If you look back at the last few decades, there have been a lot of changes in marketing. Once upon a time it was all about shouting your message at an audience of customers, a phenomenon known as mass marketing. Then communication became a bit more sophisticated, with direct marketing addressing customers as many little audiences. Now the landscape has shifted again. Customers and prospects have gained the control and marketers are becoming the audience. For savvy marketers looking to transition from talking to listening and better engage their audience in this new landscape, the answer is simple: data.
So how should businesses manage customer data collection and extend its application? It is no longer enough to simply use web forms to capture information and basic metrics such as clicks, open rates and delivery rates as measurements. Technology allows far more sophistication than this and those in digital marketing should be making the most of it. The three key data areas are preparation, collection and usage – perfect these and email marketing will be a highly effective sales and ROI driver.
Before diving in to the data utilisation and acquisition process, it is always best practice to conduct a little housekeeping and make sure you’ve got solid foundations to build on. Clean and efficient data is the starting block for a successful email campaign. So how is this achieved?
1. Data Cleansing
This involves the refining and standardisation of data fields. Data inconsistencies and multiple values results in misleading data and so must be weeded out. Run a report to show the different values in your set fields and decide on the definitive values to be used moving forwards. These can then inform future forms and questionnaires which should have set responses and not allow for user error.
2. Data Sharing
Linking a company’s sales and marketing elements allows for data sharing between the departments. As data and customer lists are passed back and forth, each department learns more about their contact and customer list. This will lead to optimised content and improved communications for the customer as each department can further target their lists with more highly personalised and informed content.
As competition within the inbox grows increasingly fierce, the companies that rise to the top will be those whose customers and prospects actually anticipate and look forward to receiving their messages. This process starts with listening to your audience in four ways:
1. Preference centres
Your preference centre should allow contacts to easily change their personal interests and list preferences as well as offer a simple way to change their email address. In addition, it should enable them to alter the channels through which you talk to them (email, text, Twitter, etc.) and the frequency with which you communicate with them. Also, you should give customers the option of temporarily pausing their subscription. By doing so you will help avoid them opting out entirely, as many users often just want a break from messaging, not an end to it.
2. High quality questionnaires
Marketers can now set up surveys that move respondents through different question paths based on their answers to previous questions. This enables questions to be tailored to specific customers, providing highly personalised data and preferences, which in turn helps inform more targeted communications. This should help ensure the customer-business dialogue becomes far more successful, enhancing the chance of converting leads to sales.
3. Social Sign-in
Three out of four people get frustrated with online registration forms and user accounts (Blue Research/JanRain, Consumer Survey, Dec. ‘10), so allow prospects to sign-in to communications with their social network accounts. As well as helping the consumer, marketers also gain insight through social media profiles, providing them with valuable information which can be used for highly personalised messaging, while bypassing the annoyance of form filling.
4. Offline data collection
Despite the ample opportunities the Internet provides for data collection, face to face data collection should never be seen by digital marketers as a second rate option. Trade shows and retail outlets are increasingly using tablets to provide additional help and information to customers and this is a great chance to collect data on that consumer. These interactions provide lasting impressions, and should be used to collect email addresses, preferences and other important communication details.
With recipient tolerance for generic, irrelevant content at an all-time low, cutting through the clutter to speak to customers and prospects on a 1:1 level has become more important than ever. Fortunately, sophisticated marketing automation platforms provide a way for marketers to harness the detailed customer and prospect data they’ve collected and use it to respond with timely, relevant and personalised messages. These three top tips will help any business create a truly engaging email campaign.
1. Triggered messages
To be successful today, marketers must move away from an exclusive “batch-and-blast” approach and toward using triggers to determine when someone should receive an email and what it should say. From review requests to up-sell recommendations, triggered messages are sent to follow up specific actions by a customer and typically deliver high ROI despite their relatively low volume.
2. Dynamic Content
Dynamic content enables you to automatically replace entire sections of your messages based on each recipient’s unique requirements, interests and needs. It works in conjunction with triggered emails and allows marketers to send more relevant messages, which ultimately leads to better responses as well as improved customer relationships and loyalty. Not only does this kind of dynamic content increase relevance, but it’s also highly automated, producing substantial cost savings.
3. ‘If-then’ messaging
Campaigns that are reactive to a customer’s actions can help drive engagement to higher levels. For example, if one customer opens an email while one doesn’t, each requires a different follow up approach. ‘If-then’ messaging allows a campaign to send a relevant message to each and every user based on their previous actions. When used in conjunction with dynamic content it creates far greater personalisation than blanket messaging.
The opportunities for marketers to turn prospects into active customers continue to grow, but businesses must make a concerted effort to improve their data collection and usage if rewards are to be gained. The expectation of customers on businesses to produce high quality, personalised content has never been higher and it is up to the industry to meet and exceed these expectations.