Make e-mail marketing more than a one-way street

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E-mail has become the prevalent tool to reach customers anywhere, anytime. It now surpasses TV for most time spent viewing. So how can small and midsize businesses (SMBs) reach customers and continue to increase the response rate to effectively compete with e-mail inbox clutter? Companies have to capture attention with personalized, relevant content.

Dynamic e-mail marketing — sometimes called event-triggered marketing — can deliver timely, relevant messages that increase response and ultimately revenue. Through enterprise-class technologies and best practices designed for SMBs, even smaller companies can use profile and business event data to segment customers and prospects, creating one-on-one communications with them.

Personalized e-mail marketing deploys profile data — such as location or past purchases — to create relevant content specifically tailored to customers. When selling to businesses, it can also include company size, department of the buyer or industry. When selling to consumers, it can include gender, brand loyalties, lifestyle, and hobby information – any data that may determine their behavior towards your products.

Business event data is used to trigger one or a series of e-mails based on actions including completing a form, purchasing a product, completing a survey, registering for an event or booking a service appointment. Decide what you want the customer or prospect to do after that event, and time the relevant messages to be sent to them. For example, after they download items from your Web site, send them targeted information that reminds them of a price promotion to purchase the item online. Or, after they purchase, send an online survey and remind them to book their next service appointment.

To get started with dynamic, personalized e-mail marketing, think about improving areas that are handled manually now or are under-performing in response. Then, identify whether you are capturing the information you need to effectively and efficiently segment messages based on profiles. Start a CRM system by utilizing the profile data you have, and then add other behavioral data as you start to see results.

Determine whether you need to look at business event data from one data source (i.e., Web forms, CRM system), or whether you need to look at other, integrated data sources (i.e., accounting, shipping systems). If you're just embarking on this project, keep it simple, and don't over-complicate with integration requirements without first proving the results.

Create a content and communications schedule, so you know when to send out what message to each customer. Be sure to identify technology requirements for monitoring daily business events that trigger the e-mails.

The end goal is for your customers and prospects to feel that “a-ha” moment — this company is thinking of me. Ultimately, customers — whether company executives or individual consumers — want to do business with people who treat them as important and unique individuals.

Angie Hirata is worldwide director of marketing and business development at Maximizer Software. You may reach her at ahirata@maximizer.com 

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