Now that email marketing has been around for years, every retailer has an email marketing program. But, each program is at a different level of sophistication.
The Evolution Of An Email Marketing Program
Do you ever wonder where your program ranks compared to others? Need helping mapping out where to go from where you are?
I find the crawl, walk, run metaphor resonates with most marketers; and, I’ve added PR after run. As a runner myself, this is reality. Many times after finishing a race, you will hear a runner say, “I’m never doing that again!” But after just a few days, the runner is already planning her/his next race.
Getting to the finish is hard, and at times may not seem worth it; but in the end, you can recognize your achievements and realize you can push yourself to be better, both as a runner and as an email marketer.
If you have just started your email marketing program or haven’t made many innovations to your program since its inception, you may be in the crawl phase. During this iteration of your program, you should at least have a consistent sending schedule and content plan. However, you are sending the same message to everyone on your list, otherwise known as “batch and blast.”
Hopefully, you have tracking reports to view delivered, opens, clicks and conversions. Unfortunately I have seen retailers who still don’t have this information readily available. This data is required to understand the value of your program.
Sometimes, this limitation is created by having your email program sent through a custom in-house tool and servers. If so, it’s time to upgrade to an email service provider (ESP). This can be a chicken and egg scenario where it can be hard to prove the worth of your program without the reports you’d get from an ESP; but, you can’t get an ESP until you can prove the value of the program.
One thing is certain if you are not sending from a reputable ESP: your deliverability is not as good as you think it is.
At the walk stage, you may not be sending the same email to everyone on your list, but you are creating disparate different emails for different segments. Your segments may be based on profile data you have collected through a subscription center.
In addition to planned promotional emails, you should have several triggers set up, such as a welcome email, a static abandoned shopping cart campaign, and a rating and review request. In addition to a planned content and promotional calendar, you should have an A/B testing plan, which also includes tracking results.
Because acquisition is such a key component of a good email marketing program, at this stage I believe you should be tracking subscriber by source. Through this, you can evaluate your reporting to set benchmarks, determine which subscribers perform better and optimize your existing acquisition points.
Finally, your Web analytics should be integrated with your email program. This means tagging the links in your emails to allow for effective reporting, not only through your ESP, but also through your Web analytics tool, whether that is Google Analytics, Omniture, Core Metrics, or Web Trends, etc.
I’m surprised at how many retailers are still in this stage of the progression of their email program. So, you’re not alone, but it’s time to get serious. Your competition is looking at you in the rear-view mirror.
New runners often start out training with a run-walk method, whereby you run for several minutes for a specified distance and then walk for a shorter period of time, continuing to alternate running with walking. Many marketers find their email programs undergoing this training regimen, as well, exhibiting traits of a program in both the walk and run stages. If you find your program fits these criteria, simply focus on making the full migration to the run stage.
In this stage, ideally, you are leveraging dynamic content in a single email to populate different messages to different subscribers, rather than creating multiple emails. Sometimes, the biggest challenge to achieving this actually lies in the reporting, not the creation of the email. You will need to work with either your ESP or your Web analytics team to gain the insights you need to evaluate the dynamic campaigns.
Segmentation moves beyond profile attributes (gender, state, etc.) to be more behavior-based. For example, this includes messaging differently to subscribers that have just recently signed up, subscribers that have signed up but never purchased, subscribers who have purchased only once, subscribers that have become unengaged, and your best customers.
To know who your best customers are, you will need to perform some analysis, such as RFM scoring. These insights also allow you to refine your acquisition strategies to gain more subscribers that look like your best customers.
Your triggered programs should be expanded. Your welcome program should be a series of emails, your abandoned cart program should dynamically include the products abandoned, and also be multiple emails in a series. You should also have a post-purchase follow up campaign.
Data integrations are critical at this point, both to implement the triggers and to create the behavior-based segmentation. In addition to your Web analytics, your ESP should be integrated with your CRM platform and e-commerce platform, allowing you to deploy all transactional emails from your ESP, including marketing messages alongside the order details.
Once you’ve started running and finished a race, you’ve established a personal record (PR). Beyond running, your goal is to continue to train, to perhaps run a longer distance, or run a faster time (beat your PR). It becomes about optimization, continually challenging yourself and setting new goals, pushing yourself to be better.
At this point, it may mean data modeling for segmentation and scripting in emails to accommodate hundreds of variations. Email doesn’t function alone. Multi-channel integration is key to identifying the single-view of your customer, to know on a subscriber-level basis when an email should be triggered vs. a text message. It also allows you to calculate the value of a subscriber alone, vs. the value of a subscriber also being a Facebook fan and Twitter follower, or engaged in text messages.
Your attribution reporting becomes more than just last click, taking into account retargeting ads, affiliate programs, PPC, in-store experiences and more. You may have email messages integrated with your loyalty program that rewards customers for all of their experiences, or have a dedicated credit card program with triggered email and SMS alerts for payment due notices or credit line increases.
The sophistication of your email marketing program at this point is only limited by the data you have access to. It also requires working tightly with others in the organization to create a true omni-channel experience for the customer. This means putting the customer first, and being customer-centric in decisions for the marketing program.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.