider column, I shared strategies for using email as a discovery tool based on an excellent wine recommendation. But that wasn't the only time I gained some insight based on my recent European vacation -- or “holiday,” as they say.

Below are four cases in point:

1. Understand why things happen the way they do. You don't have to be fluent in the language, aside from crucial phrases such as "How much?" and "Where is the toilet?" But good tourists understand and adapt to the local culture and keep themselves open to new experiences.

In the same way, email marketers, especially those who come from direct marketing, SEO and other channels, must learn the history and customs of email: What works, what doesn't, and why. What's acceptable, and what will send you to email jail?



Also, know the specific history of your company’s email program, from acquisition and privacy practices to content and design practices, technologies and uses. Knowing what makes people say "We've always done it that way" will help you navigate a path of significant change.

Finally, learn the history of both segment and individual subscriber behavior and program results. Leveraging customer behavior can drive more relevant messaging and illuminate the content and programs that generate the best subscriber responses.

2. Use listening and data to detect and fix customer problems. Before my family joined me in Greece, I had a most unsatisfactory dinner in my hotel's restaurant, with bad wine and mediocre-to-inedible food. I didn't complain, but my server noticed the large uneaten portions and asked if I didn’t like the food.

She reported this to the manager, who did his best to make amends by sending a free glass of wine and comping part of my meal. Whenever he saw me in the hotel, he urged me to return. I did, because I knew he would take care of me if I were dissatisfied.

The email equivalent of this is twofold: Train everyone from your email team to your call-center reps to listen for customer comments and complaints at every touchpoint: email, web forms, call center, social media, etc. Then, have a process to respond, fix the problem if possible and communicate that to the customer.

Also, read your customer data trails -- what they tell you in surveys or preference centers and how they behave. Using my restaurant example, the staff observed my behavior, recognized a problem and responded to it without waiting for me to complain.

Your data can unmask customer indecision, abandonment and inactivity and help you respond appropriately.

3. Find creative ways to surprise and delight your best customers. At another Greek restaurant, my wife asked the owner if she could buy the house olive oil, which a local rancher produced. She couldn't, but the restaurant owner filled an empty liter water bottle and gave it to us as a tasty souvenir. We are now enjoying this awesome oil with our summer Greek salads.

"Surprise and delight" is one of the keys to customer retention, more so than fixing problems. Email lets you channel those benefits directly to qualifying customers. How you do that depends on how you define your most valuable customers and what benefit or offer they would value the most.

4. Figure out what keeps people coming back. Our short stay in one country was enough to satisfy our interest. However, I want to return to Croatia again and again to investigate everything I didn't see on my first visit.

As an email marketer, you must always develop fresh content and approaches in order to keep subscribers engaged. Give them something new and different. Educate and intrigue them. Show them what they'll miss if they don't open your messages.

Pounding subscribers with the same old offers won't motivate them to act. They'll head for the exits and never come back for another visit.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

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