I have two young daughters at home who love to play with blocks. My four-year-old has learned the art of the pyramid. She knows that if she builds a strong foundation, she can add blocks to her tower and make it taller and taller. My one-year-old has not yet learned this lesson. She’ll try and stack block after block onto each other without any sort of stable beginning. She tries and she tries, but her towers continually fall down.
I was watching this phenomenon play out the other day and realized that the same is true for email marketing. Without a good foundation and a strong plan, your program will fall apart no matter how hard you try. One of the key components to a strong foundation is building a sound contact plan.
When building your contact plan, think strategically before you begin. Ask yourself: Who are you customers and what do they value? How can email support this? And what makes this channel unique from my other online and offline touchpoints? Then think about how your customers buy. What does their consideration cycle look like? What information do they need along the way to make decisions and ultimately act?
Once you’ve answered these questions. you can start constructing your plan.
Components of a contact plan may include:
Promotional Calendar. Depending on your business, a promotional calendar may be one of the key drivers to your contact plan. The times when you should promote different products and services will be driven by this calendar and your overall goals and objectives. This should be the backbone to your plan. From there you want to think of the customer lifecycle and where people are within it.
Welcome. A welcome email should come immediately after sign-up. It’s important to capitalize on a user’s attention, and there is no better time to do that than the present. Your welcome email should thank users for opting in, explain what they can expect from your email program and get them excited to receive the next one. Some advertisers find that asking additional profile questions during this time is helpful -- “tell us about yourself,” etc. This is something you should test to determine its viability in your program.
Cultivation. Once you’ve welcomed a user into your program, it’s time to start cultivating the relationship. During this time you may find that increased frequency makes sense as new users are usually the most receptive to your messages. You can also encourage conversion during this time.
Active Communications. Once someone is through the cultivation period they fall into the realm of active communications. This is where you can execute all of the email best practices that you know so well -- including personalization, segmentation, customization, and so on. The key is to keep track of users’ interactions with your messages so that you know if someone should fall out of the standard messaging stream.
Lapsed. A specific plan of contact for lapsed users is also an important part of any program you construct. There are the obvious lapsers, those who have not purchased from you in some time; but there is another group of lapsers -- those who have not interacted with your communications in a defined period of time. It’s important to develop specific plans to reengage both users in your messages, your brand, and ultimately the purchase process again .
Relationship Builders/Loyalty. Specific communications to your best customers are critical, as these folks can be your best advocates and word-of-mouth salespeople. Thank them for their patronage at certain times in their lifecycle and/or when they hit specific milestones with your company.
Once you’ve constructed your contact plan, think about how creative, personalization, segmentation and testing will support this. How will creative support your strategies while reinforcing the brand, voice and personality? How can you track your strategy to prove its viability or lack thereof? Most important, what is the overall customer experience going to be, and is this consistent with your goals and objectives?
With a bit of forethought and a sensible plan, these tips should provide much of the foundation on which to build your tower. Now comes the fun part -- adding on the building blocks. Happy building.