Pull the Trigger for Targeted Messages and Higher ROI

When do fewer emails mean higher ROI? When your emails are hyper-targeted and truly one-to-one. That doesn’t mean you need a huge team of people contacting customers one at a time, like the telemarketers of old.  It only requires you to tap into existing technology and know-how to make it happen.


I like to say “happy birthdays mean happy profits” because birthday emails are a perfect example of this concept. When someone subscribes to get your emails, you get their birth date along with the other data you gathered about them upon signup. That date goes into your system and on or near the customer’s birthday, depending on how you have it configured; an email is automatically triggered offering a birthday bonus of some kind, like a free ice cream cone if you work for a chain of sweet shops, or a free movie rental if you’re marketing your video stores.


These emails get a remarkably high response rate because they are so targeted…and therefore, welcome.


You’re not limited to birthday emails, however, nor are triggered emails only appropriate for B2C marketing. Triggered emails come in three types—recurring, transactional and threshold—and can be used in a variety of circumstances:

  • A recurring email can be a birthday email like we’ve described above, or could happen a certain period after a purchase, to remind a customer that it’s time to renew
  • A transactional email can be one email, like a follow up to a purchase or download, soliciting feedback, or even a drip campaign following a purchase, giving tips on how to use the product (and also up-selling)
  • As a threshold email can occur when a customer’s behavior has gotten to a certain point, say if they’ve purchased three songs from one album, you offer a discount on the album

In the past, marketers resisted moving from batch-and-blast to this kind of targeted, triggered approach because the cost seemed prohibitive. Between building the API and the software to handle the emails the technological cost made any chance of an ROI a slim one. Today, however, all top-tier ESPs and many secondary ones offer triggered messaging capabilities. That means you can make your email marketing program even more relevant without increasing your staff or IT costs.


Before we dive into the benefits and how-to’s of triggered emails, let’s review the terminology:

  • Triggered means triggered by an event: A trigger based message is one sent out in response to a certain action within an email or on a website
  • Targeted means segmented, with dynamic content, so different recipients get different email content and even colors and graphics
  • Drip marketing is a series of messages triggered by an event, such as a purchase or whitepaper download (also known as lifecycle messaging)

You’ll also need to define the event or events that trigger the website. The event might be a click on a website, time spent on a page with no shopping cart activity, a coupon download, or a link clicked in an email. Or, to return to our earlier example, it might be date driven like a birthday or anniversary.


One-to-one triggered emails have a much higher ROI so even though you’re sending out fewer emails, you’re making more money off the targeted ones. But what do you need to do to be set up for that kind of triggered email?


1.    An ESP or in-house solution that enables triggered messaging

2.    An API to automate the flow of data from your CRM or in-house database to your ESP or internal ESP

3.    A content library, so your system can take from it to place the appropriate message in each email


Also consider that these types of emails typically use a transactional delivery engine vs. a marketing delivery engine, i.e. point-to-point transmission vs. one-to-many broadcast.


The one caveat happens when you start to collect the data upon which to define your rules. Do not ask for too much. You can ask for up to four pieces of information upon sign up, but any more than that, and your abandonment rate will soar. Instead, be very clear what information you want to start out with and only ask for that (based on what you can really use). Then over time you can ask for more information, and append that information to that subscriber later.


The idea of this kind of targeted email marketing might be daunting, but it’s really not difficult given today’s technology and pre-existing services. As a result, your triggered email messaging can be as sophisticated as you want to make it, to get the most ROI from your highest value customers. For example, your system can score a customer based on behavior, such as purchasing a higher-priced item, and offer an exclusive and limited price on another item as a reward.


Marketers have to start automating their email campaigns based on customer behaviors, such as shopping cart abandonment. Companies who’ve done this have experienced higher click through rates and conversion rates, without increasing staff costs. Alternatively, automating email programs around customer behaviors with hyper-targeted messages will result in a higher email marketing ROI.


And it leads to a higher engagement index, which means more of your subscribers are engaging with your email, which in turn will give you a better standing in the eyes of the ISPs…which in turn will improve your email deliverability and get you into more inboxes…and so on and so on and so on.


Sounds pretty happy to me!

– Marco Mar
ClickMail Marketing