Customer dialogues take relevance a step further

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Most progressive marketers know that relevance is essential to driving strong customer response. To move to the next stage in customer engagement, deepen loyalty and encourage brand advocacy through e-mail programs that are not only meaningful, but connected to an integrated marketing strategy.

The advancement of technology combined with the proliferation of online communities and user-generated content has presented e-mail marketers with entirely new ways to connect with their customers. Take advantage of the new media landscape and gain a firm understanding of each individual at the most granular level. Here are a few things to consider:

Know who your customers are. Use the data that you have and be proactive in capturing information across channels. Treat every point of contact as an opportunity to learn more and continually refine your message. As you form the relationship, use each interaction as an opportunity to build a richer customer profile.

Build a sense of community. Over the last few years, there has been a large push to feature user-generated content into e-mail campaigns, creating more of an intimate dialog between businesses and customers. Use customer feedback and highlight top rated picks and customer reviews in your e-mails to encourage transactions and response.

Surveys are another way to engage your customers and learn about their needs. According to Experian, CheetahMail's client benchmark data, surveys to targeted segments have been proven to lift open, click and transaction rates by more than 50%.

Enable the conversation. Leverage social networking sites such as Twitter to drive customer advocacy, keep the conversation going and monitor customers' behaviors. According to Experian Hitwise, visits to social networks have increased 41% from August 2009 as compared to the same time last year.

Manage relevance. Monitor the frequency of relevant e-mails that each customer stands to receive and prioritize them accordingly. It is easy to send triggered messages, but this capability could also be dangerous if not managed correctly. For example, on any given day a customer might receive any number of relevant e-mails, such as a birthday message or order confirmation. Avoid the risk of over-mailing and attrition.

Maximize response through testing. Marketers can test almost any aspect of a campaign by targeting a subset of their mailing list just prior to a larger-scale deployment. By performing regular subject line tests and analyzing different creative designs and content variations, marketers can incorporate sample audience response trends into larger mailings.

Ashley Johnston is VP of marketing at Experian Marketing Services. Reach her at ashley@cheetahmail.com.

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