One of the great promises of email marketing is to ‘get the right message, to the right people, at the right time,’ with the expectation that you will get the ‘right result.’ The fulfillment of this promise involves audience segmentation.
You could say that a successful, sustainable audience segmentation will provide value in the mind of a customer beyond the message of constant discounting.
There are 5 elements that can make up successful, sustainable audience segmentation.
A thoughtful approach to segmentation that builds upon a customer-centric strategy is very likely to help you succeed in your email-driven efforts. Good segmentation gives meaning to to ‘get the right message, to the right people, at the right time,’ in the context of whatever you are trying to get across, in circumstances dealing from Business to Business or Business to Consumer.
We've discussed the automations that form the main support of an email-based customer acquisition and conversion system. Automations depend on the constant, consistent, and pre-qualified acquisition of new names for the main list of the online business.
If everything goes OK with your acquisition program outside of email (your print, social, search engine, and digital campaigns), and you get a lot of names going through your automations, you may be satisfied with your results and that would be the end of your work with your email setup.
However, if you find yourself wishing that you could do more with email, then you open the door to email campaigns.
Automations are designed to be 'fire, optimize, and forget' types of things. There is no rule that states you cannot constantly tinker with your email automations. However, the main idea behind email automations is to generate 'free revenue' that comes into the store without you having to worry about it. Of course, reviewing the performance of automations every quarter (or every month) makes sense. You can catch problems as you find them and fix them. But overall, automations are meant to run year-long in the same state so you worry about other things.
Campaigns, on the other hand, are your 'email act of will.' You send them when you want to, to as many or as few profiles in your list as you wish, and with whatever message you decide.
When you have an email automation properly setup, there are several cases where campaigns make sense:
These are very specific areas where campaigns can complement email automations and provide real value to an email marketing strategy. This approach also provides a structure for email cadence, which depends, in great part, on the number of SKUs and on the ability of the brand to have a story to tell about its products.
A store with a large number and variety of SKUs can maintain a cadence of weekly emails by highlighting individual areas of the catalog that are either in need of a boost or which have received new additions. If you are constantly adding new products to your catalog, then your weekly email is your communication to your customers of those additions. Depending on what you sell, your chances of getting sales from those communications is high.
If you have a small number of SKUs (less than 20 products) and your catalog does not increase on a regular basis, then a weekly newsletter would not make sense if it is focused only on the specifics of the product: if you highlight how your main product solves problem Y to the profile list that is already convinced, then you are wasting your effort.
If a segment of your list is simply not engaged with that problem or the solution you provide, then you need to be very creative about how to present the problem and its solution so the emails have value in their ingenuity and presentation as much as for the actual value of the product.
In other words, if the only message your brand can generate is related to the actual qualities of the product and nothing more, then weekly campaigns will be repetitive and will likely lead to unsubscribes. Unless you can come up with a story-based approach that builds on the product to be more than the product alone, then you are better off relying on automations than weekly newsletters and can use campaigns for the purposes outlined above when they suit your email calendar.
What's a story-based weekly campaign like? Ask yourself: is your product like a screwdriver, or a swiss army knife? If it is a Swiss army knife, you would have little difficulty showing all the situations where your product would come in handy. Each one of those situations would be the subject of an email, for example. You could even ask your customers to show you how they are using the product, and put their contributions in your weekly newsletter.
But what if the product is more like a screwdriver? Then the number of situations where a screwdriver could be used (these may be humorous or just plain silly) may allow you to tell more stories about the product and highlight its features. They may not be real situations, but the idea is to engage people in the act of purchasing your screwdriver (which has only one function).
It's easy to abuse email campaigns. The need to enhance revenue every quarter is a huge driver for sending repeated, unwanted emails. If you have a small number of SKUs, you may be tempted to hammer the same point over and over every week or every month and hope that customers will finally 'see the light' about your product.
Maintaining the email campaign stream within the guardrails outlined above provides a useful story to tell about each email you send, and depending on what you sell, they should carry value for your customers. And they will complement your email automation setup.
