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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
Maximize Your Digital Communications
Be Relevant, Automate, and Coordinate Across Multiple Channels Including Email and Mobile
By Amber Whiteman

Marketers who want to develop stronger relationships with their target audience and track increased ROI need to keep email marketing in the mix. The key is to optimize the email marketing program and take advantage of new technologies to ensure you get the most out of your investment. This article shares the proven techniques and best practices that should be a part of any email marketer's repertoire, including an increased focus on mobile platforms; relevancy of emails; email automation; and maximized communication through multiple channels.

Increased Focus on Mobile
Marketers are no longer dealing with customers who either consume email on their computers or on their mobile devices. Customers are accessing email on a wider variety of devices than ever before. Research shows that email is the number-one activity people engage in on both smartphones and tablets. Marketers must consider their audience and goals to determine how to optimize email for their mobilized audience. For example, a B2B message is more likely to be consumed on smartphones, while a B2C message is more likely to be consumed on a PC or tablet.

It's important to test different email templates to see how each performs across devices and audiences. For example, a short survey to customers about how they use email can deliver valuable insights that can be immediately applied to optimize any email program.

Relevancy has been a buzzword and best practice in the email marketing industry for years, but not all marketers follow relevancy guidelines. With all of the advertising and marketing messages being thrown their way, consumers are quick to abandon email communications that aren't tailored to them.

In addition, email service providers such as Google's Gmail and MSN's Hotmail are changing the way email gets sorted and displayed in the inbox: those emails flagged as most important and relevant are the ones customers see first.

You must segment readers to deliver targeted, relevant content, and to maximize relevancy. You can segment readers by company, products used, stage in purchasing cycle, specified areas of interest, or any other characteristic you are tracking. If you aren't already collecting important information about your customers, start now. The longer you wait, the less engaged your readers will become.

Email Automation
Marketers can also increase relevancy by personalizing the email, providing dynamic content, and tracking metrics to optimize customer touch points and get maximum ROI.

Triggered communications deliver specific information about a service, membership, or account status, and can help customers progress through a process or toward a goal, such as a purchase. Successful email automation can be daunting for marketers because it requires extensive planning, thought, and insight. Marketers need to think through each phase of the customer relationship and the various types of communications needed by each customer.

The good news is that nearly all email platforms offer fully integrated CRM systems, and it is simpler for the everyday marketer to implement automated and trigger-based nurture email programs.

Maximize Your Channels
According to a 2011 holiday shopping survey highlighted in a recent TechCrunch article, 62% of respondents said email was the most useful way to receive promotions, while only 2.5% said Facebook was the most useful promotion channel. That's not to say that marketers shouldn't pay attention to their social channels-quite the contrary. Marketers need to ensure their social strategies are in alignment with their email strategies.

Constant Contact examined customer data from June 2010 to August 2011 and found that marketers who used multiple media experienced faster list growth and that their list size doubled. Furthermore, the average click-through rate was 59.3 points higher.

When considering multiple channels, don't divide and conquer. Coordinate efforts across multiple channels to maximize reach. Your email, social media, direct mail, event, public relations, and mobile strategies should all intersect and support your business goals.

Put Tips into Practice
Metia's collaboration with Microsoft to create a global trigger-based email program to engage existing Microsoft Dynamics customers at each stage of their customer lifecycle is an example of how these tips were put into action in one campaign. Metia helped to develop an email relationship marketing campaign that targeted customers' individual preferences and centralized digital communications in multiple languages, supporting Microsoft Dynamics global customers. Microsoft coordinated its email program with its social media efforts, and the results are impressive. To date, 161,000 emails have been sent, yielding an 83% delivery rate, a 30% open rate, and a 20% click-through rate.

Microsoft increased its ROI, engaged global customers, and promoted customer retention and renewed purchasing.
By taking advantage of the proven email-marketing techniques discussed in this article, you can take a page out of the Microsoft book and optimize your relationships with your target audience.

About the Author:
Amber Whiteman leads the Digital Communications team for the digital marketing agency Metia ( Amber's team comprises top digital marketers focusing on projects such as email campaigns, event registration/promotion, customer engagement and marketing, search engine optimization, and web analytics. Amber has experience in all facets of account service, including project management, account management, and account direction for clients such as Microsoft and AT&T.


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