Once you’ve put together a list of targets for marketing automation campaigns, the hard part is over. Right? In reality, the first email communication with customers is often the riskiest. This is when it is most likely that something in your messaging will rub them the wrong way and they will opt-out or worse — they could register your address as spam and ban your entire domain.
That’s why it is extremely important to tread conservatively. If you followed our tips for formulating an email list, you should have good insights into the preferences of your targets. Those customers whose behaviors you don’t have at least six months’ worth of data on, you likely don’t know any of them well enough to segment them. People can sniff automatically generated emails a mile away, and you definitely don’t want customers thinking you don’t care enough to know them. Definitely avoid sending canned messages.A good place to start for a first communication is to offer an incentive that almost any customer will be pleased to receive. Send them a coupon for $5 off the purchase of any item, or some similar offer that makes sense for your brand and customer population. Most people are hesitant to opt out of communications that send them useful discounts, even if they don’t want them right away.
Here’s the good news: Once you send this first email, you are going to closely monitor every behavior, and that is what will provide the intelligence you need to begin segmenting quickly and accurately. Once you’ve done that, you can dive into highly targeted and effective campaigns.
Follow these simple best practices to make sure every customer gets the right email every time.
Avoid making assumptions of any kind. Demographic data is risky because it is not an accurate predictor of behaviors. Even simple data that seems foolproof can easily lead you down a wrong path. It’s not advisable to use demographic data when you can’t reconcile it against behavior. For example, it may be tempting to stratify men and women in different groups, but their behaviors could tell you something different. A man on your list may only be interested in products he buys for his girlfriend, or some of the women on your list may prefer to buy clothes designed for men. When demographic data is all that you have, it’s best to leave it alone to avoid alienating customers.
Let behaviors be your guide. The moment a customer interacts with your brand, you can begin tracking behavior data. Marketing automation software is well-equipped to measure how long each target spends reading the message and what links they clicked — but you want to track much more than that, which is what makes integration with your retail platform so important. When customers came to your site from an email, what did they do? What products did they look at? For how long? Did they buy anything? All behaviors can be used to improve segment accuracy and some should trigger specific actions. If an item was placed in a cart but not purchased, deploy an invitation to complete the transaction. When an item is purchased, an email should go out soon asking the customer if she likes the product and to post a review. Watch our short video for a great overview of example emails and what behaviors should trigger them. The more behaviors you track, the more accurate segmentation becomes.
Continuously monitor and refine. One reason behaviors are superior to demographics is because they update in real-time. Lifestyles, tastes and preference change all the time. You’re not going to get an announcement when a customer moves into a new house, has a baby, or gets a new job. But you will be able to see these changes quickly by understanding how to interpret shifts in behaviors. Many customers will hop segments frequently as their life situations change, and the best marketers know how to stay on top of this to make the best offers at the times when they are most wanted. Remember that segmentation rarely remains stagnant.
There’s no doubt that segmenting customers accurately empowers you to communicate with them in ways that are authentic and engage them. The best way to make sure every customer is receiving the most effective messaging is to track as many behaviors as you can through email, on your website, and even in-store.