When consumers and business professionals worry about the economy, marketers find themselves squeezed. Such is the state of affairs these days as we head into the busy Q4/end of year/holiday season time.
Email can help if it’s used effectively as part of a subscriber loyalty and relationship effort. Sending more of the same old batch-and-blast promotions will only flood the inbox, depress your deliverability, destroy your brand trust, and annoy good customers who are worried about their own bank accounts. Resist the urge to think of email as “free”—it’s not free. It’s cost-effective, certainly, but a mindset that characterizes the channel as free quickly leads to over-mailing. What you want is less email—but messages that are more effective because they are more relevant.
Who wants to be reminded to spend, spend, spend when we are worried about our financial health? Instead, take an active interest in helping your subscribers, and make sure your content and contact strategies are aligned with what the subscriber needs, not what you have to sell.
In a recession, your best buyers and loyal clients are even more important. When customers are easily distracted by lower prices or free add-ons at the competitor, it’s even more important to make clear the benefits of staying with your brand. This does not mean offering more discounts, although that certainly can be an effective short-term strategy. Instead, expand your loyalty program and use email to provide both sizzle and steak. Replace just two of your generic, batch-and-blast messages this month with tailored messages around the benefits of sticking with your brand. Spend time on the subject lines and the copy (keep it brief) to make sure it resonates.
Then, deliver the benefits via email—a very efficient and effective way to connect. If you are ecommerce, add a Buying Guide or Gift Guide to the loyalty package. If you are B2B, invite your best customers to participate in online events and interactive networking—help them build their business and they will continue to support yours. Be sure to tap the next tier down of buyers and expand the reach of your program. Invite current members to bring a friend or colleague along, and reward them both.
Test these ideas with a control group this month. Segment a small portion of your file (maybe 5%) and send half as many promotional messages, but replace 25%-50% of them with relevant content, tips or interactive offers. See if revenue increases or decreases. Also watch deliverability, complaint rates and activity per subscriber. Let me know if you want help constructing the test and measuring results.
Use the results of all these ideas to make the case for stronger subscriber-centric approaches to email marketing. If email doesn’t contribute more now, then we can’t expect to remain at the center of the marketing mix, or budget.
—Stephanie Miller of Return Path