Rise Above In-Box Clutter

By Kathleen Goodwin | Posted July 09, 2003

There's a growing crisis in e-marketing. You're a victim, so am I, and so is everyone else in the business world. We're overwhelmed with e-mail.

It happened with voice mail, until e-mail came along and granted a reprieve. It was short-lived. People get increasingly more e-mail. The important messages get lost among the not-so-important ones. Today, if someone wants me to pay attention to an e-mail, she'll leave a voice mail message to tell me to read my e-mail. How ridiculous is that?

Much of the blame goes to spammers. They're the ones who, through a deluge of irrelevant e-mail, drove many business correspondents to consider e-mail more of a nuisance than a help. E-mail is becoming less effective. It's losing much of the impact it once had.

Do Your Bit — Stop Spam
When it comes to spam, it's easy to point a finger at some nameless person. Stopping spam is a collective responsibility. Spam is a plague infecting all forms of communication. If we don't all acknowledge this fact soon, we'll be the poorer for it. Over time it affects our ability to build a trusting relationship with our customers and prospects.

How do you ensure your communications don't fall into the "irrelevant" bucket? How do you get through to the inbox, time and again? How do you avoid losing loyal customers?

Engage in a Dialogue
The best way to engage customers and prospects is through newsletters. Newsletters allow you to create conversations with prospects and customers that rise above plain old e-mail. Customers who previously felt inundated will instead feel they're engaged in a dialogue with you and your company.

To accomplish this, simply match customers' actions to the content you send. This shows you understand not only their actions but also their motivations for responding or not responding.

  • Content is the magnet. Your newsletter content creates the personalized conversation you want to have with readers. It separates your communications from spam. Conversations that build trust and awareness deliver information that is timely, relevant, and informative. To do this, take the extra step and individualize communications and incentives effectively. Know to whom you are talking and whether you hit their hot buttons.

  • Segment. Segmenting is a critical component of electronic marketing. Group your audience into buckets of similar interests so you can tailor content to those interests. Draw readers into your newsletter and engage them. There are traditional forms of segmentation, but you can be more creative. Think about what motivates people to seek information on your product and how you guide them to an eventual sale, then keep them sold. As an example, you could segment people who've bought from you versus people who still need to acquire more information before purchasing.

  • Sequence. When you segment readers according to their position in the buying cycle, you can the sequence e-mails accordingly. I call this "perpetual conversion." Over a series of events, e-mails, and conversations, you bring the prospect further along in the buying cycle. Two different readers may choose different newsletter options, indicating different buying cycle positions. Send each a different follow-up e-mail message, sequencing communications in a way that brings readers through the decision-making process.

  • Deliver the transaction. You've made it to the inbox, let your newsletter deliver the transaction. You needn't send them to another site. A well thought-out and constructed newsletter can host transaction ability right there — when a buyer is ready to buy.

If you can conceptualize and implement this ongoing conversation with prospects and customers, you'll be able to maintain their interest through lengthy sales cycles and sustain customer allegiance and loyalty.

Please remember spam is the enemy. Building better conversations with customers means it's possible to send less e-mail. Those you do send are better because they contain information that's more relevant to the recipient. This ultimately means better return on investment (ROI) for you and your company.

Adapted from ClickZ.com.

Kathleen Goodwin is CEO of iMakeNews, specializing in customer acquisition and retention through permission-based e-newsletters. For nine years, she was vice president of marketing for Ziff-Davis' publishing division, where she oversaw the marketing of all print publications and their early online siblings. She also serves as an advisor to early-stage companies and has been responsible for several successful new-business launches.

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