John Sharry

Friday, 14 October 2011 16:06

Tips to integrate e-mail and text marketing

Business leaders today are looking for opportunities to engage with customers and prospects in new ways that build stronger relationships, reward loyalty, and most importantly, drive sales.

There is no shortage of strategies or tools to enable stronger relationships — between the old standards of television, print advertising, out-of-home, direct mail, etc., that have been in the marketing plan for years and new technologies like e-mail, SMS/text messaging, mobile applications, social networks and location-based services that may be in the early stages of proving value. Marketing leaders have a lot to consider.

At Signal, we’ve developed a global solution for small, medium and enterprise businesses that simplifies digital communications via e-mail, SMS and social media. With a wide range of clients — from Sears and Redbox to family-owned businesses — we’ve learned a lot about what works and what does not.

Here’s a primer on how you can impact your bottom line with an integrated strategy leveraging SMS and e-mail to develop a direct line of communication to your customers and prospects.

1. Build a customer insights database, not a list of e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers.

So you have e-mail address and mobile phone numbers in your opt-in subscriber list — now what? Do you know if the e-mail and mobile number belong to the same person? What about the time of people are most likely to respond to your campaign, or whether they engage more with SMS or e-mail communications?

It is certainly valuable to build your subscriber lists for the purpose of sending messages, but consider the obvious benefits of transforming that list to a single “data warehouse” of customer insights and behaviors. Signal’s platform makes it easy to collect a wide variety of data then store it in a single customer profile, which can be used for segmentation and targeting in the future.

The more you know about your subscribers’ interaction with your communications across e-mail, SMS and even social media, the more efficient your marketing efforts become, allowing you to maximize spend.

2. Set expectations and deliver value.

Your customers and prospects already get enough self-promoting e-mail, so it’s important to offer content that adds value to your customers’ lives while also supporting your company objectives.

Have you ever signed up for a company newsletter because of a call to action like: “Sign up to subscribe to our newsletter for exciting company updates”? Though it may seem like a reasonable pitch — “exciting company updates!” — this prompt is generic and does not showcase the value that subscribers should expect from opting in to your database.

Instead, focus on the things that you know customers want: special offers, discounts, exclusive content, etc. Also, make sure that you are clear about how frequently they can expect to hear from you and what type of content you’ll be sharing. Make that content exclusive to that channel, whether it’s e-mail or SMS, and customers will want to subscribe.

By setting the right expectations that give subscribers a good reason to opt-in and stay subscribed, you’ll experience stronger growth and engagement, which in turn extends reach and ROI.

3. Affect buying decisions with timed offers and calls-to-action.

Understanding usage is an important step in delivering value to your customers and influencing their decisions through e-mail and SMS.

E-mail allows you to communicate with richer content as compared to SMS. However, open rates and click-through rates can change significantly depending on when your e-mail hits the inbox. If your content is valuable to your readers when they start their day at the office, a weekday morning may make the most sense. If you’re sending a promotion for a happy hour, then just before lunch is ideal so that customers can start to rally their friends during lunch.

SMS, on the other hand, is a much more immediate communication that can affect a buying decision in real time. About 83 percent of text messages are read within one hour, and open rates for SMS are typically 3 to 4 times higher than for e-mail. For example, a recent study found that 68 percent of lunch decisions are made in less than an hour or on an impulse. Timing is incredibly important if you want your message to impact a customer’s buying decision.

4. Prime the pump with e-mail; close the loop with SMS.

It’s no secret that better outcomes are the result of a fully considered marketing plan. However, too few businesses truly leverage their various channels to maximize the return. Understanding e-mail and SMS usage will help you execute a truly cross-channel strategy for maximum efficacy.

One useful strategy for syncing your SMS and e-mail actions is to use e-mail to build awareness or initial interest in your offer or content, then rely on SMS to prompt action at the moment of truth. For example, you can use your weekly or monthly newsletter or promotional e-mail to set expectations about an important upcoming event, then close the deal with a text message that reminds buyers about that promotion.

Marketing today is more integrated that it has ever been in the past. However, silos still exist — to the detriment of your business’ ability to leverage digital communications channels to their highest potential. Your path to successful cross-channel communications and increased ROI is to better understand customer behavior and preferences and translate those insights into campaigns that map most closely to what your customers want, when they want it.

John Sharry is an Account Executive at Signal, a Chicago-based company that offers a dead simple product that unifies e-mail, mobile and social marketing in a single platform. Recently named No. 108 on the 2011 Inc. 500 report, Signal offers more great insight on Twitter, Facebook and their blog.