Friday, February 16, 2018

Checking In...Updates for Sour eMail February 16, 2018

Email Best Practices and More

Sorry for the long hiatus here.  Been busy with some new clients and work and while I continue to focus on email marketing, I've been branching out into other areas in support of my client work.

I've been working for about a year now with a software company that supplies operational software to RV, power sports, marine and auto dealerships.  Small but growing and focus right now is in the RV space, so I've been focusing my publishing efforts there. Here's some recent posts in one of the major online magazines and news engines for that industry which are relevant for Sour eMail.

December 2017 - Email Marketing Best Practices - 10 Tips for Success

February 2018 - Steps to the Sale - Tips to Improve Sales Conversion

I also have an upcoming speaking engagement in San Francisco on Customer Experience Mapping.  I'll post details of what that covers later, but here's details on that event.  

Stay tuned for more insights and information in the email and customer relationship area.

Monday, October 9, 2017

DATA QUALITY - Anatomy of an Email Inbox 10-9-17

Chicago, Club Industry and Marathon

Back home and into the new week after spending the weekend in Chicago.  I presented my SOUR Email session at the Club Industry Show - a National gathering of people in the health club and health services business.  I was glad to be there and in Chicago and it just so happened that the Chicago Marathon was Sunday.  It was my first time attending and I was completely impressed and awed.  I was fortunate to be staying very close to the course route, so woke up early to see the participants get started on the long run - 26.2 miles.  Impressive!  

What was even more impressive was to see those so much less fortunate than us out there giving it their all.  Whether they were without the use of their limbs or simply without limbs or faculties, they were there participating and competing.  Just the fact they were there and going for it made me feel so inspired by them and their attitudes in life.

While at the conference, I covered much of what I write about in this blog, but one area we discussed was DATA QUALITY.  This is an area that often does not receive enough attention in email marketing.  After all, we are marketers, not IT team members.  I think this is SOUR thinking and as marketers we need to be as much technologist as marketers.  It is our responsibility to communicate and communicate well and that means understanding the data we are using and making sure it is being executed on in the right manner.

I spoke in one of my past blogs about the emails I keep getting addressed to "Jean," my mom's name after I order pet medicine and had it delivered to her house when I was visiting this past summer.  Clearly not a good experience.

Here's the latest one that SOURs me on data quality.  I recently change the home warranty company that I had one of my homes covered under.  I had done my research, signed up for some emails and started evaluating the companies.  

While they were aggressive in following up with me and sending me offers, there was NO personalization and no attempt to understand what I wanted and who I was as a real person and prospect of their company.

I ultimately spoke on the phone with a very nice gentleman who helped me understand the offers and differences between the companies and I purchased the coverage.

Here's the rub:  I ordered my coverage in late September and promptly received my contract and information package in the mail.  However, I continue to receive sales offers every 3-4 days.

So, the problem is their back end ordering system isn't connected to their marketing database and now they continue to try and sell me something I already bought.  I've now unsubscribed, so in addition to the errors, after 90 days, they can't send me any future content emails.  Total missed opportunity because no one appears to be watching their data quality to make sure there is a great customer experience.  Instead they are delivering a SOUR one that irritates me and hurts them.

So, in parting and in keeping with my Marathon weekend, run for the goal line and WIN!

-     Make sure all your teams and databases are connected and talking to each other.
-     Consider how your data is updated and timing of those updates.
-     Perhaps use resting rules to allow for the databases to sync if they are not real time.
-     Audit your communications and paths between prospecting and sales.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

EMAIL BENCHMARKING - Anatomy of an Email Inbox - 9-19-2017

Email Benchmarks

I love email marketing and that's why I write this blog.  It is one of the most powerful and compelling tactics we have in our toolkit as marketers and for the most part we do a SOUR job of leveraging it to our and our prospect and customers benefit.

Recently I saw a report from Digital Doughnut on Email Benchmarking and I thought it was worthy of a conversation.  

