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Tagged: strategy

The 4 Pillars of a Customer-Engaging Email Marketing Strategy

November 30, 2016

4 pillars of customer engaging email marketing strategyOf the many communications channels that weave together to form an omnichannel customer experience strategy, email continues to be relevant and valuable. Email marketing isn’t just about marketing; it’s a way of maintaining your customer relationships in between more direct touchpoints, like transactions and customer service calls. Like social media, email reaches people where they already spend time – in their inboxes.

But just like any other tool, it all comes down to how you use it. Email marketing is a blank canvas, and there are many ways to go about creating campaigns that help you meet your goals. These four fundamental practices will create the foundation for engaging customers with email content.

1 – Great engagement comes from great content.

Content is hands-down the most important factor in getting customers to engage. In the email marketing world, “engagement” translates to Opens and Click-throughs. Great content is what compels each behavior, followed by the design and presentation of the content. So if you’re going to have an email marketing campaign in play, build it on a foundation of excellent content.

Content is an umbrella term that describes a variety of media that can populate emails. Blog posts, articles, whitepapers, e-books, infographics, video, audio, Tweets, copy/text, and photos are all different kinds of content at your disposal. And it’s a good idea to use as many as you can, especially those that are visual: content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images [source]. 

2 – Prioritize content that is mobile-friendly.

More and more of the digital world is revolving around mobile devices, and email is no exception. At the time of this writing, two thirds of emails are being opened on mobile devices (emphasis on smartphones), compared to desktop email usage. But on the back end, most email campaigns are being designed and run from desktop computers. Template design, list management, and campaign delivery are all easier to achieve on a full-screen device.

Don’t become mobile-blind. When you’re ready to test an email template, make sure you’re viewing it on a mobile phone as well as your computer. You can recruit others in the office who have different devices (for example, Apple vs. Android operating systems) to make sure your content and template design translates well across platforms. And make sure the content you are linking to from your emails is also mobile-friendly. A sales landing page, a blog post, or a document download have no value to a customer who can’t view them easily and clearly.

3 – Try to balance predictability and surprise with your content.

It’s a good idea to be consistent with your email delivery: consistent timing, consistent quality, and consistent design. Customers should have some idea of what they can expect when a new email from you lands in their inbox. If you create an expectation of content that provides value, not purchase pressure, customers will continue to open your messages and engage with that content. Regular quality content also means they’ll be more accepting of the occasional hard sell or special offer, and not feel they’re being spammed or pressured.

But within this context of consistency, there’s also room to try new things or mix up your approach.

  • Vary your header images. Put unique imagery at the top of each message, along with a compelling headline, to grab customers’ attention.
  • Vary your format. Are you delivering a monthly newsletter featuring several recent blog posts? Next time, try just featuring one meaty, valuable post and letting it be the star of the show. Or try different things with your subject lines, like questions, humor, provocative statements.
  • Vary your timing. If you regularly deliver your campaigns at the same time every week or month, try throwing in a one-time message that lands on a Sunday evening, for example. Ideally this message should look a little different than your usual content (see above). The break in routine can catch the attention of readers who have gotten used to a certain pattern.
4 – Make sure you are complying with spam regulations.

What does this have to do with customer engagement? Well, if you run an email program that isn’t compliant with regulations, you soon won’t have an email program to run. Customers can and do report unwanted, bothersome, or low-value emails as spam. These complaints have weight: email service providers use the reports to hone their spam filtering software. Bad behavior can get you “blacklisted,” and there’s little you can do about that once it happens.

The regulations you need to be familiar with are covered by the federal CAN-SPAM Act, which oversees commercial email communications. Technology makes it very easy, and thus very tempting, to do the exact things that CAN-SPAM prohibits – intentionally or accidentally. However, if you are found to be in violation of these rules, the penalties are hefty: you can be fined per email that you send, so the bigger your list, the more you risk.

 

These tips cover the “Before” and “During” stages of running an email marketing program. The “After” stage – how to make sense of, and make use of, your email marketing analytics – is covered in detail here. Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for regular updates, or visit the CSP.com homepage (and scroll down just a little) to sign up for our monthly email newsletter!


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You Have Employee Engagement Analytics. Now What?

April 1, 2016

The ongoing cycle of customer experience success is comprised of four main influencers: Employees, Customers, Management, and Data. In this series, CSP examines the Employee segment of that cycle and the benefits of focusing on internal culture to drive success.

So you’ve been convinced of the value of employee engagement metrics. You want to see what can happen when you prioritize employee engagement. You’ve enlisted the help of an objective outside party, such as CSP, to collect information from your staff and learn what the key drivers of engagement are in your unique environment. Now what?

Data is the essential foundation of any strategy aimed at improving the employee experience. When you make decisions based on hard evidence, rather than personal opinions or anecdotal success stories you’ve read about from other managers, you’re already on the right track to effecting positive change.

Making the numbers “talk” is the next part of the journey. This is where evidence meets intuition – where data meets with the human touch. With an experienced analytical eye, the raw data begins to tell the story of your organization from the employee’s point of view.

Visualizing the Data 
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Our understanding of data is largely influenced by how that data is presented. A spreadsheet might contain all the necessary information, but often it takes a visual representation of that information for the insights within to become clear.

