Five tips on developing a customer-centric email strategy

3rd Aug 2012

Adopting a customer-centric approach to your email marketing strategy enagages multi-channel customers and urges them to take action, says eCircle's Simon Bowker. 

Today’s inbox is an incredibly crowded place so with this in mind, how can you be sure that your email is the one that is read and actioned? It’s not an easy task. People are no longer passive to marketing messages. Therefore your email campaign must be as relevant and targeted to the recipient as possible.

It is however, relatively easy to implement a solution to resolve this. If you map your email marketing strategy against a customers’ lifecycle, you can ensure your message meets a customers’ needs at a particular lifecycle stage. Ultimately, the customer should always be at the heart of your communication and marketing strategy, that’s rule number one. So make sure that your customer journey is made up of a number of individual programmes. 

But what do we mean when we talk about the customer lifecycle? Ultimately, its main purpose is to identify and define the various stages and key emotional trigger points a customer will experience during the customer journey. That starts at the point of consideration, through the sales process and onto using said products and the various impacts of doing so. Attached to this you also need to pinpoint the processes that you use to move your customer along through these stages to keep them engaged, maintain a positive relationship and in the long-term, secure repeat business and strong brand advocacy.

Engage and communicate across multiple channels 

Engaging your customers when they are most eager to hear from you is integral to any lifecycle marketing campaign. To do this, you need to map out key customer moments when people are likely to be the most receptive to receiving communications, of any kind, from your brand. So you need to approach segmentation with a step by step approach. Identify key customer segments that make the most sense for your product or service, define levels of engagement and develop a programme to engage these particular segments.

By opening communication with customers in their preferred channel, you efficiently strengthen the overall return from your campaigns and improve conversion rates. To combine various channels, you have to give people the freedom to use them naturally and then engage with them by offering information of real value, which is share-worthy. This can be done by integrating your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and so on) with your traditional email marketing tactics such as newsletters, in advanced marketing automation scenarios and all other forms of email marketing.  So don’t underestimate the benefits of adopting a customer-centric approach to your email marketing strategy, which puts the multi-channel customer at the heart of all communications.

Don’t view your customer as an email address

Email can be the centre of a complex web of dialogues that aim to generate marketing goals including lead nurturing, client acquisition, cross-selling/up-selling, customer retention and much more. But it’s important that you don’t consider your email marketing programmes as an isolated channel where people are only segmented by demographical data.Therefore don’t just look at your database as a long list of email addresses. You have to realise that your customers and prospective customers are people, especially in the multi-channel world. They all have their own personal preferences and attributes that make them individual.

This individuality is really important. Your prospects and customers are increasingly choosing what, where and how they inform themselves, communicate with and buy from brands. Therefore you have to make sure you collect as much information about these behaviours and social interactions as possible to enrich their profiles and in turn, your database, so you can offer content which perfectly matches these individual preferences/needs and improves your communication.

The relevancy of content is crucial

Multi-channel consumers are increasingly looking for relevant content and personalised offers. Therefore effective email marketing does not exist without content marketing. Content marketing is the use of content with the sole purpose of achieving sales and marketing objectives. But it has to have a clear focus on the prospect and the customer. The days of 'editorial' uniformity in email marketing are over, and that applies to both informative and promotional content. So when communicating with your customers make sure that the content you are communicating is relevant within the customer’s lifecycle and according to the contact point.

The relevance of the content for the email recipient is a much more important element now that they have the opportunity to share it over social networks. With the partnership of social and email channels, email marketing has evolved as the central part of dialogue with customers as part of the overall cross-channel communication. The Global Online Consumer Survey from Nielsen revealed that 90% of online consumers trust recommendations from people that they know, with a majority, 70%, also trusting opinions posted by unknown users. So increase your reach by sending consumers this targeted, relevant content to promote sharing of recommendations with their friends and followers.

Understand the importance of multi-channel

Just because these channels for communicating exist, it doesn’t mean that people will openly respond and interact with you. Seeing an interesting subject line and reading an email, even if no link is clicked, can lead to an action and thus generates interaction with the customer. You may find that customers will react to your brand message by posting on a blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed. So it’s vital that you monitor all these channels and make sure they are all fully integrated into your email marketing strategy. This will help you generate a constant flow of new information to and from your data systems (CRM, web analytics, social media, website, app).

Don’t underestimate the power of data

The content in your newsletters should be dynamic, to respond to individual preferences and user-generated where possible, containing effective social content such as blog posts and product reviews.

You need to make sure that you collect all behavioural data and feedback from the email recipient, (i.e. their digital signals), and integrate this insight into the customer journey in order to generate truly personalised customer communications.

Controlling the timing and content of the emails is increasingly placed in the hands of consumers and setting up scenarios and triggers depending on these needs becomes essential to retain customer engagement with your brand message.

Don’t overlook promotional emails either. In the multi-channel world they are growing in importance and email is becoming more important to communicate relevant content that will be shared between followers and friends. Promotions, discounts and special ‘deals’ are still the most important reasons why people start following brands on social media and even care to register for marketing programs. Modern day consumers forward on more promotional emails now than over past years. 

The significance of relevant, event-based and personalised content becomes more important in email marketing. Content is everything. But it’s essential that your content engages people and urges them to take action.

Simon Bowker is MD at email and digital marketing software firm eCircle UK

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