However, not everyone in your entire list will respond to these emails in the same way. This is where segmentation plays a part. Campaign strategy should involve incorporating purchasing behavior and email response behavior into your segmentation. This will improve your deliverability numbers (your open and click rate) and if your message resonates, it will also deliver more sales.
And of course, the emails should be sent with an awareness of each other, so they do not pile up in the customer's inbox. Smart Sending your campaigns helps keep the customer's inbox uncluttered and your messages top of mind when they arrive.
What is the role of automation in email marketing, and how (or if) should you use campaigns to reach out to our email audience? On this article, we discuss the uses of email marketing automation for an e-commerce business and how it can be complemented by weekly or monthly campaigns.
What is email automation and why should you use it?
The promise of automation in email marketing is 'free money.' By setting up a series of automations that catch your influx of customers as they come into your online store, you can, in theory, provide enough points of contact via email automation to manage the customer journey from 0 purchases to 2 or more purchases. Automations, as the name implies, are triggered when a subscriber meets a specific condition and is added to a pre-designed series of emails.
Pre-Purchase Automated Flows
The automations you can use to manage the customer journey usually are described below. These flows work together to turn customer interest into customer purchases. These are Pre-Purchase flows.
The flows described below tend to the relationship with the customer after a purchase. They are Post-Purchase flows.
The 7 flows outlined above would, in theory, take care of customers who are brought into the store via external advertising, SEO, word of mouth, social media, etc. To make the automation successful, the brand has to constantly provide a flow of new names into the system. Since the automations only work when someone becomes a subscriber, either via a purchase or via newsletter, the more emails are added to the system, consistently, the better chance of getting regular conversions from the collection of flows.
Naturally, there are standard automations like shipping and order confirmation emails, but those are assumed to exist separate from these 7.
Adding Campaigns To The Mix (for the win)
Once you have setup, and tested, your automations for an online store, you should be good to go. The next question is: what do you do with all the names that are accumulating in your database once they have gone through your automations? The automated flows can only activate if the customer does a specific action. Once they are used up, you will end up with profiles in your database that could be doing nothing if left on their own.
Targeted email campaigns are designed to solve this problem. They bring individuals from your database into action so they can be managed by the flows again, in the case of a purchase, or the Winback, in case they have fallen out with the brand.
What are good ideas for targeted campaigns? That depends on the number of SKUs in your store. If you sell 4 items, then constantly reminding your list to buy one or all of the four could be annoying. If you can realistically expect them to purchase more than once, then a monthly newsletter with anything new about the items, or selected social media driven stories about the use of the items, might make people purchase again.
If you have a large store with hundreds of SKUs, the newsletter's task is to offer a selection of SKUs to the people who are most likely to purchase them. Segmentation is the tools for selecting who is likely to purchase the items again. The success of these campaigns is heavily dependent on the correct assessment of how your customer views the product. If you sell items that are really meant to be purchased only once, then constantly asking people to buy them again will not work.
Repeat purchases are the result of need or desire on the part of customers, and using email campaigns to generate them and bring people back to the flows is one of the best uses of email campaigns that complements the 'free money' generated by the automated flows.
Establishing effective communication and nurturing a relationship with customers requires tact, respect, and a deep understanding of the value of the recipient's digital real estate. Here are 7 key things to keep in mind:
Email marketing should be seen as an opportunity to create and nurture relationships with recipients. Consent is merely the starting point, not an excuse to flood inboxes. By respecting the recipient's space, and approaching them with the intent to understand and value them, businesses can make their emails stand out.
In the landscape of integrated digital marketing, email continues to serve as an instrumental component. However, to maximize the business value of email marketing, a context-sensitive approach to interpreting metrics is crucial. This discussion explores the premise of generating business-relevant insights from email metrics by focusing on two central questions, thereby enabling businesses to understand, evaluate, and enhance the effectiveness of their email campaigns.
