Sell After the Sale
By Ken Burke
E-mail is a great sales tool, but it lacks precision. With the same message going out to large groups of customers at the same time, it can be impossible to cater to individual customers' constantly changing interests in a timely and relevant way.
Event-based marketing applies a technological answer to this very human situation. It enables you to automatically send focused e-mail messages at the specific time you choose. Event-based marketing systems help you capitalize on recent transactions and Web site activity to:
>encourage repeat visits and repeat purchases;
>place your brand, products and messaging at the center of your customer's attention, even when they are not browsing your site; and
>strengthen customer satisfaction and the overall relationship.
This can lead to increased customer loyalty, more frequent purchasing, increased customer lifetime value, and improved sales overall because customers will perceive higher value in your Web site and the service you offer. Your job is to decide what to say and when to say it.
It's All About Timing
An event-based marketing system monitors your Web site for specific customer activities. These activities trigger the system to send pre-formulated e-mail messages at designated times. You can automatically respond to any online activity with relevant information and offers that encourage another purchase or support the initial transaction.
Your responses should always pertain to a specific action the customer has already taken. They should be sent long enough after the action occurs so your customer does not feel pressured, but soon enough so the event is still fresh in his or her mind. This virtually guarantees that your offers will be of interest. Events that can trigger an event-based marketing response may include:
>purchase of a specific product;
>arrival at a preset spending threshold;
>requesting a newsletter;
>a period of increased activity;
>a period of inactivity; or
>filling out an online survey.
Because of its focus on timing, event-based marketing excels at promoting:
>products that need to be replaced often, such as cosmetics, food and beverages, and consumable industrial supplies;
>items you would specify as a cross-sell, such as a belt or shoes to go with a suit;
>new products in some way related to the product purchased; and
>services such as extended warranties or replenishment agreements.
Create a Tailored Response
Your e-mailed responses can take many forms, including:
>an electronic coupon;
>special marketing messaging offering relevant products or services;
>announcements of sales or promotions;
>articles or other non-product-specific content; and
>thank-you messaging, registration confirmation or product warranty information.
Start with simple scenarios and simple offers. Consider the following examples:
No. 1 During an online campaign to boost sales of electronic equipment, a customer buys a DVD player, but does not buy the matching speakers. Thirty days after the purchase, your system automatically e-mails a promotional message about the speakers. The assumption is that after a month the customer is pleased with his or her purchase and will wish to expand on it with improved peripheral equipment.
No. 2 A customer buys $500 worth of goods over a specified time. After a predetermined period of subsequent inactivity, your system automatically sends an e-mail thanking the customer for his or her continued business, along with an electronic coupon for a discount on anything on your Web site.
No. 3 A customer registers online and indicates an interest in outdoor activities. Your system immediately sends an e-mail thanking the customer for registering. It includes a pertinent sample article from your online content section and a list of links to online materials about hiking, bicycling, boating and so forth.
Use Content to Sell
By carefully stocking your site with well-written information, you can build up your reputation as a trustworthy source. Many people will come for the reading and stay for the shopping.
Use this to your advantage after the sale in conjunction with event-based marketing. Systematically feed your customers a stream of valuable content that supports their previous purchases and entices them to make more. For instance, let's assume you are selling cosmetics. You want a campaign that will encourage lower-value customers to increase the size and frequency of their orders.
Here is a possible sequence of events:
1. Someone makes a purchase of two items for a total sale of less than $20.
2. Your system immediately triggers an e-mail to the customer with tips on getting the most out of your products, along with a list of links to beauty tips on your site.
3. Three weeks after the sale, your system e-mails a survey that asks what the customer's primary beauty concerns are. She indicates a problem with dry skin.
4. Your customer has responded to either or both of the previous e-mails, triggering an e-mail a month later with a new article about diet and how it can affect different skin types.
5. She buys two more products through links in your e-mails. Your system responds 45 days after the latest transaction with a discounted offer for your "spa-in-a-box" collection. She buys it.
6. Ninety days after the purchase, your system begins sending announcements for replacements of the individual items in the spa-in-a-box, as well as monthly beauty and health tips, along with links to content.
Source Codes and Value
The possibilities for event-based marketing are unlimited. Decide where you want to focus your efforts and organize your responses into campaigns that help you meet your goals.
Source codes are a key element of event-based marketing. All your offers should include source codes so you can track their success and identify which customers respond to your offers.
Always keep in mind that your main goal is to build value in your Web site. The key is the orchestration of good content, appropriate offers and timely delivery. Make customers want to come back.
KEN BURKE is president and CEO of Multimedia Live, an e-commerce technology and development company based in Petaluma, CA. He can be reached at (707) 773-3434 or by e-mail at email@example.com.