The e-mail imperative in a down market: Don't sell, engage

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Huw Griffiths
Huw Griffiths

In a down market, sales people face longer close times and increased competition. Marketers' first instinct under these challenging conditions may be to increase the frequency of their e-mail marketing campaigns and focus more on hard sell tactics such as coupons, discounts and special offers. Although such tactics can certainly be effective, focusing more on price rather than value during a recession could backfire and alienate customers who are more inclined to search carefully and comparison shop before making a purchase.

Generating interest and maintaining customer trust are crucial during recession times. Now more than ever, e-mail marketers should try to avoid the hard sell and focus instead on engaging the customer in a dialogue that reveals needs and wants and gives sales the opportunity to advance the conversation.

Boom time or bust, the most successful marketers avoid bombarding their lists with increased, indiscriminate messages, but rather focus on building long term relationships with customers. The starting point is to put yourself in the customer's shoes, understand their decision-making process and tailor your outreach and communications to that cycle.

Your recent e-mail marketing campaigns hold much of the information you'll need to get a more detailed profile of each customer. Make time to dig into your e-mail campaign metrics so you can learn what content and offers engage your customers vs. those that fall flat. Based on that information alone, you'll be able to give individuals more of what they want. Customer behavioral and transactional data also provide a wealth of information that can be used to create segmented lists to ensure you send the right content to the right customers.

You can also take the direct route — just ask. Poll your customers or e-mail them a customer feedback questionnaire so you can get keep them engaged.   

Make sure every e-mail and campaign provides value, not just the hard sell. Special offers and coupons are always welcomed, but be sure to provide valuable information your customers can use, including tips, updates and relevant news. Customers don't necessarily want to know every detail about your new product or service, but they're always hungry for advice or information that will help them solve a problem or gain new insights about a relevant issue or challenge. 

E-mail marketing technology has evolved and tools are now available that allow businesses of all sizes to move beyond blast e-mails to highly orchestrated campaigns that deliver the right content to the right individual at exactly the right time in the buying cycle. With advanced e-mail automation tools, marketers can design trigger campaigns that automatically send e-mails to customers based on a specified action or event. This means that rather than being bombarded by hit or miss e-mail campaigns, customers automatically get the content they want when they want it.

These are just a few tactics that marketers can use to reassess their e-mail campaigns and improve success. Slow economic times challenge us all, but they also present opportunities that marketers can capitalize on for the near term to be well positioned for the recovery.

Huw Griffiths is Marketing Director for e-mail service provider Campaigner. Reach him at


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