Ultimately, the key to maximizing the business value of email marketing lies in framing metrics within a relevant business context. By addressing two fundamental questions about reach and customer actions, businesses can derive more meaningful insights from their email marketing data. This shift in perspective not only elevates the understanding of email effectiveness but also promotes clear, business-focused communication across different groups, making every email count.
Here are 6 checkpoints you can use to evaluate your current digital marketing strategy and establish whether it is still on track. Most of the time, Digital Strategies require adjustments over time. Messages may need to be refreshed. Images may need to be changed. New challenges may have appeared in the competitive landscape that need to be addressed. There are many changes in your business environment that require adjustments in your digital (and offline) strategy.
Here are 6 important signs you can track that will tell you what kinds of changes are needed:
An important thing to note is that, as you can probably tell from the descriptions above, each tactic of your digital marketing strategy supports the business and all have internal links to one another. Understanding these links, and learning how to manipulate them to improve results over time (via testing and changing tactics and elements within them for optimization), will lead to overall better results for your digital marketing spend. It will also lead you to make reasonable decisions about the future of your spend, and which channels really help you connect to your customers at every stage of your product/service life cycle.
A thorough, impartial Digital Marketing audit is a good place to begin so decisions can be based on data, balanced by the knowledge and experience of your staff and your customers.
I have just finished reading Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier. I recommend the book for digital marketers, although, of course, it isn't a 'transactional' book, like most digital marketing books that sell you 'Ten Ways to Increase your Profits RIGHT NOW.' It is a relational book, discussing one single topic from several angles and bringing a very interesting polemic out into the open. Mainly, what kind of a world are we building with these 'social' tools on the internet? Mr. Lanier believes, as should be obvious from the title, that the direction the software world has taken is not conducive to a human world where dignity, individuality, choice, and critical thinking are valued. He believes that social media platforms, and almost all advertising-driven platforms, are complicit in the process of dehumanizing people.
He is right, of course.
This is not to say that his arguments are without problems or that one should uncritically accept everything that Mr. Lanier discusses in his book. For one thing, this is a shorter book where only one side of the argument is heard. Mr. Lanier does not offer possible counter-arguments to his own positions. This is usually a red flag when it comes to reading these kinds of books. However, in this case, it isn't a 'showstopper.'
The reason it isn't a showstopper with this particular book is that, as internet readers, we are submerged in a constant flotsam and jetsam of discussion about the goodness or 'badness' of social media networks. There are arguments floating back and forth about this topic all over the place, in part because it is the fad right now, and in part because there are genuine causes for alarm.
The noise of the discussion disguises whether we have a real problem in our hands or not. However, cutting through the noise, which this book might help you do in your own mind, is a solid first step toward acquiring a 'beginner's mind' to the problem that can help you evaluate and re-establish your own opinions about it without having to refer to endless websites to check what you think.
Mr. Lanier's discussion, and the fact that it is presented in a book form, allows the reader to acquire well-presented arguments for paying attention to aspects of internet-life that most users simply gloss over, in the same way that you gloss over the view from your window after you've looked at it over and over after a few months, or years. You are used to it, and you don't see it as a threat, so your mind ignores it.
Mr. Lanier's position is that, on the internet, there is no such thing as 'the view is not a threat,' because, by design, the internet as it is growing and shaping up as of this writing, is a danger to the kind of human development that encourages independence of thought, creativity, choice and individuality. The claim is that the organic growth of the current social media platforms, and the decisions these platforms make about how they are going to 'monetize your data' create a format that is mentally and socially toxic and that it is likely to tear down the interactions that individuals have used to create community over time without replacing them with anything that can provide similar results. Instead, replacing them with money-driven, transactionally-oriented, interactions that replace 'free activities' like friendship with money-intermediated activities like 'friendship on Facebook.'
This is the same as if a soda company executive would state that their main competition is the municipal water supply and that they wish to replace it with a constant supply of 'paid for' cola dispensers in the home.