This report was based on a survey of 1,500 marketers, so it is self-reported data on what people are doing, what the trends are and how satisfied they are with their providers.

Here's what I think are the salient insights.

1.  We are SLOW learners.  The first "blast" email was sent in 1978.  Yet today, only 30% of email marketers consider themselves "leaders."  Only 9% rate themselves as extremely mature!

2.  We are still weak at executing personalization.  I've written about this before and did another look at my inbox this week.  Out of 155 emails only 5 companies used my first name in the subject line. My bank didn't even use my name!  I'm pretty sure they know it!  SOUR.

The good news is that as marketers we recognize the need to be more personalized - this is the top trend according to this study.  It just saddens me that we are so slow to embrace this and even though it is considered a trend, only 26% of respondents rank it as most important.

The One-To-One Future was written by Peppers and Rogers in 1993!  That's almost 25 years ago.

Now I know that was visionary in its time and we really didn't have the database and technological capabilities to be as personalized as we can today.  Now, however, there is no excuse. Even the most basic ESPs allow you to do some level of personalization. We can and should be much better.

3.  What do you need to know to be better?  I have spoken and written about all of this in past posts and you can find detailed specifics and best practices by reviewing these.  Now is the time to become a leader and insure you are executing all of the below at the highest level.

One note of caution on the first bullet - while I agree that you should be sending more emails on a regular basis, that doesn't mean more to everyone.  Be sure that the volume of emails is increased only if using personalization, triggering and relevant communication.  Your emails should include content that is delivered at the right time and is truly based on what your prospect or customer needs at that point in their customer journey, not what you want.  If you deliver on their needs you will always win over the long term in your customers minds and hearts and for your business.

Or course, if you need help, contact me!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

WHY DON'T MARKETERS LISTEN - Anatomy of an Email Inbox 8-31-2017

I've been working on my next presentation for the Club Industry Show in Chicago in early October. This is the National conference for the Health Club industry.  Not one I have focused on before for emails, so have been hitting websites and seeing what is happening in this space.  
In my past blogs I have spoken much about the customer journey and the content needed throughout the funnel, but unfortunately, a large portion of marketers across many industries continue to use email to only deliver messaging at the end of the funnel.  Even if the funnel is short, there is opportunity to deliver more value and be less promotional.  This helps build trust and consideration early in the relationship and primes action later.  This is a long term strategy, not short term sales and ROI focused.

As part of my research, I signed up on a handful of fitness sites to see what they would do and how they would communicate with me.  Big surprise, they didn't try to "court" me, they went straight for the "marriage" trying to get me in their door with a free pass. And even when they sent me their "free pass" they didn't try to inform me.  This would have been a great opportunity to add some valuable content about health and fitness to reinforce why I should be going into their club. Instead, this was all about operations and getting "married" before I even am sure I like them!

Another thing I speak a lot about is customer centricity and the importance of listening to our customers.  That is how you win, both short and long term.

If there isn't enough evidence out there, here's a great statistic from an article this week in AdWeek.

40% of Consumers Want Emails From Brands to Be Less Promotional and More Informative

In spite of this, still 61% prefer email (as compared to other mediums such as direct mail) as their method for receiving promotions from brands.  But, can't we find a blend of both?

So why don't we listen?  Here's my thoughts.

1. Its Easier to create promotional messages and they can be directly tied to revenue.  Marketers still have to serve their finance and leadership masters.  Their job is to drive revenue and reduce costs/improve profits.  It takes enlightened leadership and progressive and sometimes brave marketers who can tell the story of why and how early journey content and emails drive success both long and short term.  Hopefully the above statistic can help tell that story.

2.  They don't know what content they need or don't have it. Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) may seem like an activity that isn't needed or too time consuming or difficult to do.  The reality is this is a strategic tool that will help you focus on what is important:  the right customers, their motivations and what they need to move into and through your funnel.  Don't short change your strategy and execution by missing this vital step.

