Top Ten Tips For The Holiday Season

Tips are often fun to read, yet hard to implement. Just remember a few key points about these ideas. First, they were all derived from someone else's mistake or past learning. Second, you probably won't listen to them until you have made the same mistakes. Third, they won't mean anything to you unless you can translate them to business outcomes.

Consider this my holiday gift--in time to help you get your ducks in a row for the big shopping season.

1. Strategy doesn't start with "when do we deploy the e-mail?" It starts with "what is the value of the e-mail to my business and to my customer?"

2. Understand churn. There are several kinds, such as response-based churn, transactional churn and churn caused by deliverability issues. Each is a different reason why people quit responding, and should be categorized differently.

3. Have sound testing and quality assurance processes in place to help mitigate the "Dear " fiasco that we see time and time again. If your e-mail team is like most, they will make at least one mistake every two months. Use your QA process to minimize the scale of the mistakes and the effort you'll spend dealing with them.



4. E-mail acquisition is NOT always a cause-and-effect process stemming from renting a list and ending in a transaction. It is harder to drive transactions without some prior relationship, so lower your expectations and think of permission first, then cultivation, then conversion--and your acquisition efforts will yield more valuable results.

5. Everything has a lifecycle; build your programs around this fact. Either your product has a definitive lifecycle, or how your customers consume it is influenced by their life stage. Use these important points of intermediation to build message, brand value and context.

6. Don't condition your customers to rewards, or you'll raise the cost of response over time. Some people require rewards in exchange for their loyalty and response. Some don't. Your challenge as marketers is to determine the level of reward to get the desired action, so don't begin with giving it away to everyone. Remember, once your kids have tasted ice cream after finishing their broccoli, good luck trying to get them to finish their plate without a reward at the end of the meal.

7. CRM is based on the Four Value States: Right Audience, Right Offer, Right Timing and Right Relationship. And there is a fifth dimension, too: Right Medium. Start with the assumption that not all your customers will respond to this channel. Your challenge is to NOT degrade the value of your brand relationship by sending volumes of messages through e-mail. Rather, identify the ones responding and put values on those. 8. E-mail is not just a marketing and sales tool. The practicality of e-mail marketing has shifted. Now we use e-mail to bridge the customer experience, and all touchpoints should leverage e-mail for as many integrated purposes as possible. We must find viable reasons to communicate through e-mail, including information, fulfillment, education, customer service, support, community, etc. E-mail is becoming more of a service vehicle than a pure marketing vehicle--think of the merging of the two.

9. Not all ISPs are the same. While three or four of them will make up the vast majority of your consumer e-mail database, they are not the same, so do not treat them as such. They all render e-mail differently, have different preview panes, image blocking rules, and spam reporting. Isolate your high-value and low-value customers by domain (AOL, MSN, Hotmail, and Yahoo) and you'll be amazed at what you learn about response by type of communication, timing and seasonality.

10. Don't believe the analysts. I say this in jest as I often quote them in presentations. But that's exactly where the statistics belong. Don't change your program based solely on someone else's numbers or reports. Your statistics are personal to your business--so only benchmark yourself.

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