Some people would jump at the chance to replace their water supply with this kind of service. To others, the idea may seem repellent. Mr. Lanier falls squarely on this latter camp.
Mr. Lanier's biggest contribution to the discussion is his ability to explain what an alternative to the current model might be, and, without going into all the details (his is not a policy book, but a polemic), he gives enough of a reasonable explanation to make it plausible to consider alternatives to the current, advertising driven model.
As a digital marketer, the advertising-driven model provides me with several advantages that are quite normal when it comes to diffusing a message through the noise of every day life. You get access to a tool that allows you to scale. The efficacy of the messaging, of course, is derived from the quality of the message and the budget behind it: the ability to repeat it over and over again for a relatively long period of time to create a mental habit in the eyes of the viewer, who is perceived as a passive recipient.
Once we stop looking at the viewer as a passive recipient, then we have to decide what kind of message has the best 'optimized' chance to successfully break through the barriers of attention. This messaging is usually of a 'negative bent,' and has been used for years on television commercials for products such as deodorants, fresh-breath mints, and the like: you have a problem, we sell a solution. Or, we've made up a problem and we are selling you a solution.
With social media networks, the ability to modify the perceptions of the viewer, and create some sort of addictive behavior independent of the individual's choice, are the elements that Mr. Lanier points out and that, as marketers, we should be concerned about so we can make decisions about our own desire to employ such tactics or not.
As marketers, this is our choice. Are we willing to make everything we do entirely transactional in nature, like our fictitious soda company executive, so we can intermediate it via a financial transaction to a third party, which in part could be manipulating our minds to make decisions they like?
You only have to look at magicians to see how the human mind can be manipulated into using concepts that the magician chooses them to have. That's an okay thing to do for an entertainment show, one that has a beginning, middle, and end, but do we want a world where every relationship we have is manipulated in this manner by individuals unknown to us (at least with the magician, he is on stage playing with us and it is an unwritten contract that we provide consent to have our brains scrambled during the act, do we give that kind of consent to social platforms every day, and every hour of the day when we use them?).
A revealing detail in all these discussions is that social media executives seldom allow their children to use the tools, and platforms, that they have created.
I think that the answer to the kinds of questions Mr. Lanier poses, and the kinds of questions that we, as marketers, pose for ourselves, lies squarely on this particular detail in the lives of the executives of Facebook and the other platforms.
Mr. Lanier's book is a solid read, flawed in places, but solid nonetheless and a good way to maintain a 'beginner's mind' on topics that otherwise would fly past us on our day to day activities. Reading it is the equivalent of catching your breath after a long run up a flight of stairs.
The work that I do allows me to come into contact with different types of companies in terms of products and organization. It is a point of pride for me to learn about the clients' business, their interests, goals, and particularly, their ways of working.
My clients find me when there is a need for structure and organization in their digital efforts. They've likely already had consultants telling them to put money on every channel, particularly social, and watch the results 'roll in' into the future. There's of course Google and Bing, and, depending on the type of product and customer, Instagram and some of the other, less well-known networks.
Their efforts look coherent, but they are not. Most of the time, once you look into them, you see that their messaging is 'off' in some networks and 'on' in others, while the timing of the messaging has fallen apart under pressure to keep up artificially urgent schedules.
I've learned that one of the most important messages my clients give me is that the stuff they've been doing does not seem to be working the way they thought it would and that they do not understand why this is the case.
This is the main reason why, when I engage with a new organization, I have some questions that need to be answered to make the engagement worthwhile for the client. Particularly as to what's been tried in the past and whether it has worked.
Sometimes, clients will tell me that they've already spent all their budget on this or that network effort and that it did not render any results worth looking into. Usually, the Network is to be blamed for the failure.
In those cases, it is helpful to look back and understand precisely what the client sees as 'unworthy' about the effort, and perhaps learn from the first attempt at attacking a particular network. A good post-mortem for a campaign is a way to open everyone's eyes as to what a success will look like in the future.
