Create more targeted campaigns with behavioral data collected via the e-mail process
There is tremendous value to be gained from understanding who your customers are and how they behave. Once you identify your customers’ interests, you have the opportunity to respond with highly targeted and effective advertising. Does the data your company gathers provide you with actionable information to improve campaign performance? Are you collecting, storing and analyzing the metrics that can help your organization create meaningful custom segments to better target your campaigns? If you’re not pursuing this course of action, why not?
In an age when people’s e-mail inboxes increasingly are bombarded with pitches for pills and teeth whitener, we all are becoming pickier about what e-mails we will open and respond to. A February 2004 study by Yankelovich Partners found that 59 percent of customers “feel that most marketing and advertising has very little relevance to them.”
Even with the abundance of spam, the e-mail marketing channel continues to be the most cost-effective method of reaching a large constituency of customers. Getting your message read amid the clutter is difficult but achievable. The key is to use the data you have on your customers to make your messages more relevant. When done right, an in-house database is the foundation of your e-mail marketing success. It lets you identify customer interests, use their feedback to fine-tune offers and analyze behavior for maximum campaign results.
If segmentation and targeting are so critical to increase response rates, why have most companies failed to implement target marketing strategies? Perhaps it is because they have fallen under the misconception that it takes an expensive CRM system or fancy analytical tools to make it happen. On the contrary, some simple data collection methods can be utilized to enable customer segmentation and improve response rates on almost any direct marketing campaign.
Making Sense of the Data You Have
Just collecting user data is not enough; the core challenge is to collect the right data and to make sense of what you have. To begin, decide what is worth keeping for usage and what is not worth storing. This often can be the point where most marketers stumble and why many companies have failed to implement successful target marketing strategies.
The downfall of collecting too much or the wrong data is that instead of efficient and effective targeting, you end up overwhelmed and lost in your own data mine. The goal should be to collect only data that will allow you to create specific, targetable audience segments that are defined by customer behaviors and are in alignment with marketing goals.
Start by asking customers to explicitly tell you about themselves so you can make the messages you send them more relevant. If you take this approach, make sure you are ready to use information from customers before you ask for it. If not, you run the risk of losing customers’ trust by not applying the information you have given them to create a more personalized experience.
Who Are the Valuable Users?
Most media buys that specify an audience target still favor demographics (ZIP code, age, job function, gender, income, etc.). Sites typically attempt to gather that data through registrations, contests, subscriptions and third-party overlays. In sticking with this approach, marketers often fail to use the more powerful data they have access to that can tell them not just who their customer is but what it is they are interested in. Passing up the opportunity to collect behavioral data on users often translates to passing up incremental revenue. Web-surfing patterns and previous behavior indicate customers’ willingness to be receptive to customized offerings for certain products and services.
Some types of behavioral data to consider collecting include:
• Previous e-mail behavior such as clicks on articles, offers, etc.
• Previous purchase behavior.
• Web site activity demonstrates audience loyalty in terms of recency, frequency and volume of visits, interactions with ads and content, favorite pages, etc.
• Behavioral data merged with demographic characteristics creates the most effective segments.
What Triggers Do You Care About?
When deciding which types of data to collect, the key is to pick the “triggers” that are of the most value to your business. This could be an offline action, reading a particular article or purchasing a specific product. After determining, tracking and analyzing the important triggers, you’ll have the ability to begin mining data, creating actionable segments and sending customized, relevant campaigns.
“The ability to integrate a variety of data sources acting as event triggers in an automated fashion is central to dynamic content scalability and should be a primary consideration in e-mail service provider vendor selection,” states a 2003 Jupiter Research report titled “Target Marketing: Using Dynamic Content to Improve Results.”
How to Execute More Effective E-mails
E-mail is direct marketing, and it should be treated with the same rigorous testing and measurement as direct mail and telemarketing. You will need to be patient to see the results you are expecting and optimize continuously for success. This includes the testing of offers, creative, messaging, placement and target segments.
Unfortunately, many marketers continue to blast e-mails rather than use the initial communication as a way to develop an ongoing dialogue with a prospective customer. The continual optimization approach takes more planning, but it also yields much better results. Testing allows the marketer to create benchmarks and improve returns over time. When e-mails are specific and personalized, prospects and customers are more likely to open them and take action. Getting a prospect to take any action in the first e-mail is difficult. By having more realistic expectations and taking an approach that focuses on creating an initial and ongoing dialogue rather than expecting immediate transactional results, the marketer is likely to see better overall performance. Such a strategy will deliver rich customer profiles over time that can be developed and allow marketers to deliver specific and personally relevant communications that result in a relationship. Converting these relationships into marketing ROI over time requires patience and discipline.
Start small, be patient and stay focused. Learn what your customers are looking for so you can meet their needs. The most successful e-marketers ensure that their mailings connect with consumers in a meaningful and beneficial way. A marketer’s success depends on the ability to deliver a more relevant message through segmentation and targeting. To do this, marketers must think beyond the basic demographics.
Laurel Robinson is director of outbound marketing solutions at CNET Networks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.