E-mail marketing: the social outcast?

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Although I wouldn't consider myself a “shopper” per se, not a day goes by that I don't receive some form of communication from at least 10 different retailers offering me their latest and greatest deals. Of these countless e-mails, I probably actually read about two a week. A subject line announcing “Free Shipping!” or “20% Off Boat Shoes!” catches my eye and I open the e-mail. That's where it ends.

This got me thinking: my friends all wear boat shoes. Why can't I click a button and share this deal with all my boat shoe-wearing friends? I know, I know, many retailers include social network buttons in their e-mails. But make it easy for me! Don't take me to your corporate Facebook or Twitter page and leave me stranded. Instead, help me readily insert the same deal you sent me into my status so I can easily click a button and share boat shoes with my cyber world. Does this make me lazy? Maybe. But it also gets your deal out there with third-party validation. That's a merchant's dream.

I conducted some research and came across a company that is executing this social strategy very well. Funny, I'm not surprised that the creators of “flair” have provided a social e-mail campaign that actually works. T.G.I. Friday's has both Facebook and Twitter buttons in their e-mails. The difference is that when you click the buttons, the exact offer that you received is inserted into a wall post and 140 character tweet, respectively. Genius — and free appetizers for all!

In a typical CRM strategy we challenge our clients to provide their consumers with incentive to join their online communities. Brand-consumer relationships, just like any other relationship, need to strike a balance of give-and-take. This same philosophy should be applied to e-mail marketing. Back to the boat shoes: I've read the e-mail, assessed my current boat shoe situation and I'm teetering on ordering a new pair. I decide to share the deal with my friends, and, in return, I receive a nice 5% off of my purchase. Now you've got me in a brand-spankin'-new pair of shoes and all my friends know it!

While promo codes have become a widely utilized tool to gain “likes” via Facebook, e-mail campaigns have fallen short. Offering your consumer base incentive to share your deal with their friends will turn your e-mail campaign viral. Many Facebook members (myself included; what can I say?) have upwards of a thousand friends. That's a thousand sets of eyes that may not normally sign up to receive your e-mails.

E-mail marketing is a lucrative industry for a reason. It's not cheap for retailers to implement these campaigns. Giving your consumers the potential to share your offers gives you more credibility and it's free! Therefore, I encourage retailers to stop being such wallflowers and get your e-mail campaign into the popular crowd.

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