Figuring Out What's In It For Your Customers

By Paul Soltoff | Posted January 28, 2003

In my last column, I discussed the most important customer question an e-mail marketer must answer to create a compelling e-mail campaign: "What's in it for me?"

 

But how do you determine the correct answer? Do you simply pick what most appeals to you or your creative team? Do you survey your employees, family, and friends and go with their consensus? Or do you do what many do — go with your gut feeling?

Nope, none of the above. To answer that question accurately, you have to actually do some real primary customer research. That means you need to identify consumers who are in the market for your product or service. Talk with them. Find out what they want and what motivates them to buy.

Once you've done that, you need to follow this four-step process:

  1. Prioritize the key objectives.

  2. Come up with reasons the prospect should believe the benefits being presented.

  3. Determine supporting objectives and features.

  4. Construct the value proposition.

That information is then used as the basis for your creative brief (an overall summary of your findings, their relative importance, the unique selling proposition, and related marketing issues), from which you can create the concepts that deliver your message. After you've done all that, you'll finally be ready to create a compelling e-mail marketing campaign.

The consumer research itself doesn't have to be expensive or lengthy, which is good because the information you glean from this process is so critical to your success we consider it a mandatory first step to developing every campaign.

To illustrate just how important research is to your campaign, let's take a look at one of our own clients, Euro-Pro, which sells a new floor and carpet sweeper, the Shark Cordless Sweeper. The company's situation offers an excellent example of just how important that initial consumer research is, because without it, we would have developed an offer that would have landed with a huge thud in every inbox. Instead, it has become a successful e-mail marketing program selling a $79.80 product directly to the consumer.

We began with a mile-long list of features for the Shark Cordless Sweeper, which actually presented us with one of our greatest challenges. Many consumers already have vacuum cleaners and/or sweepers, so introducing a new model based solely on a laundry list of bells and whistles just wouldn't cut it — unless we were content for it to look like every other sweeper on the market. Of course, we weren't.

To figure out how the product could stand out, we gave out more than 20 units to consumers to use for about two weeks. After that time, we conducted interviews to determine how they used the product and what they liked about it. From this data, we developed our marketing outline, creative brief, and the actual creative for the e-mail marketing program.

In other words, we got inside the customers' heads and answered the critical question: "What's in it for me?"

Internally, we anticipated the response to be: "the most powerful sweeper with features you can't find on other sweepers." It wasn't.

Instead, thanks to our research, we were able to determine the critical issues that were necessary to successfully market the product. As it turns out, it wasn't just cleaning ability that consumers considered important. It was the following, in order of priority:

  1. The product is light in comparison to other vacuums.

  2. It is cordless (so people don't trip or get tangled up in electrical cords).

  3. It picks up all kinds of food, ranging from cereal to luncheon meats (in other words, whatever the kids throw on the floor), and it picks up dirt next to walls and baseboards.

  4. It is able to get into small spaces larger vacuums can't.

With this information, we were able to construct our "what's in it for me" value proposition: "The Shark Cordless Sweeper is the lightest and most powerful sweeper, able to easily pick up anything, anywhere without the problems associated with traditional vacuum cleaners."

Based on this example, it's easy to see why initial research is absolutely critical to the process of creating a compelling — and an effective — e-mail marketing message.

Paul Soltoff is the chief executive officer of SendTec, Inc., the parent company of DirectNet Advertising (DNA) and iFactz, and has more than 20 years of direct marketing experience on both the client and agency side. SendTec provides results-oriented direct marketing solutions for acquiring, retaining and communicating to customers through digital advertising; direct response television; patent-pending e-mail/Web convergence technologies; performance media, and media buying services. SendTec represents clients and advertising agencies such as AOL, National Geographic, AARP, Grey Worldwide, Cosmetmque, DBD Needham, Shell Oil, National Geographic, and IBM.

Adapted from ClickZ.


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