Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin recently starred in the romantic comedy, “It’s Complicated,” about the love lives and relationships among divorced couples and other love interests. In the email marketing world, complication also seems to be the order of the day as personalization, relevance, deliverability, and maintaining loyal customers are ever more difficult in today’s online-driven economy.

But I have always believed that many seemingly intractable problems are often best solved by simple, elegant solutions. So here are a few of my simple solutions for dealing with those email marketing issues that just won’t seem to go away.

While many of these might seem so obvious that they’re barely worth mentioning, oftentimes the solutions we seek are right before our very eyes.

Personalization and Relevance – “It’s all about the Customer.”

There’s an old sales adage recently brought back to the forefront by David Meerman Scott in the newest edition of his book, “The New Rules of Marketing & PR”: “Nobody cares about your products and services. What they care about is themselves and solving their problems.”

Today’s consumers are fickle, and why shouldn’t they be? Your competitors are one mouse-click away and oftentimes they know more about your offerings and pricing than you do because they’re watching every step you take. Fortunately, personalizing your offerings and email marketing campaigns is pretty easy these days with the technologies and advanced database tools at your fingertips. But before resorting to complicated data mining strategies and analytics, focus on the basics:

  1. Ask your subscribers upfront how often they want to hear from you
  2. Provide them with a few standard subscriber options (e.g. discount offers only, specific content-related information, new product announcements, warranty and recall information, offerings from your trusted partners, etc.)
  3. Honor their wishes

Believe me, you can do all of the complicated analysis you want trying to divine your customers’ wishes OR you could simply ask them upfront and give them an opportunity to update their preferences as needed. I’m sure the latter approach will get you 95% of the results you need with 5% of the heartache and cost.

Deliverability – “It’s all about the List.”

Deliverability is the key to the success of every email program. With 90% of deliverability problems stemming from hygiene issues with the underlying list, proper email hygiene is the key to deliverability. To optimize your email marketing efforts, companies need to do a few basic things right:

  1. Vet your sources carefully
  2. Hygiene and correct email addresses prior to entering these into your marketing database
  3. Employ proper bounce processing and hygiene techniques going forward to avoid being blocked or blacklisted.

Loyalty – “It’s a two-way street.”

Doesn’t it just drive you crazy when cable companies offer better deals to new customers than you can get as a loyal customer for many years? Or when phone companies have cheaper plans than the one you signed up for years ago, only you never learned about the newer pricing until someone happened to mention it?

This is worth repeating – loyalty is a two-way street. If you want to build long-term customer relationships, treat your customers fairly, let them take advantage of your best available offerings at all times, and operate under the mindset that you need to win them back every time you touch them rather than taking them for granted. And if you have a formal loyalty program, be sure to continually educate them about the benefits of the program and keep them informed of their rewards status on a regular basis.

Of course, building strong customer relationships can be accomplished most cost-effectively through regular email communications so be sure your email address file is as fresh and up-to-date as possible at all times.

It’s Not Rocket Science …or even Blackjack

Email marketing is part art and part science but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Pay attention to the tried and true tenets of marketing and the rest will take care of itself. After all, while new technologies and communication channels seem to crop up every time you turn around, marketing at its core is about connecting with people. And, while we like to think we’re so different from our parents, human nature really hasn’t changed much since your parents were your age.

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