Monday, May 5, 2014

crafting your email marketing strategy - part 1: nurture campaigns

by kirk r gray

this is going to be a multi-part blog entry dealing with how to attack your marketing strategy. this first post, will help guide your dive into the world of life-cycle or nurture campaigns and what you should send to your subscribers.

start with your subscribers
you should think of your subscribers as your customers, regardless of where they are in the pipeline/funnel/buying cycle. these are the individuals you want to ultimately purchase your product. individuals who haven't purchased yet - the lookers/lurkers or prospects - will probably make up the largest segment of your lists. that's okay, they are the foundation of your program.



regardless of the type of product you produce - virtual, tangible, or intangible - you should think of your website or landing page as your store front in the virtual mall that is the internet. your subscribers found you, now you need to help answer the question that the subscriber is constantly asking -what's in it for me (wiifm)?

we'll start with trying to answer that question. the most common way is to present the features and benefits of your product. but don't just answer the wiifm question, pose other questions and give them answers. unlike face-to-face conversations with visitors to a brick and mortar location, you don't have the luxury of "two way communication". but that doesn't mean that email can't be a two way communication vehicle. this is where your product knowledge, your presentation skills, and a solid welcome series or nurture campaign work to your advantage.

the welcome series
this is your smile, your hand-shake, and your moment to shine. debates run about the length of your welcome series, and i don't mean the physical length of the communication. i'm talking about how many you should send...is  it just one email, is it two, three, four, or more. only you can answer that question - and i promise you if post it in a chat room or message board, the answer you are going to get is: test, test, test.

the length of the series can depend on a few factors: how complicated is your product; how well you can anticipate questions from your prospects, how much data do you have on your customers, and finally what are they already asking you?

to illustrate this, think about how people purchase automobiles today. prospects looking for a car go online and research everything. that means that you’re not only battling the competition in this marketplace, which is fierce, but you’re up against a well-informed consumer. with cars in particular, you are not only selling a mode of transportation, but your selling a long-term relationship. there are many forms of competition in this arena: model, make, producers, even competing dealerships - and you have to get your message across in a crowded environment.

take joe consumer, he’s looking for a new car. joe googles about his dream vehicle and lands on your landing page. to get joe into your welcome series, more than likely he’ll need to fill out a request for information form (rfi). we all do this and we do it all the time and don't think twice about it. but did you know that there is a virtual currency for this transaction? think about it, you are asking joe to provide you with his personal information, and joe expects something in return. this virtual currency isn't bitcoins, but personally identifiable information (pii).

just like accepting a stolen credit card at the register, there is a chance for fraud with rfi's, bad data and bad email addresses…you can reduce the chance for this type of fraud by providing a customer a loss-leader. producing a gated download can assist with this. develop a brochure or white paper that provides high level information about either your company or the product, and then either provide it to joe by providing the download on the confirmation screen (good), a download link in the confirmation email (better), sending the "tit-for-tat" via email(best). when you provide this loss-leader via email, you reduce the likelihood of a bad email addresses. remember, joe wants this information so that he can make a well-informed purchase. if you send it to them instead of self service models (a download link on the confirmation page), the prospect is more inclined to not give you their spamtrap address.
a word about trust
you are trusting that your prospects are providing you with true and proper information, be honest on the landing page where they will get the download. the prospect is trusting you'll respect their data. provide a clear link to your privacy statement on your rfi and make sure that all forms are can-spam and casl compliant, even if you don't actively market in canada, your prospect maybe there. the internet had no borders.
submitting the rfi kicks off your welcome series. in our example, joe is looking to purchase an automobile. the first email should be short and sweet. don't linger...you know that one person in your office who met the first time and kept pumping your arm when shaking your hand and talking, how awkward that felt? long first emails can be just like that. make this communication a thank you, give them the download, let them know what else is coming, provide your contact information, and even though this is a transactional email, provide them with a way to unsubscribe. think about this email like this: when you walk into a store and the clerk asks you if you need help, what do most people say? "no thanks, I'm just looking." this email is the same as the store employee saying, "okay - i'll be over here if you need me."

after that confirmation email, anticipate what else joe wants to know when it comes to buying a car. those additional emails in the flow might look like this:
  • touch point 2: what the car costs
  • touch point 3: available options
  • touch point 4: how you are different from other brands, dealers, etc.
  • touch point 5: a summary that ties all the communications together
sounds like a solid plan doesn’t it? almost…they are definitely on the right direction for success...but one thing is missing: a clear call to action. the first email had it - download this brochure. but the follow up communications don’t have any. while the ultimate goal of this series is to engage joe and get him to buy an automobile you can use milestones to help you attain your overall goal.

what if you included a call to get pre-approved for a car loan in touch point 2, and a call to configure their car and search your inventory in touch 3, while touch 4 and 5 contain a call to schedule a test drive. scheduling a test drive gets them in the door.

using a milestone method to get to conversion gives you something else besides a path to success. it gives you more data.

if you're using marketing automation and a crm, you're gaining insight about the prospect and how engaged they are. if they get pre-approved, then you now know how much they have to spend and that they are serious. now you know more about joe. he’s not only opening your emails but from the application you’ve gotten more data about your prospect – where he works, how much he makes, an address, a whole financial biography. you can begin profiling and segmenting your customers.

wait, joe configured his dream car, now you know which car they want, all of the options he wants and by looking at your inventory if that car is on the lot or not.

joe scheduled a test-drive, you’re like one step away from ultimate success. you know when he’s coming in, and if you don’t have the car, you have the chance to reach out to other delearships and get the car transferred to you so that the sales rep can have joe’s new car waiting waiting right up front when he arrives at the appointment.

talk about real time personalization and a stellar shopping experience! your welcome series just hit a home run.

when it comes time to putting together the content for your welcome series, think about the buying cycle, and break the success measure down to milestones that you can achieve. reach out to content specialists and front line people for information and ways to anticipate the questions they get asked – they have heard it all and can help guide you.

in the next post we'll discuss what happens when the welcome series isn't enough.

Other posts in this series you might be interested in:
part 2: customer or exhausted content
part 3: technology in strategy
part 4: personalization
part 5: meet with your stakeholders

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