What's in Your
E-Mail Contact Strategy?
By Stefan Pollard, director of
e-mail best practices, Lyris, Inc.
What's the best
e-mail contact strategy? No matter
who's asking the question, whether they work for a
large traditional organization or an enterprising
start-up, the answer stays pretty much consistent. A
good contact strategy defines why a recipient needs
to hear from you and supports your business goals.
And if you see evidence that its effectiveness is
waning, you take immediate action.
Contact Strategy Tactics that Work
Here are four tactics that seem to consistently
yield positive results:
1. Develop a calendar. Chances are you
already have a larger calendar of business events
and promotions that will be happening for the rest
of the year. In fact, many of the savviest marketers
have a complete six- to 12-month editorial calendar
that outlines the planned outgoing communications.
When you're planning special communications or
promotions, you’ll want to keep this larger calendar
in mind to make sure that you aren't inundating your
recipients with too many messages in a particular
timeframe. Checking your special promotions against
your editorial calendar will also ensure you aren't
confusing readers with inconsistent marketing
2. Work with the product lifecycle. Depending
on the nature of your product, its lifecycle may
create an entire set of natural opportunities for
communication. Imagine that your company sells
marketing software. You have ample built-in chances
to engage in relevant, credible communications with
your customers—from the "thank you for choosing XYZ
Software" e-mail, to e-mails identifying add-on
modules, to tech support opportunities.
3. Win them back. If you have a group of
customers who used to purchase but haven’t bought
anything recently, it's time to come up with a
promotion they simply can’t resist. Whether it's a
special discount, an opportunity to receive free
shipping or a limited-time "mystery" gift, wooing
back these customers has a lower average cost than
acquiring a new customer.
4. Ease them into the process. You wouldn't
put a new driver in the middle of a bustling
interstate, so why would you drop your brand new
customer into the middle of your e-mail marketing
traffic? Create a series of onboarding e-mails that
ease your recipients into the flow of your
campaigns. On-boarding e-mails can provide new
customers with valuable information about your
brand. You can send an e-mail that supports your
brand positioning—for example, sharing a tip for
getting the most out of their marketing budgets. You
can deliver an onboarding e-mail that reiterates one
of your company's strong points, like an e-mail that
contains excerpts from testimonials about your
stellar tech support. Both of these are ways to
welcome your new customer to your information super
highway without leaving them scrambling for the
How Often is too Often?
You may love chocolate cake, but if you ate a big
piece of it everyday, you’d quickly grow tired of
it. E-mail marketing is like that; you don’t want to
wear out your recipients with too much of a good
thing. So how do you know how much is too much? By
giving your recipients ample opportunity to tell you
• Sign-up options. As you're asking for the
user's e-mail address, you also have the opportunity
to ask them about the frequency that works best for
them. Make sure you tell recipients not only about
the kind of information they'll be receiving—like
whether a particular mailing is a newsletter, sales
flyer containing coupons, etc.—but also how often
they should expect these mailings. This will help
ensure their expectations and the reality of the
situation will better match.
• User profile/preference centers. Most
professional e-mail programs let users change their
preferences by logging into their preference
centers. If your e-mail service provider doesn't
offer this, it may be time to find a new one—it's
important that your recipients have access to tweak
their preferences any time the mood strikes them.
• The unsubscribe process. Maybe your
recipient doesn't want to unsubscribe from all of
your communications: It's just your "deal of the
week" e-mail that's causing her to feel a bit
overwhelmed. Ensure your unsubscribe process gives
recipients ample opportunity to understand the
different types of mailings they're receiving and
that they can remove themselves from one, many or
Special Communications, Special Consideration
Your marketing team has a great idea—a special
series of five "to your health" e-mails that give
recipients an exercise tip, featuring products that
are available for purchase on your site. It's an
excellent idea and a great way to reach out to your
audience, but make sure they're interested first.
You'll want to get permission to add recipients to
this special list; don't just assume you can do so
because they’re already receiving other
communications from you.
Getting recipients to opt-in to special
communications isn’t really that different from
getting them to sign up for your initial list. Take
advantage of existing e-mail campaigns and your Web
site to advertise the special campaign. Add a
sign-up checkbox on your regular newsletter sign-up
page. Also enlist your partners and supporters, who
may be willing to mention the availability of your
special campaign on their own e-mails and site.
So whether you choose to try onboarding first, or
instead want to focus on winning back customers, one
thing holds true: Finding the perfect contact
strategy will involve a lot of trial and retrial
(not trial and error, as data from poorly performing
campaigns is still extremely valuable). Try a number
of different tactics, let your customers take the
lead when it comes to frequency and make sure you’re
handling special communications with the right
mindset. You'll be well on your way to e-mail
---Source: ManageSmarter Nov. 13,
2008 (www.managesmarter.com). Stefan Pollard is
director of e-mail best practices for Lyris, Inc. (www.lyrisinc.com).
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