Time for a pop quiz!

Which is more important for email success: clean data or solid creative?

Okay, we admit it – that’s a trick question. You need both – and more – to build an email program of campaigns that engage, convert and deliver the results you want.

Geoff Wolf, Executive Vice President Client Strategy at J. Schmid & Associates, says you can improve your email program if you can pull four important levers:

1. Understand your target
2. Include emotional and human elements in your messages
3. Get the email address right
4. Deliver your email properly

In a recent webinar with FreshAddress, Geoff and Keith Reinhardt, Marketing Manager at FreshAddress, went into depth on each of these levers.

1. Understand your target

Marketers too often think of messaging channels like email, search and direct mail (catalogs) as tactics.  But the essence of marketing is understanding your customers and the behaviors of the people who make purchasing decisions.

Data, behavior tracking, and automation are factors in that understanding. But, Geoff says, they don’t make the decisions. People do.

That’s where personas can help you understand your customers better. “With personas, we can understand people with real human emotions,” Geoff said. “Purchasing behavior is driven by unconscious feelings.”

2. Include emotional and human elements in the message

“We can use neuroscience and neuromarketing to test to see what part of the brain lights up when you buy something. It’s feelings and emotions that light up in the brain when you buy something.”

Your marketing needs to tap into the unconscious, to find the emotion that will prompt your customers to want to buy from you.

That’s one reason why it can be better to start a marketing conversation by talking about product benefits instead of features. The benefit taps into human feelings – what it can do for the customer –  and how our brains are wired.

Capturing attention by focusing on something that’s different or unexpected in the email. That’s where storytelling can come in handy.

“You might think business is all about the numbers, but experts say it’s all about the story,” he said. “Storytelling is almost as critical as corporate accounting.”

People love a good story. If you can use your subject lines, landing pages and email content to tell a story that your customers will connect with, your email will perform better. It’s just human nature, Geoff says.

3. Get the email address right

“Once you understand your target and craft a message that resonates, it’s time to deliver it,” Keith says. “But you have to consider some things before you start spraying emails all over the place.”

Most important is to be sure you have the correct, up-to-date email address for every customer on your mailing list. It’s important to get a “good” address because most of your leads won’t be ready to buy the minute they land on your website.

“You need to walk them through the customer journey and be educated,” Keith says. “They need to learn why they need you.”

So, what constitutes clean data or a “good” address? It has three qualities:

  • It’s deliverable. It won’t get turned down by an ISP because it goes to a nonexistent or closed mailbox.
  • It’s accurate. It identifies your customer correctly. It’s not a role account or spamtrap, or one that belongs to someone with a track record of clicking the “spam” button, even on permission email.
  • It’s a primary email account. The address is one your customer checks regularly, not a throwaway or alternate account reserved for emails they don’t care about. Customers are 14 times more likely to check their primary email accounts than secondary accounts.

Collecting good email addresses is work, but it’s important to do it right. Sending email to a list full of bad addresses will waste money, mess up your campaign metrics, and ruin your reputation with the ISPs that guard their users’ mailboxes fiercely.

These steps will keep you on the right side of the law, the ISPs and your customers’ good feelings:

  • Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t buy email lists or harvest addresses from “contact us” pages, blog comments, or other sources. These people didn’t sign up for your emails. It will break the law in most countries around the world, get you in trouble with the ISPs, and most likely put you on a blacklist. In other words: You’ll get shut out of the inbox. It’s not worth the effort.
  • Prevent typos before they hit your database. Use real-time email verification to detect and correct mistyped addresses on opt-in forms, at point of sale, or by call center or customer service people. Make web forms easy to use, especially for customers who have longer email addresses. And remember, not all email verification services are the same. Take your time and choose wisely!

4. Deliver your email properly

You’ve designed the right message to send to the right person at the right email address. Now, send it at the right time.

This covers more than just the right time to push “send” in your email platform. You also need to figure out how often to send.

There’s no one rule. “Every contact is an individual,” Geoff says. “You can segment your database into manageable bundles, but remember: Each customer is unique.”

Use the customer data you have beyond your email data to help you identify the right time to send. That includes demographic and purchase data, the times they open and click most often, any social media interactions, CRM data and what you know in general about your audience.

Geoff recommends using the “recency-frequency-monetary” model, which groups by how recent someone clicks on an email or buys from your site, how often they visit or buy and how much they spend.

This can help you define and segment the customers who are most engaged with your brand and email program.

Audit your email to help you move from broadcast messages and find the right frequency. Answer these questions:

  • What do I want my email to achieve?
  • What is my customer buying cycle?
  • What other content can I offer my customers?
  • What is the email relationship worth?
  • What do my competitors do?

(Note: You can find out for free by researching live emails sent by top U.S. and International brands in the FreshAddress Email Creative Archive. Just a quick sign-up and you’re on your way!)

Wrapping up

It takes a little extra time to work through the four essential levers that will drive better performance for your email program. But take that time now to better understand your customers and what drives them to purchase, and to improve your email acquisition and inbox delivery. The effort you invest now will pay off a few months from now, in the all-important holiday season and beyond.

Want to hear the full recorded webinar? Find it here (no registration required).

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