Email Marketing As Problem-Solver

We've been taught to think about marketing in terms of achieving goals in the customer buying cycle: awareness, interest, trial, purchase, support, loyalty, referral/advocacy or some variation of these.

At some level, all of the above require an answer to strategic marketing problems. How do we acquire profitable customers at a reasonable cost? How do we drive more conversions? How do we encourage customers to be more loyal?

Achieving these goals is like tying your shoes. You just do it, without thinking strategically about the process.

We add a popover to our home page to acquire more subscribers. We test copy in subject lines and landing pages to drive higher conversion rates.

But I'm talking about something different: email marketing as a companywide problem-solver.

Using email marketing to solve problems

In my meetings with dozens of email marketing teams in cities around the world, I've observed how some teams can adopt sophisticated programs and achieve results far beyond their peers.



Although management support and trust is always crucial, these teams share another success trait: They focus on solving important business, customer and marketing problems, not just achieving everyday marketing goals and challenges.

These are some of the examples I've seen:

  • Problem: Product returns: Two sports retailers use content in triggered emails to reduce returns of hard-to-fit clothing such as ski boots and leather riding boots. 
  • Problem: Unmet expectations: A financial site uses email to show its new mobile app users the additional functionality available via the Web application.
  • Problem: Low renewals of program memberships: A retailer uses an automated email series to persuade more members of its free-shipping program to renew their memberships. It's an urgent need because those customers buy more often and depend less on discounts, thus delivering most of the company’s sales.
  • Problem: One-time purchasers: A gift and gadget ecommerce site develops a behavior-based program of automated emails to encourage more purchases from a customer base that tends to make only one-time gift purchases.
  • Problem: New users not completing set-up: A financial service site sends a triggered series of three emails to new users who didn't finish setting up accounts. The emails address users' main problems in creating accounts.
  • Problem:Increasing direct mail costs: An insurance company saves money it once spent on direct mail to communicate with customers about their accounts.

Steps to Build Problem-Solving Email

Ready to move beyond the same-old/same-old email marketing to tackle your organization's biggest problems or challenges? Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Map the customer journey. Where are the gaps?  
  • Talk to other departments. What are the pain points in finance, sales, HR or logistics?
  • Talk to customer service or other customer-facing teams to learn their top issues, complaints, returned products, etc., and try to understand the causes.
  • Review your company's customer satisfaction surveys. Where is the company falling short? Where could content delivered via email educate customers to reduce confusion or have a better experience?
  • Identify the fulcrum points in your business where email could drive a necessary action. (See this earlier Email Insider for background on this concept.)  
  • Review current key initiatives or MBOs in other departments if they share those among management. Can you find initiatives where email marketing could help solve a problem or enable success?

A Note on Content

Marketers often tell me they don't have the content they need for create projects like the ones I listed above. Horse hockey!

Usually, these companies already have usable content in various places and formats: videos, Web or catalog copy and images for products, customer support scripts, training presentations, sales collateral, webinar recordings, etc. Your marketing team's challenge is to discover this content and then convert it into formats that work for the channel or need.

Don't let the excuse of lacking content keep you from getting started. Look around for it. Be scrappy. Take a phased approach. If necessary, plead for some extra budget.

Until next time, take it up a notch.

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