DM News' Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing: Microsoft Proves Listening Pays

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For many organizations, the path to personalization is long and arduous, requiring appropriate infrastructure and tools to serve and deliver targeted, personalized communications. Gains can be achieved through initiatives that improve customer satisfaction rates.

These programs further our understanding of what value means to customers. The more we understand what levers drive customer satisfaction, the more we can deliver rewarding interactions and the more prepared customers are to share personal information.

Microsoft Corp. faced this issue when trying to create greater connection and loyalty with its core IT audience to improve satisfaction with Microsoft as a whole and with the IT professional community in particular. The company needed to provide personalized experiences by delivering an element of customization and to improve satisfaction within that community.

A test was developed to tackle this issue and illustrate the value of targeted versus non-targeted communications. It was designed to measure satisfaction with personalized communications based on user preferences compared with satisfaction with standard generic e-mails.

The campaign was positioned as part of a larger initiative to return control to the users. Letting customers manage their own relationship with Microsoft and define the types of content they wished to receive represented a shift in how Microsoft's communications were positioned. And it testified to the evolution from business-controlled to customer-controlled communications. It is no longer sufficient to push information that a business thinks will have relevance. Listening to customers, even in small ways, pays off big time.

The e-mails clearly explained the benefits of customized content. All the customers were required to do was update their profile information in order to receive targeted, relevant communications. The effort paid off. Compared with the standard e-mails, overall customer satisfaction with Microsoft rose 15 percent while satisfaction with the IT program increased exponentially. Click-through rates soared from 10 percent to more than 40 percent.

All of this was triggered by a clear description of the benefits of customized content that drove subscribers to provide personal information, which in turn let Microsoft better understand the levers of satisfaction. The success of the pilots was borne out as the campaign rolled out globally. Tech-savvy IT professionals appreciated the effort to increase the relevance of communications from Microsoft, and this prompted them to share personal information.

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