Bar charts, pie charts, scatter plots, and line graphs are among the most common, and most effective, ways of turning data into recognizable patterns. These days, it’s also not hard to find measurement tools that generate custom visualizations, such as CSP’s benchmarking dashboard gauges. 

BARLoyalty for websiteWhy does this matter? The exact same data can be conveyed in many different ways, and each will have an effect on how that data is interpreted. What you see is what you get; how you see it determines what you get out of it.

For example, pie charts convey percentages of a whole, while scatter plots convey the frequency of each possible response. You can neither get a bell curve out of a pie chart, nor deduce a percentage out of a scatter plot. And depending on what it is you’re measuring, a percentage may tell you more than the frequency, or vice versa. (We’ll be discussing the nuances of data visualization more in an upcoming post.)

Writing the End to the Story

Once the right match has been made between the data and the presentation, and patterns are revealed, the last thing you want to do is just sit on the intelligence you’ve gathered. Now is the time to start asking the questions that will bring this story to a satisfying conclusion:

  • What can be changed right now? While there is no “quick fix” to the overall employee experience, the data may point to one or two pain points where change can happen with the least investment of time and resources.
  • What needs more attention or discussion? Maybe the results of the survey were mixed enough that there is no obvious conclusion without a closer look, or the solution to resolve the pattern is more complex and involves input from other decision-makers.
  • Is there a larger scale cultural change that needs to happen? In some cases, the data may indicate that the internal culture of your workplace is in need of more than just a tune-up.
  • Is there anything that can’t be changed? Some things will inevitably be outside of your locus of control, or otherwise limited by the availability of resources to resolve them. What might need to change is how you address these sensitive issues with employees.

These questions can help you prioritize the drivers of engagement that need to be prioritized in your employee engagement strategy. With this information, you can begin to embrace change and reap the benefits.


More posts on internal culture and employee engagement:

Customer Experience After the Sale: Are You Missing These Opportunities?

February 3, 2016

Google introduced the idea of the Zero Moment of Truth back in 2011, and has invested a lot of effort into getting companies to buy into it. The idea is that the pre-purchase phase of the customer journey, in which a customer researches, comparison-shops, asks for recommendations, and reads reviews, is essentially a countdown to moment Zero. That’s when the customer pulls the trigger and makes a purchase decision. 

We’re not claiming that Google is wrong. The Decision Point is inarguably one of the key destinations on the customer journey. But is this really where the journey ends? Hardly. In fact, it is a pivot point: the countdown becomes a “count-up,” comprised of every touchpoint that happens after the sale. What we’re counting up to: customer loyalty, satisfaction, and eventually, ideally, ambassadorship. In other words, retention.

As it stands, though, most businesses invest far more effort into customer acquisition than retention, doubling down on the notion that their job is essentially done when a prospect becomes a customer. Not only is this short-sighted, study after study has shown that acquisition is more expensive than retention and relationship marketing. (In fact, we couldn’t locate even one that argued the opposite.) The article by eConsultancy linked to above also included some head-turning statistics on this phenomenon:

  • Attracting a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an existing one.
  • Globally, the average value of a lost customer is $243.
  • 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service. 
  • The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.
Shifting Focus: How to Extend the Customer Experience Past Purchase

Customer experience fact - 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service Source KISSMetricsMake memorable post-purchase moments.
For instance, take a look at your onboarding materials, like “Thank You” pages and auto-generated emails when a customer creates an account on your site. Do they just say Thank You, or do they invite further opportunities to engage with your brand, tips for using your product or service, or incentives like coupons or discount codes? Any touchpoint that can be automated can also be enhanced to build the relationship.

Be helpful, even when there isn’t a problem.
Periodically check in with your customer to ask how things are going and if they have any questions. There could easily be something confusing or bothering them that they either don’t think is a big enough deal to bother you with, or haven’t gotten around to contacting you about yet. Here again, automation can help: reminders, thank-you’s, and Frequently Asked Questions guides can be scheduled at intervals in advance.

Pay attention to the details.
Nothing makes a customer raise an eyebrow like businesses that can talk about their product till the cows come home, yet don’t seem to understand its actual role in day-to-day life, as if they’ve never used it themselves. Imagine how your customer uses or experiences your product or service at home, after hours – not just the obvious, as-prescribed applications, but how it is related to their overall life and priorities.  

Leverage your social & direct marketing channels.
This may be the only area where the acquisition/retention formula gets turned on its head: acquiring followers and subscribers is cheap, but engaging them is where the real effort comes in. Not only do customers treat social media and emails as additional customer service channels (and expect you to meet them there), they assume they will get something in return for following you, such as exclusive offers, informative videos and graphics, or even shareable entertainment.

Listen to the Voice of the Customer.
You had to know this was coming, right? At CSP, we believe that Voice of the Customer tools and measurements are the lifeblood of a healthy customer experience. Relationships, after all, work both ways, so successful customer relationship management means handing the microphone over to the customer to make sure they have their chance to tell you what is working for them and what’s getting in their way.

The Takeaway

Customer experience that treats the sale as the endpoint is an unclosed circle: all the brand equity, sentiment, and trust you nurtured to encourage the sale, are liable to leak out through this gap. Selling to existing customers is easier than converting new ones. It is worth your while to envision the customer journey as a lifetime relationship, not a finite transaction.