Monday, August 13, 2012

Marketers - Stop Spamming Your Customers!

Spam is more than a problem: it weakens the bond between you and your high value customers. When I conducted marketing survey for a class project at Northwestern University, I have heard a lot of complaints from customers. Every day people's email boxes are filled with at least 10 unsolicited, random, and irrelevant messages from sloppy email marketers. Obviously, opening email box in the morning has already become a headache for our customers. I know none of us want this to continue, we need to stop it.
According to DJ Waldow and Jason Falls' book The Rebel's Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win, the era of email marketing has changed. The breezy “one-size-fits-all” way doesn’t apply any more. To get breakthrough results, marketers need to align every facet of the email campaign with the target market. Focus is not only on the contents, but also on the names, subject lines, calls to action, social network integration…everything! According to Waldow and Falls, great companies could achieve breakthrough results by “breaking all the rules”. Using real case studies, they demonstrate how companies can make the right decisions about different email attributes and optimize every component of an email marketing message.

Here are the four items that a good email marketer should consider:

1. Get Permission

Without permission you not only risk losing customer goodwill but also could end up blacklisted by ISPs that refuse all mail coming from your domain. Permission is not difficult to get. Offer something of value (eg. a coupon or promise of special discounts, a whitepaper or informational newsletter) in exchange for the customer agreeing to receive your messages.

2. Work with a Clean, Targeted Database

Work with the cleanest permission-based list you can find that is targeted to your industry and your offering. Do some research to ensure they will reach your targeted demographic and the lists are maintained. For instance, allows its members to send broadcast emails to its database of some 50,000 targeted subscribers and members have the opportunity of selecting subsets of addresses categorized by insurance type such as commercial, health, life, and auto.

3. Let Readers Drive Design

A well-crafted newsletter should be more than just a summary of your resume or company history. Personalizing the contents and adopting an intriguing subject line can make a big difference. Many companies offer both plain and rich text email editions, giving customers the option of registering for the html edition on their Web sites. In those editions, design becomes especially important.

4. Have an Exit Strategy

People who gave you their email address did so because they wanted to hear from you. But that can change and often does. Always add a link to unsubscribe to the email. You should always let your customers know you are always their ally but not their headache when they open their mail box every day.

After all, email marketing is about what works best for your audience. Sometimes it’s necessary to break the rules and test to better engage your customers. It all starts from developing a thorough understanding about their demands and customizing the email contents toward that demand.

Qing “Sunny” Tian is studying Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern's Medill School. Her concentrations are Direct & Interactive Marketing and Marketing Analytics. She has marketing experiences with Fortune 500 Companies in finance, consumer packaged goods, and automotive industries. Follow her @SunnyTian and connect with her on LinkedIn: Qing Tian.

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