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How can email marketing contribute to a customercentric marketing strategy?

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In a recent IBM study, CMOs acknowledged that to remain relevant they must understand the individual, not the audience. They must speak to each person in a give-and-take, one-to-one dialogue. Email remains the most effective channel to fuel such personalized and relevant communication with individuals across your sales funnel. I know what you're thinking—this sounds impossible to pull off, right? Oddly enough the best b-to-b marketers have been preaching this for decades but with little hope of implementation prior to the rise of marketing automation technology. If your business is really going to put the buyer first, then every touch point across the buying cycle must become about helping, not selling. Marketers must become informed by the data and behaviors in each relationship, shifting from an “I'll send this mass email out today at 9” to “This email will be sent [automatically] whenever it's helpful to an individual we market to” mind-set. And this can seem like a large chasm to cross. Here are some simple steps to deliver customercentric email communications—the kind people actually want, open and use. And by the way, this is the kind of marketing that generates revenue.
  1. Establish a welcome (new lead) program. Leverage the behaviors (interests and intent) of the individual to dynamically generate the core content or offer in the email. For example, a visitor is on your site reading up on a specific element of your product or service; then they sign up for the newsletter. Why wait to send them an email until your next newsletter? Use marketing automation to send them an instant “welcome” message that prominently displays helpful information on the topic they are interested in and include a sample newsletter as well.
  2. Post download program and social conversation starters. Leverage behaviors for post-offer follow-up emails that inspire social sharing and peer recommendation and offer relevant content. For example, after someone downloads a white paper on your site , send an email with a permanent link to the download. A few days later send a follow-up email to those who clicked the download inviting them to contribute socially to the conversation around that content; something like “So what do you think will be the biggest change in 2012 for your industry #your-hash-tag.” A few days later, those who have not downloaded will get a reminder email and those who did download might get an email listing additional content, such as “Based on your reading of X, we think you will also be interested in Y.”
  3. Develop a trial-to-purchase program. Leverage behaviors of a trial product or service to determine engagement and what the buyer needs to become a customer. For example, use trial login information, depth of trial usage and trial expiration date to determine what the customer needs to know to make a purchase decision. If they have not logged back in, remind them their trial is expiring. Consider asking them how you can help them. If they are using the trial, send them helpful content about the benefits to upgrading and offer to answer their questions.
Bryan Brown is director-product strategy at Silverpop (www.silverpop.com), a provider of digital marketing technology.
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