Avoiding the post-holiday e-mail blues

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The presents have all been unwrapped. The fruitcakes have all been eaten. And now, e-mail marketers wait with trepidation to see what challenges 2009 will bring. Certainly the recession will require you to be more creative with your programs, more attentive to your list, and better prepared to justify your budget. It's enough to make anyone want to sing the post-holiday blues.

However, there are some proactive measures you can take starting today that will help make the New Year a little less gloomy, and maybe even a little bit brighter.

Take a closer look at your segmentation strategy.
Changes in consumer behavior will likely mean you need to revisit your current customer segmentation strategy. Let's say customers in your top segment typically spend $1,000 a year; now assume that the economy forces these customers to cut back and spend only $800 a year.  Those $800 spenders are still loyal customers – tightening their belts, but still worthy of VIP status. Adjusting your parameters will be critical in order to avoid alienating your core customer base.

Automate revenue-generating programs.

Triggered e-mail messages offer a two-fold advantage. First, because they are automated they enable cost-effective program management. Second, they ensure contact with customers at the most timely points in the relationship, thus delivering consistently high ROI results. In fact, It is not unusual for a triggered message to deliver upwards of five times higher revenue when compared to a standard broadcast e-mail.

Be creative when it comes to building your list.
Those loyal customers I mentioned earlier? They are also your brand advocates, and perhaps the best option for acquiring new customers. With new names getting harder to acquire, word-of-mouth marketing through your best consumers may be the most tantalizing of low-hanging fruit. Give them something fun or an irresistible offer to share, or create a “refer-a-friend” program that provides VIPs with an incentive to sign up their friends based on opt-ins or purchases.

Fine tune your e-mail frequency.
There will be plenty of temptation (not to mention management pressure) to dial up the e-mail frequency, especially after the holidays. Increasing frequency is fine, as long as you are smart about it. Do so by adding relevant programs that target a particularly active segment of customers, or an opt-in program that sets the expectation with customers that these messages will arrive more frequently. Simply storming the inbox may increase revenue in the short-term, but it could devastate your customer list with unsubscribes – including the loyal customers you have invested so much time and money in acquiring.

Be prepared to defend your budget.

We know two things for sure. First, every company is making tough decisions on where to cut expenses. Second, no budget item is off limits, including your e-mail marketing budget. Be prepared to show your executive management how each e-mail sent converts to sales and provide them with an accurate measurement of your program's return on investment. E-mail has all the essential qualities a CFO looks for in a tough economy: It's measurable, predictable and profitable. In fact, it's not unreasonable to think that your CFO will want to put more budget dollars into e-mail, even as cuts are being made in other areas.




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