3.  Email marketing isn't strategic enough.  Often these team members are technical, creative and executing members of the team. There isn't enough conversation about strategies around email marketing within the organization.  CMOs and marketing heads need to outline the overarching strategy for email and direct these team members to deliver more than just the same old promotional content. You need to provide resources and insist on CJMs for your core segments and content procurement that meets customers needs.

So the net is, we don't listen - SOUR because we are failing at:

- Being team leaders and visionaries
- Championing strategy and insights about the customers needs
- Being customer centric in all things

Want help with CJM, email strategy or more, contact me.  And, if you are in the health care industry, look for me Oct 6th in Chicago at the Club Industry Show where I will be speaking more about "Turning SOUR Email into Sweet Marketing Success."

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

CUSTOMER CENTRICITY - Anatomy of an Email Inbox 8-2-2017

Conference Speaking Gig

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak about CRM, email and marketing strategy at the Southeast Building Conference #SEBCVille last week at the beautiful Gaylord Palms Hotel near Disney World. My session was focused on customer centricity and how to be the driver rather than the passenger in the customer conversation.  If you would like a copy of my deck, please contact me.

While there, I was able to attend a couple of other sessions and it was good to hear others having the same conversation, even using similar analogies of cars.  I sat in on the session by Steve Coughran at Coltivar Group and I loved his description of how businesses continue to miss the opportunity to focus on customers. He called it the "Me Car."  In essence what he talked about is that in conversations, sales teams and even in marketing materials we tend to focus on the company rather than trying to listen to and understand the customers needs and presenting compelling content that they care about.  

As someone who started out my career on the market research side of marketing, I have always been a big proponent of using those tools to better understand prospects and customers.  Today we have even more! Here's some things to consider doing if you are not already.

Prospect surveys

Either on line or in person, don't let someone out of your sphere without trying to obtain some level of information and insight from them. People are usually happy to tell you things about themselves. Who doesn't like to talk about themselves?  You could do web based surveys to understand the things people like about your site, test different experiences and more.  See a few of these type tools here. Phone surveys are great for customer service insights.  How many times have you heard the message: "Please take a moment to answer a few questions about the call..?"

While at Centex Homes, I instituted a model center survey program that was part of the sign in process for visitors who came to the model homes.  At my session at SEBC, I talked about the insights we gained from this work.  Within only 18 months, across our Divisions we had over 8,000 completed surveys. We analyzed these to understand our segments needs in a home, their motivations for purchase, what influenced their visit and the features of the homes that were important to them.  These insights about the segments helped inform product design and features, sales team scripts, marketing activities and more.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Some think the concept of Net Promoter Score is dead, however, I disagree.  This metric is a good tracking tool over time to understand where you are and to benchmark your performance against industry norms and overall.  It helps you keep a pulse on the sentiment and combined with other survey insights can provide great content.  When I went to the Home Storage company I worked for several years ago, they had great creative and rudimentary understanding of their consumer targets, but hadn't done a deep dive or built a "culture of learning."  I started this CSAT study in my first 30 days and began a process that not only trended the company Net Promoter Score but provided insights that informed product, customer service and much more.  We disseminated the commentary from the surveys to the appropriate departments for continuous improvements in all these areas.  This led to the institution of additional insight collections specific to customer service, our business partner channels and other ad hoc insights that were needed to better understand our customers and prospects.

It was all about being customer centric and understanding the customer and making them core to the way we ran the business. Here's a slide I borrowed for my presentation that I think does a good job of describing at a high level what is needed to be customer centric.

Customer Centricity

Email Insights

This blog is about email, so I would be remiss in not mentioning how to use email to drive customer centricity.  Email communication should not be one way.  It is a great engagement tool and way to obtain insights in "sound bytes."  This can be helpful to continue learning throughout your relationship.  Also, while at Centex, we implemented a robust CRM communications program that was founded on the customer journey and the understanding that it was a long process.  Central to that was where our prospect was in the process.  We crafted unique communications flows based on this timing presenting content that was relevant for each phase.  We initially asked them where they were in their process and got them to tell us "how long until you plan to make a decision."  We continued to ask this question in every email communication, so if circumstances changed, they could let us know and we could move them to a different communications track.  We also used behavioral triggers to move people into different communications paths.  So for example, if someone asked a very specific question in response to an email, an online consultant was automatically notified and a personal phone call follow up was made.

