Thinking Outside The Inbox

Far too often, email is seen as a quick and easy marketing tactic: you get a contact list, send a monthly newsletter and hope that some of your recipients will buy from you.

Sometimes this process can be spiced up a bit with things like auto-responders, seasonal campaigns or even integration with transactional messages, but for many companies that’s about as advanced as they will ever go.

This is a real shame as it completely undervalues the role that an email marketing strategy can play. It’s time to think outside the inbox!

Here at dotDigital Group (dotMailer’s parent company) we are lucky in that we work side by side with colleagues in our digital marketing agency dotAgency. Skip Fidura, dotAgency’s MD (and a pretty experienced email marketer himself), and his team of professional consultants regularly provide dotDigital clients with useful insights into how they can professionally and profitably integrate all aspects of digital marketing. And, more often than not, email lies at the very heart of this strategy.

I thought it might be interesting to give you a flavour of some of the areas that are covered off by Skip and his team when they embark on an email marketing consultancy session.

This post is a fairly top level overview, but I hope to follow this up with more in-depth posts on each section in due course:

1. Data

Data really does lie at the heart of everything you do from an email marketing perspective. Looking at your email acquisition and data capture strategy will help you identify whether you are collecting enough data, the right sort of data and also whether you are missing out on ways to improve the data capture process.

Is a single sign-up form on your homepage really enough? Are you collecting data that is relevant to your recipients needs and that allows you to send timely, relevant messages?

There’s no point collecting everything under the sun if its just going to make the sign-up form overly complicated and dissuade people from signing up. All the data you collect should be usable in some form and add value to your email strategy. Indeed, not only is this bad for the user experience, it is also illegal to collect data you don’t intend to use.

2. Segmentation

This seamlessly leads us onto segmentation. Sending one newsletter a month might generate you a comfortable return on investment, but spending a bit more time targeting your recipients with information that is relevant to them will increase your long-term customer retention and lead to more referrals.

The main challenge with segmentation is identifying the best segments to create and send to. The best advice is to start simply: ask the right questions during sign-up that allow you to prioritise your segmentation efforts. For example, if I’m a fashion retailer, it will be really important that I know the gender of the person signing up. If I’m a travel company, I will need to know the recipient’s favourite destination.

Once you start sending, you can gradually collect more data based on recipient behaviour. You can also use the data that you collect directly from them as the relationship develops. This could include transactional data, for example.

3. Content

Once you’re collecting the right data and you’re sending emails to specific data segments, the next thing to look at is the content of the email itself.

The secret here is to test! Don’t just stick with the same subject line you use every time, mix it up by split testing different lines and see what works best. You can also test the actual content of the email too. Try including ‘you may be interested in’ sections in your emails and experiment with personalised content.

Whenever you test different components, monitor the results to see whether the changes are having an effect, positive or negative.

4. Integration

The last area we always focus on is integration. Email is a great tool and works well on its own, but it is even more powerful when you integrate it with other elements of your marketing. Here are some great examples of how you could integrate your email marketing:

1. Purchase confirmations – rather than a simple plain-text confirmation email, why not send a personalised, branded confirmation? You could also include cross-sell promotions based on the product the customer has purchased.

2. Social media integration – always include links to your social networks on your newsletters, allowing your customers to follow you via social media but, on the flip side, make sure recipients can also share your newsletters on social networks too. Your customers will have relationships with likeminded people on social networks, so why not get them to help you do your marketing for you?

3. SMS / shop front integration – do you have a shop front with high volume footfall? Make sure you don’t miss out on data collection opportunities by using ‘text your email address to this number and we’ll get in touch with our latest offers’ signs to encourage sign-ups by SMS.

These steps are really only the tip of the iceberg, but will hopefully give you a glimpse into some of the strategy work we do with clients. Advanced email marketing shouldn’t be limited to large organisations sending millions of emails a month.

The more focus you put into ‘narrow casting’ your email campaigns, the better the response you’ll get from email marketing.

If you’d be interested in speaking to the dotAgency guys about some email marketing consultancy, visit our consultancy pages or call for more information on 0845 337 9170.

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