Remember to Pull the E-mail Trigger!
One powerful aspect of e-mail marketing is the ability to create a real-time dialog with your customers based on what they do on your site or how they interact with your e-mails. This is known as event-triggered marketing, and it should be a part of your e-mail arsenal.
Traditional e-mail messages are sent on a pre-scheduled basis. But, the ability to send personalized, relevant e-mail messages when different events happen can be key to timely customer communications. With triggered e-mail, you can create messages that are sent to individual users based on an event (the trigger) occurring. Messages can be triggered based upon customer actions or a change in requested information.
The beauty of this type of e-mail marketing is that it's automated. You create the "rules" for which e-mails will be delivered based on certain customer actions. You load your messages into the message content manager of your e-mail deployment system. Then when the condition occurs, the appropriate e-mail is automatically sent. Your customer receives a timely communication, and the speed of your responsiveness can drive instant customer response. And, once you take the time to create a triggered e-mail system, it's in place for all subsequent activity. You may want to refine messages and refresh content, but it will continue to serve your marketing communications well.
In its simplest execution, triggered e-mails are used for:
>welcome or confirmation messages.
>reminder messages about birthdays, anniversaries or gift-giving holidays; or a subscription renewal reminder series.
>order confirmation messages or updates on order progress.
>alerts of changes in certain market conditions (there are many applications here including financial services, travel and weather).
>password or change of address confirmations.
When I sign up for e-mail promotions from my favorite direct marketers, the experience is enhanced when I immediately receive a welcome message. This responsiveness creates an instant feeling that the marketer cares about my business. And, I like knowing when my order has been shipped and that I can follow the progress of the delivery by clicking on a link. I also appreciate reminders that travel fares to my favorite cities are now on sale or that I just might want to consider selling or buying that particular stock on my "watch" list.
Let's look at a couple examples of how leading companies are using this technique.
FTD.com offers e-mail alerts for those who would like to be reminded of key gift-giving occasions. Sixty percent of its online customers have signed up for its alert service, so this certainly makes good business sense for the dot-com. One of the keys to success with an e-mail reminder system is not to overwhelm the customer with a reminder form that requires the customer to fill in a long list of dates. Instead, FTD.com takes an incremental approach offering a pop-up window, for example, with a Mother's Day purchase asking if the customer wants to subscribe to a reminder for his mother's birthday.
Care2.com is an environmental site for those concerned about healthy living and a healthy planet. In addition to offering selected e-mail newsletters, visitors can sign up to receive alerts and select only those topics that are of interest to them (e.g., human rights, the environment or health issues). Members will only be sent e-mails when something important happens that they need to be aware of. Care2.com has found that alert offers work particularly well for those who don't want the commitment of a regular newsletter.
Remember that one-time alert, welcome or confirmation messages should be sent out as close to the customer action or event as possible to increase the value of the message and to cement the relationship.
Beyond the Basics
You can also apply advanced triggered e-mail marketing techniques. The winning combination is to automate messaging and tie it directly to a customer's profile. Triggered messaging based on a customer's profile or action will make your e-mail communications program more effective, more cost efficient, and will improve your ROI.
Some advanced triggered e-mail examples are:
>sequenced messages delivered over a specified time period to introduce a new customer to various aspects of a product or service—whether you're nurturing a sales lead or converting a "trial" to a buyer.
>messages based on each recipient's response or non-response to a campaign.
>an automated response to a particular type of inbound message from your customer.
One example of a company that's using advanced triggered messaging is FirstPlace Software that sells search engine placement software to the small business marketplace. FirstPlace offers a 30-day free trial of its Web Position Gold software. It uses three time-triggered messages to convert trials into buyers. The first e-mail is sent within a few hours of download to welcome the customer and provide tips on how to use the program. The second e-mail is sent four to five days into the trial and extends a special offer if the customer purchases right away. The third e-mail is sent midway through the trial to remind the customer the offer will soon expire. Each e-mail is personalized with customer name, expiration date, a specific sales representative to contact, and the rep's phone number. Of course, if a business purchases the software early in the communications stream, it doesn't receive any of the additional e-mails. The program is a major contributor to sales.
You'll note that FirstPlace staggers the delivery of its triggered messages. Sequenced trigger messages should be properly timed, and each message should have a particular purpose in stimulating customer involvement. Generally, you want to have an interval between messages. Allow several days to pass before you send the next staged message.
Think about integrating e-mail triggers into your marketing strategy. You'll deliver product offerings and timely content when it is most relevant to the customer.