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Email: When Are the Best Times to Pull the Trigger?

November 28, 2012 By Anthony Wilkey
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Whether you're a mom-and-pop store on the corner or an international retail conglomerate, the old saying holds true: "People do business with the people they know, like and trust." Success is contingent on building relationships with your customers.

The larger your list, the more impossible the idea of sustaining one-to-one communications may seem. Fortunately, today's online relationship marketing technologies empower marketers with the ability to incorporate what they know about their customers with the capability to automate specific types of messages that are based on a customer action—a trigger.

As you'll see proven below, these automatic, behavior-based campaigns, (what we like to call "trigger campaigns") are incredibly effective. In fact, they actually reduce the time and effort required of your marketing team, while simultaneously building trust, increasing and sustaining engagement and creating new revenue opportunities. However, to do this, you must have some key pieces in place to experience success.

Common Triggers
According to the Direct Marketing Association's Email Experience Council, triggered email campaigns have 96 percent higher open rates and 125 percent higher clickthrough rates than other messages, yet they only comprised 2.8 percent of the total email volume measured in Q4 2011. The most common types are the "Welcome" email, sent immediately after the sign-up has been completed, and the "Thank you" email, sent when someone has made a purchase. If you've got one or both of those kinds of customer communications automated, you're off to a great start!

But there are so many more campaigns you can automate. There are other obvious choices like birthdays, anniversaries and abandoned shopping carts. But what are some lesser-recognized opportunities that organizations can take advantage of?

Product Lifecycle Emails
Implementing a lifecycle campaign is an incredibly powerful way to maximize cross-sell opportunities and strengthen the customer relationship, while using less of your valuable internal resources. Baby strollers and digital cameras may not seem to have anything in common, but they're both great examples of products whose purchase sets up a perfect scenario for a highly effective lifecycle email campaign.

"What is a lifecycle email campaign?" you might ask? A simple way to describe it is as one that is based on predictable future needs or desires, as indicated by a previous customer action. A triggered lifecycle campaign typically consists of scheduled emails distributed at defined intervals. These campaigns can also be based on certain behaviors or changes of status.

While lifecycle campaigns can run consistently for months at a time, the following is an example of an automated lifecycle campaign around the purchase of a digital camera:

  • One week after purchase: A thank you and simple check-in email can provide the customer with online documentation and support numbers they may need for their new camera.
  • One month after purchase: A triggered email to the client can express that you hope they're happy with their camera and that it is working well. A link to a survey about their new product could be included, and can also feature tips to help them get the most out of their new piece of equipment.
  • Two months after purchase: After you've started to build the relationship with the customer, you can follow up with upsell and cross-sell opportunities—you know what product(s) they have, so you can reasonably predict what other items they might need. For a digital camera, this could be a memory card, a carry case, a different lens, a special photo printer, photo paper or online storage.

With a highly sophisticated, data-driven program, you can make behavior-based adjustments and recommendations to each of these triggered emails; enabling marketers to develop more targeted messages to those who are highly engaged.

For those who do not easily engage, you can look at data to better understand their communication preferences—how they want to hear from you and what they want to hear from you about—and looking at those preferences, share offers, competitions, events, product information and other details that will effectively elicit a response.

Status Change Triggers
Another valuable, yet often overlooked opportunity to reach out to your customer base revolves around changes in their status. This change could simply be one that indicates they have become even more engaged with your brand—for example, if they clicked on the "follow us on Twitter" link in an email—or based on a reduction in engagement—like a marked decrease in the number of emails the customer has opened recently.

A trigger based on these types of behaviors is a great tactic for relationship building and subscriber retention. It provides a clear indication to your customer that you are listening, you care, and you respect them and their preferences—all of which engender trust. As these are automated campaigns, they can be developed easily, based on what you know about your customer and creatively crafted without taxing your marketing team.

Threshold Triggers
There is a vast array of incredibly valuable information that you know about your customer that goes beyond open rates, clickthrough rates and forwards. Threshold triggers, or those based on certain levels the customer has achieved, may require deeper digging. But the rewards can be phenomenal.

For example, if you have information about how much money customers spend, it is possible to create a trigger campaign around those monetary values. Knowing which subscribers frequently share your messages could set off an engagement-based trigger.

Trigger campaigns can be built around the number of purchases, membership types or loyalty measurements. In any of these cases, the subscriber can be sent an automatic, yet highly personalized message thanking them for their business and even offering some sort of reward. This simple action can have a very powerful effect in strengthening your customer relationships.

In today's difficult economic environment, every customer matters. According to Adobe's 2012 report, "The ROI from Marketing to Existing Online Customers," 40 percent of revenue comes from returning or repeat purchasers, who represent only 8 percent of all visitors. And these repeat purchasers account for even more revenue during the holiday season and times of slow economic growth.  

Setting up trigger campaigns is an effective way to help achieve your marketing goals. But while the campaigns may enable you to "set it and forget it," there are a few points that you should always keep in mind:

  • Craft campaigns around specific goals: When looking to increase sales, focus more on up and cross-sell messages. If it's list growth and retention, then focus more on engagement-based messages.
  • Monitor your KPIs: Make sure that these great conversations are actually meeting goals to assure you're allocating your resources properly
  • Keep consistency and frequency in mind: When properly executed, trigger campaigns should seem natural and conversational. For example, if a customer becomes used to being addressed in your messages by his first name receives an email addressed to "Sir," that break in consistency can potentially damage the trust you've worked so hard to build up with him.
  • Make sure all of your data is integrated and up to date: When you commit to building a relationship with your customer through a series of personalized, behavior-based trigger messages, you need to make sure that the data is up to date. If customers suddenly receive something incorrect or generic, it can significantly undermine the trust you've worked so hard to build which will take time and effort to repair.

And last, but certainly not least, although trigger campaigns run automatically, make sure to monitor and analyze their performance regularly. These time-saving campaigns have the ability to make a huge impact on your customers. When done well, they will strengthen your relationship and create happy online brand ambassadors.

Anthony Wilkey is a strategic client director at London-based on-demand email and social marketing software provider Emailvision. Reach him at awilkey@emailvision.com.
 

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