Ten tips for engaging customers in turbulent times
The massive proliferation of data generated through email, social, mobile, and other interactive channels has required us to re-examine what we thought we knew about our customers, and challenged us to re-evaluate how best to engage them. In today’s dynamic environment, customer engagement strategies based on specific channels are no longer appropriate.
Today, the customer is the channel – a channel of one. People expect a seamless experience across every interaction. So how do you put the customer at the centre of your messaging initiatives and integrate your digital marketing efforts in a way that makes sense, and without the marketing budget of a FTSE100? Here are 10 tips on how:
- Listen: This is rightly, the very first thing we marketers must do, and forms the basis of many of the following tips. There’s so much information that your prospects and customers are telling you all of the time. By listening to these interactions and responding in a relevant, timely manner, prospects will be more engaged and far more likely to convert.
- Grow your database: This is one area that is being overlooked more frequently. Fresh data is the key to any successful email programme, and the more you have, the better. If you’re collecting say, 500 new email addresses a week through your website, this is great. But what if you optimised that? It could be 2000. What if you looked at offline opportunities, competitions, social channels and special company events. This is not a ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ metric. This is something that all email marketers should invest as much time on, as any other aspect of your strategy.
- Re-engage: By this, I mean re-sending to non-openers. This is often questioned, but I can assure you that it has impact – just be careful not to do it regularly. Save it for the really tough weeks/months and key trading periods. Change the subject line and send again a few days later.
Get personal: If you have names for a sizeable chunk of your database, make use of them. Look at adding them to subject lines, headlines, offer sections and even buttons. Don’t do all of these at once obviously, but get creative with personalisation. Don’t just say, hi . Everyone does that and you need to standout above the rest.
Follow-up engagement: If people are opening and clicking but not converting, don’t wait until your next campaign to communicate with these people again. These highly engaged prospects that haven’t converted, need to be followed up. Create a simple template that is quick and easy to put together so you can be reactive. Test lag-time and optimise
- Re-engage: I find it really difficult to understand why so many companies leave this off their plan. If prospects and customers begin to lapse, we must adapt and try and save them. This strategy will need to be completely unique for your brand and your customers. Look at who has not engaged or converted over a long period of time and try to reactivate them with a series of emails. Also consider that I have found that incentives aren’t always the most effective or valuable content offering at this stage – relevancy and a little bit of personalisation are usually more effective.
- Test: Most of us just don’t test enough. You can split test all sorts of things with absolutely no cost to you other than time. Button colour, CTA copy, subject lines, offers, products, template structure, and hierarchy/order of content. Just test one thing at a time and record all of the results. Expect one in three tests to give you a significant piece of insight. It’s hard work but incredibly high value if you have the time
Call to action: This is so important. Call to action buttons must be optimised to get you the highest possible number of clicks. The text should be descriptive rather than generic, and they should appear after every proposition or product. We know that many people are viewing on mobile devices and they don’t have the benefit of a cursor to tell them what is clickable. They need buttons as a visual sign-post to point them in the right direction. Make sure they are at least 38 pixels tall so that mobile recipients can easily get a finger or thumb on them.
- Sitemap your footer: If you’re a retailer with lots of categories and sub-categories, then this is for you. If your openers have scrolled through the email and not seen anything of interest, offer them more generic category options to look at. This can be as simple as a few columns of categories, to give people more options. This has accounted for up to 30% of overall clicks for some of our clients.
- Automate: Once you have your contact strategy all set, to manage lapsing prospects, further engage highly interested prospects and so on, you need to get it automated. It is important to map this carefully, identifying message conflicts and business rules for when these arise. You will also need to create business rules around any dynamic content or product you may wish to include. Get it all planned out and automated so you don’t have to think about it, but make sure you regularly analyse performance and refine these programmes.
Philip Storey is Senior Strategy Consultant, EMEA, Lyris Inc