Marketers have traditionally leaned on email to build and monetize customer relationships rather than for acquisition or head-to-head competitive campaigns. But that's changing. Email data analysis is helping marketers understand more about who their customers are, where to find more people like them and how to win their attention back from competing offers.
Here are three examples of how global marketers are using subscriber data today to grow their audiences and revenues:
1. Finding the Right Place to Campaign
Until recently, it took extensive research and testing to make sure customer recruitment efforts were reaching potential buyers and not falling on deaf ears. Now marketers study overlap data—comparisons of other email programs their customers subscribe to—in order to see where else they spend their time.
In a recent Return Path study, we looked into which political party was more present on each of the major social channels and gaming platforms and found that Democrats gravitated toward LinkedIn (for example) to a far greater degree than Republicans. From a marketing point of view, that knowledge could give Democrats confidence in using LinkedIn to speak to sympathetic ears. Exactly the same exercise can uncover concentrations of your subscribers on social media platforms, news outlets, and entertainment sites, giving you confidence that you can efficiently reach sympathetic audiences—and recruit new customers—in those places.
2. Finding the Right Running Mate
In addition to learning which informational or entertainment brands your subscribers prefer, you can use the same analysis to look into which other brands you share customers with—and not necessarily competing brands. This can be a great way to find a co-marketing partnership. One of the most well known (and well-done) partnerships is between Barnes & Noble and Starbucks. Booklovers who enjoy getting lost in a book, but not going hours without caffeine, can hang out in the Barnes & Noble Cafe and grab a Starbucks latte. Alternatively, coffee lovers in the market for a new read can go there to pick up a Frappuccino and peruse best sellers.
These two retailers have created a symbiotic partnership that enables both to acquire new customers. This is a grand example. Brands that find high concentrations of Starbucks customers among their email subscribers can start small by offering free coffee as promotional gifts.
3. Winning the Undecided Vote
The same overlap analysis that uncovers great media and partnership opportunities will inevitably reveal not all of your customers are loyalists. Some have a foot in both camps, receiving and reading messages from your direct competitors. Just as you tailor content to subscriber segments based on the preferences they selected when they signed up, you should segment your loyal customers from your "undecideds."
Further analysis of overlapping segments can show you which marketer wins more attention, which offers get subscribers to cross party lines, and what content (yours or theirs) resonates with your shared audience. Winning the hearts, minds and ultimately, orders from these subscribers is more than a competitive exercise—crafting an email program that earns their loyalty strengthens customer relationships and boosts your email marketing performance overall.
Tom Sather is Return Path’s senior director of email research. Tom uses his knowledge of ISPs, spam filters and deliverability rules to advise marketers on how to get their email delivered to the inbox. He began his Return Path career as an email deliverability consultant working with top-brand clients like eBay, MySpace, IBM and Twitter. Tom’s previous experience includes roles with email service provider Experian and on the abuse desks for AOL, Bellsouth, AT&T and GTE.