Every touch point with your prospects and customers should be a learning opportunity.  Being open to the voice of the customer and building tools and processes to learn from those interactions will help you drive a business that matters and is responsive to the needs of your customers which naturally leads to profitability and success.

Your CRM then becomes the repository of this learning so that you maintain the "one truth" of the customer that provides you the insights and tools you need to grow a profitable business.

So, as I said in my presentation, here's the things that you need to drive the customer relationship and build your business:

Customer focused leadership is key
- Build a learning culture and systems
- Focus on the entire journey, not just the end
- Tell stories and make emotional connections
- Measure and always be improving

Your Journey with the Customer Never Ends!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

BUYERS JOURNEY CONTENT - Anatomy of an Email Inbox 7-5-2017

Image result for 4th of july

Happy 4th of July. Hope you all enjoyed this mid week holiday to celebrate our independence and what it means for all of us.

I enjoyed it with family and neighbors, but am now back to work and thinking about email content as it relates to the buyer journey.

I think about and spend a lot of time writing about experiential and lifestyle selling and how to better connect with consumers and use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and email specifically to maintain and develop those relationships over time.

Over the years, I have been involved with database marketing and have oftentimes had large databases to tap into to activate and drive incremental business. 

Customer Journey - Awareness and Consideration

Email is certainly a relationship tool, but I think many of us miss the mark in using it for awareness and consideration.  What do I mean by that?  Well, a negative example is a good way to start.  I like to pick on the home building industry for "sour" behaviors because they are an easy target!  They are a very sales and end of funnel focused and if you review just the subject lines of their emails, you can see that.  Here's a snapshot of several weeks of emails from one home builder.  As you can see, they are very focused on SELLING and not so much on understanding where a prospect is in their journey and what kind of things they might want to know.

Customer Journey - Early Funnel Content

I shared some thoughts a few posts ago about customer journey mapping and how this can help you understand the journey, but what I'd like to focus on today is how you discover and develop content specifically focused on the very earliest phases of the journey.

As part of the mapping process, it is important to ask yourself what kind of questions will people ask in the early phases of discovery and consideration.

Some questions that are relevant in this stage need to take you away from the sales process and this makes it hard to get to the right questions.  I've had many conversations with people about what content at this level means and often the responses I receive are still too focused lower in the funnel.

So let's look at some examples.

Home Building 

If I'm not really even thinking about buying a home, how might a builder get some consideration going?  

First, think about people and their homes.  Everyone lives in a home and at times may think about how that home might be better, more livable or something they don't like about it.  What kind of compelling content could help them?

Here's some topic ideas:

-  Top things I would change about my home if I could
-  How to get more out of less space
-  Popular colors for this season

Each of these has nothing to do with a specific builder or the later stages of the sales process.  However, if you had the opportunity to share this kind of content with a broader audience, either in your email database or not, would it be beneficial?  Would it help start the consideration process?  Would it make people more likely to contact you when they are further into the process?

I'd say yes, if done well.

Clothes and Fashions

This is a much shorter cycle time so the content can drive to purchase much faster.  Concepts are still the same however.  What things can get you into their consideration?  So perhaps content like:

-  Best summer swim suits
-  Summer colors that dazzle
-  Summer dress styles for every budget

Again, there is no "promotion" or offer to come in or visit a website and buy it now, but just something to put people into the thinking process of clothing and fashions for summer that could ultimately lead to a purchase from you!

You can come up with these kind of early funnel examples for virtually any industry and product.  The point is to sell but not sell, tap into an emotion and lifestyle and provide content that is of interest and useful.

