Even as you move away from overt promotion in all messages, you're never going to stop using email to sell. However, to break through inbox clutter successfully, you need to provide content that adds value at each stage of the journey.
Map Out the Journey
Take what you know now about the various stops on your customer journey. While every company likely has nuances and variances in their customers’ journey, most share these five stages:
Compare Your Personas
We talk about "the customer," but you have several kinds, such as non-customers, one-time buyers, frequent but small-ticket customers or people who buy one product line or brand but not another.
Create a matrix that compares each customer type or persona against a stage in the customer journey. What messaging could persuade a casual shopper to spend more with you, or to move your first-time buyers to purchase again?
Fill in the Blanks
This matrix could reveal opportunities in your current email program where you could add or revise messages designed specifically to move customers to the next stage of their journey.
After using this process, one company (an aquarium) added a post-purchase upsell message designed to entice ticket purchasers to opt for a behind-the-scenes tour. Adding this single new message boosted year-over-year revenue by nearly one-third.
Finally, remember that you can't solve every messaging need at once. Instead, focus first on the area that solves your biggest challenge or opportunity.
Four Journey-Focused Emails
Following are four sample areas where you can apply this approach:
1. Help the customer buy the right product. I recently received, within a few days of each other, almost identical-looking emails from two retailers promoting men's spring suits. The first email featured an image of a model wearing a suit, a headline ("All-Occasion Polish") and a link labeled "See more."
The second email featured a subject line saying "Tips on How to Dress" and a model wearing almost an identical suit. The email content included the headline "How to Suit Up for Spring," a suit in close-up and links labeled "Shop Our Guide" and "Shop Suits & Sport Coats."
Both emails tried to get me to buy a suit, but the second retailer used a helpful content approach to gain my interest and potentially help me choose the right suit.
2. Help customers discover things they weren't looking for. Email can be a discovery tool (see my advice in this post: "Email as Discovery Tool? Try It, You'll Like It"), because your customer doesn't always know exactly what she wants.
Shortly before Halloween, a baking retailer created a user guide for pumpkins that mixed recipes, how-tos and a soft promotion of its own pumpkin-flavored mixes. The retailer created demand for its own products by showing customers how they could turn their pumpkin flesh into awesome baked goods.
3. Help customers get satisfaction with their purchases. Post-purchase follow-up messages help your customers use their products correctly.
One sports retailer sends online ski-boot buyers an automated three-email series shortly after an order has been shipped, with tips on everything from buckling the boots correctly to wearing the right socks.
4. Use personality and creativity to make your emails more human. The "H2H" ("Human to Human") factor is essential. Write content that sounds as if you're talking with your customers, not shouting at them. Humor is one tactic, as you probably saw in this week's spate of April Fool's emails.
Another sports retailer offered to send anonymous "secret admirer" messages for subscribers for Valentine's Day. Other tactics include featuring customers in emails or adding a message and signature from your CEO, head buyer or other executive.
Until next time, take it up a notch!