DM News Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing: Unlock Hidden Value In Transactional E-Mail

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Most companies send a large volume of transactional e-mail such as order confirmations to their customers daily. These messages usually contain information about the associated transactions and little else. But transactional messages have an attribute prized by marketers: Customers look forward to getting them and almost always read them.

So it should be no surprise that marketers have started using them to deliver highly targeted offers to their customers. They have transformed transactional

e-mail into a new revenue channel for their companies.

What's the secret? Focus on relevance, find the right partner and use the right plan.

Relevance above all. Transactional e-mails must be highly relevant to work. Though always important in e-mail marketing, relevance is critical in transactional marketing. In a purchase transaction, for example, the customer expects to receive purchase information in the e-mail. An accompanying promotional offer must be just as relevant - to her and to her purchase.

Keys to success. For marketers who want to start transactional marketing, we suggest the following process:

· Build a case. Step one is to build a business case using revenue and cost estimates. This provides a compelling return on investment to justify the program.

· Think customer. Customers and their expectations should be considered carefully. There may be special situations or certain groups of customers for whom transactional marketing is inappropriate. We suggest sampling customer reaction if necessary.

· Get buy-in. Transactional programs require cooperation within the company, especially the department that owns the legacy transaction messages. The business case is invaluable in getting their support, as is having a well-defined marketing plan with objectives and measurements.

· Prepare the assets. Marketers must work with their agency, internal partners and e-mail service provider to prepare the assets needed for program rollout. Assets include sending rules, customer database, relevant content, HTML e-mail template, process and workflow.

· Test. Test the entire process to ensure that it works flawlessly and meets throughput and turnaround time targets. Transactional messages are mission critical, so it is vital to test the e-mail service provider as well, evaluating infrastructure, workflow processes and quality control.

Then, customer testing should be done. We suggest using an order confirmation e-mail and a randomized test list drawn from a single segment or a small, homogeneous group of customers. Once production begins, good measurement is key to program success. A strong measurement system lets marketers fine-tune offers and mailings to achieve optimal results.

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