And don't forget to ask them to raise their hand once they do engage with the content.  Even though people don't like pop-up windows, they do work to get people to sign up for more content like what you provided (and oh, by the way, maybe a special offer!).  It's all about the sale, its just how you get there and when that matters.  Early funnel content does matter.

Happy 4th and happy early funnel content development.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

CONTENT FOR THE JOURNEY - Anatomy of an Email Inbox 6-12-17

Content is King (or Queen)

I've been errant in getting my posts out consistently the past few weeks.  I have a good excuse however, as I've been making some transitional moves to fully set up my winter and summer homes. I'm a little backwards this year spending the summer in Florida instead of Michigan.  Some of us relaxed on the 1,200 mile drive!  Needed to do that to buy and sell properties here in Florida however.  Getting to spend some time in the home I brought my daughter up in before selling it and moving to the coast, so that has been a trip down memory lane.

I digress, however.  I have also been working on some speaking presentations and as part of that I realized I haven't said much in these posts about content for the journey.

Content for the Journey

Last month I talked about CJM (Customer Journey Mapping) and laid out the high level thoughts and steps on how to go about this process.  Of course, if you need help doing this, contact me.

What I have found, just like in writing this blog and throughout my years as a marketing leader is that creating the content is the hardest part of implementing your customer communications strategy.

You can do a great job of creating your CJM, setting in place the tools needed to executed (automation, databases, KPIs, etc.), but if you don't build your content engine, you will fail.

Content  Gap Analysis

When I did a CJM years ago while working at Sears Home Services, one of the steps and "aha moments" was after creating the map and the content plan was the work we did as our next step which was to create a content gap analysis.

We took an inventory of all the content we had and then compared it to the content we needed. The "aha moment" was in understanding where our gaps were.  Invariably, there and in other industries that I work in one of several outcomes are observed:

  • There is just minimal content - so a BIG gap
  • There is great content across the journey phases - so MINIMAL gap (you don't see that too often)
  • There is a gap in one or more phases of the journey - most common

At Sears, we found that we were missing content early in the funnel.  I have often found that to be true.  Most selling organizations where the sales function is a strong driver at the leadership level tend to err in this space.  They focus their content on end of funnel conversions and the consideration phase of the decision.

Metrics Focus

One of the reasons a lot of organizations don't develop compelling content for early in the journey can be laid at the feet of the metrics.  It is hard to justify early funnel content when leadership is focused on short term, immediate results. In my last role in the home storage products industry, I had countless conversations about widening the conversion funnel at the top versus the bottom and minimizing the "leakage" through the process. Business leaders want to see immediate results of your efforts and unfortunately content, especially that designed to build awareness and consideration does not typically drive immediate results. Instead, it drives a wider funnel that provides more conversions as you put more people into the funnel.  The important element is setting the right metrics for this type of content.  So, it is not about getting the sale, but getting the prospect to engage and take the next step (impressions, clicks, shares, read rates, etc).

Content Generation

So once you have identified your customer journey, your content needs and your gap, you can begin to develop a content plan.

If you want to learn a lot more about the importance of content to business success, I recommend attending the Content Marketing World conference held in Cleveland.  This year it is Sept 5-8, so well before the snows start falling and a very pretty time of year in the mid-west.  There are great sessions on all things content and they will provide you many ideas on where and how to create content and also how to elevate this important function within your organization to the place it belongs.

At a high level, here's some ways to begin to build the great content library you need to drive the customer journey to your benefit:

  • Build it yourself
  • Partner with media outlets who deliver similar content
  • Re purpose historical content (repetition is important and different people show up at different times, so don't be afraid to reuse good content and use in multiple places)
  • Share other's content that is relevant (with permission and proper authorization of course)
  • Hire external content providers (make versus buy decision - topic for a future blog post)

Here's a great infographic on 22 tips for creating content from copyblogger.  

It's easier than you think.  You just need to focus and build an organization that can deliver.  Most importantly, you need to understand the customer journey so you can curate the right content.

Happy content development!