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Making email responses work for you

January 12, 2010

Although more and more companies are using email as an integral part of their marketing strategy, it has become apparent that email campaign management is often haphazard and unsophisticated, even in the largest organisations.

Whilst marketers are struggling to manage their campaigns effectively, there is an increasing pressure for demonstrable results from CEOs together with an increasing demand for more relevant emails from customers.

In our experience better results can only be obtained by improving response management systems. In this article we explore the importance of response management and suggest ways in which to achieve it.

All too often, efforts are concentrated on the acquisition and execution phases of a campaign and responses are not given the same level of attention. Whilst in one sense this is understandable, the result is that campaigns are not as effective as they could be and vital marketing intelligence is often lost.

Response management is about so much more than merely counting click-throughs; properly implemented, good response management can add immense value to e-marketing and increase the impact of future campaigns.

In many ways it is only once a campaign has been delivered that the hard work really begins. There will undoubtedly be a range of different types of responses to deal with, and no matter how well targeted the recipients and how well the message is crafted, some of these responses will be bounce-backs and unsubscribe requests.

These should be dealt with in a way that does not impact on staff resources. Setting up an automated system to delete incorrect addresses or contacts that are no longer valid from your marketing database is essential.

Ensuring that this task is undertaken is important not only because it makes certain that future sales and marketing efforts are not wasted, but also because it is a requirement under UK law.

The rest of the responses to your campaign will fall into two broad categories – positive responses and non-responders. Both will require attention.

Dealing with Positive Responses

Customers who reply to your campaign will expect a speedy response. Unfortunately the majority of email responses still take more than 48 hrs, even though mechanisms can easily be put into place to send real time immediate responses. Good response handling isn’t just about responding quickly however, these days sending an automated acknowledgement isn’t really enough.

Your response must be relevant and personalised if it is to make an impact on your customer. Think of your email as a way to develop a relationship and remember that at the end of that email address is a human who requires the personal touch if that relationship is to blossom.

Personalisation is not just a powerful tool in the initial design and delivery of your campaign. It is the best way to differentiate your responses and ensure that customers come back for more. If you don’t have a system in place to deal intelligently and instantaneously with campaign responses then you will not be achieving the best possible results.
A personalised response that addresses the customers’ concerns becomes the beginning of a dialogue. Just as your customer will learn more about your company through that dialogue, you too will learn more about your customer. This information can be turned into marketing intelligence and used to meet the needs of many customers, one at a time.

Dealing with ‘non-responders’

‘Non-responders’ will be measured differently depending on the call to action and the desired outcome of your email. Sometimes non-responders will be those who fail to click through to your landing page, sometimes they will be those who click-through but whose click does not convert into a sale. Whatever criteria you choose, it is important that you do analyse their choice.

Too many companies only track responders and do not analyse those that fail to respond in the desired manner. As a result they may miss out on a potential opportunity and a wealth of customer information.

In the first instance these non-responders may not simply be uninterested in your offer; they may just have missed it or shelved it. Sending a follow up email a few weeks later re-iterating the benefits of your offer in a slightly different way may be all that is needed to garner a positive response.

Alternatively, they may have been wrongly segmented and more interested in an entirely different offer – test this out on a small number of the group and measure the difference in response rates.

Measure responses

We are constantly amazed to discover companies that use email as a marketing tool on a regular basis yet fail to employ any measurement or analysis of the results. If they get a sale somewhere down the line that can be attributed to an email then the campaign is considered a success.

The only way to develop a meaningful communications strategy and ensure success is to measure responses. Marketing is becoming increasingly results driven. If you are not being asked for results now you soon might be. Even campaigns delivered by third party software should allow you to have a handle on the minutiae of responses.

Taking time to look at them and draw meaningful conclusions will help you implement improved strategies. Email offers an ideal way to examine buying and response behaviour and can tell you a great deal about whom your customers are and what they like, and don’t like.

Email takes the guesswork out of customer intelligence but too few companies really take advantage of this. Those that do will be able to gain competitive advantage by developing increasingly sophisticated targeting.

Increase responsiveness

Over time as more is learned about customer behaviour, savvy marketers will distinguish triggers that drive response and action. They will also be able to differentiate between customer types with greater accuracy and focus on high value customers or those that will buy online – or whatever particular criteria is a business drive at that point in time.

Improve customer service

The line between marketing and customer service is sometimes a thin one and never more so than when communicating via email. Improving response management will not only enable you to fine tune your marketing efforts, it will also have a positive impact on your customers’ opinion of you and improve their perception of your customer service. Poor response management will almost certainly give your customer a negative experience that will do more harm than good and may put them off you forever.

If you need any further information please email [email protected] or call 0161 817 2929

Posted by Paul Latham

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