In a presentation he gave at the eTail East 2008 conference, Morgan Stewart offered a number of pointers on how to make e-mail work in real time as a marketing tool.
Here are the seven most noteworthy take-away tips:
1. Use e-mail to turn a potentially negative out-of-stock experience into a positive. Have a call out on your site that lets customers know that if you're out of stock of a particular product, they can be notified via e-mail when the item is back in stock. This helps to accomplish two things, Stewart said: to stave off the competition and to build your master e-mail file.
2. Use e-mail coupons as a way to track cross-channel sales. Coupons are viewed by many marketers as either a danger or an opportunity. Stewart emphasized the increased exposure as a viral opportunity for your brand, citing an ideal example of enabling consumers to print out a coupon included in an e-mail and using the coupon in a retail store. Then, if you can determine the person using the coupon isn't the person who received the e-mail, you gain an opportunity to get that person to sign up for your e-mail program as well.
3. Maintain the mind-set that there's no optimal time or day to send an e-mail. "It's absolutely impossible to find the best day to send an e-mail … because there is none," Stewart said in a response to a question from the audience. "It varies all over the board."
4. Use a sliding scale for contact frequency with e-mail. For customers who have been unengaged (not clicking through) for more than three months, Stewart suggested sending them e-mails to confirm that they're still interested in hearing from you. This can work in the other direction, as well, he added. If you've reduced the contact frequency for some customers but notice their increased activity, look for the opportunity to bump up your frequency.
5. Create "subscriber rules." These should include serving the individual through timely and relevant content, as well as honoring requests for communication, contact frequency and contact channel, Stewart advised.
6. Send a "second hit" e-mail before any limited-time offer is set to expire. This technique will help boost response, Stewart said. He recommended sending this e-mail 24 hours prior to expiration.
7. Address engagement problems. This can be done in three ways, Stewart advised:
- stop mailing them;
- conduct a re-opt-in campaign and continue to send to responders;
- reduce the contact frequency.
Many online marketers are unwilling stop mailing people, because they feel e-mail addresses are too valuable, and find the second and third options to be the most desireable, Stewart said. But he cautioned that a re-opt-in campaign is terminal. "If they don't want to re-opt-in, they're no longer mailed," he said. At the same time, a reduced frequency can yield comparable cost savings.