I like to guide those efforts with management and with the relevant members of the organization.
My clients find that those discussions open the way to more structure, improved marketing within their limited resources and that the work that we do together improves their odds of success.
And those are some of the things that get me out of bed in the morning and keep me interested in working with multiple organizations.
Just replace the world 'pinball' with the words 'digital marketing' as you listen to the people describe their experience. I am sure you'll be able to relate to the discussion. I enjoy explaining digital approaches to business challenges as clearly as this video talks about pinball. Enjoy.
Understanding Customer Loyalty as Confirmation Bias
A business can understand customer loyalty as a manifestation of the positive side of Confirmation Bias. This bias is inherent in people's mental model, and is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories.
“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects.”
— Francis Bacon
You can think of confirmation bias in a negative manner, as a way to prevent you from understanding the world correctly by blinding you to a proper understanding of the evidence in front of you. And you would be correct to look at it in this way. In the real world of contradictory ideologies,
Confirmation Bias is the mental approach that allows two people with opposing views on a topic to see the same evidence and come away feeling validated by it. Unchecked, it can create a dangerous thought bubble that isolates and destroys your ability to relate to the world.
In the context of this conversation, however, we are looking at the positive side of Confirmation Bias. (The technical term for this use of Confirmation Bias is Apophenia).
Looking at the Shapes of Clouds and Mountains
Confirmation Bias has a positive aspect to it. It has to do with patterns and reassurance. The mind is designed to seek patterns in the world and it will create and sustain them automatically, often from evidence that does not support such patterns. For example, people who see figures in the shapes of clouds are using a form of confirmation bias to ‘trim’ what they see to belong to a category of things they know about (sheep or cows or whatever object is on their minds at the time). The trimming process removes whatever elements in their mind would interfere with the creation and maintenance of this mental image. The ‘mental trimming process’ is reinforced via confirmation bias to make the image become clear in their minds, even though it does not exist in the real world.
In the case of looking at the shape of clouds, this is a very mild process and does not involve confrontation. Someone else may disagree with an individual about the shape they see in a cloud, but this will likely not become cause for a duel to the death. However, It is possible for one person to transfer to another person the ability to see the same object in a cloud by telling them about it in a cooperative manner. By describing the shape of the cloud in terms of the elements of the object desired, one person can ‘make’ the other person see what they believe they see in the clouds.
The same process also happens when viewing the shapes of some mountains. People describe shapes and can transfer this description to another person’s view of the same mountain so they both ‘see’ the same thing, even though it is clear ‘the thing’ they are looking at is not really a part of the mountain (or the cloud) in the least.
Triggering Confirmation Bias To Create Customer Loyalty
To apply Confirmation Bias within a customer centric Digital Investment Plan, a business can add a ‘crazy’ element to their marketing approach. By committing a potential and/or existing customer to perform this ‘crazy’ action, the business triggers Confirmation Bias, as the individual will be naturally driven to justify their action to others.
The elements of the Digital Investment Plan come into play to create and maintain the justification details that a customer can use to confirm their beliefs about the action they have performed.
The trigger for confirmation bias can be a story told about the product and its details, or a story about how the product fits in the customer’s world. In other words, the trigger can be a real thing or a story that organizes the world into a shape that helps explain a little part of the world.
Depending on the type of customers in the business target audience, the elements may be 'crazy' or they can be as simple as a higher price than average to trigger a justification discussion.
By designing the Digital Investment Plan from the start to include these triggering elements, a business can run effective campaigns to create confirmation bias driven discussions between customers and non-customers, establishing a high probability of getting loyal customers to stick with the product while at the same time having them advocate the product (in the same way that people share their description of the shape of a cloud) with others.
Confirmation Bias discussion from Science Daily
Pareidolia: Seeing Faces in Unusual Places
Being Amused by Apophenia
Daniel Loebl is a Digital Marketer with over 10 years of experience. He is ready to tell your story via email. Request an appointment.