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Making email content more relevant

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Relevance is a top priority of email marketers, according to BtoB's E-mail Marketing Benchmarks: Best Practices survey, published in February. In fact, more than half of the study's 414 study respondents said “delivering highly relevant content” was on their to-do list for 2011. But figuring out what's relevant to customers and prospects isn't always easy, said Morgan Stewart, co-founder and CEO of Trendline Interactive, an independent e-mail consultancy. “Relevance is something that people talk about a lot. They say, "My content is relevant for all my customers' or "I want to be super-highly targeted and send out personalized content that's relevant because it's highly targeted.' But relevancy isn't either extreme,” he said. Here are three strategies that marketers can use to boost overall relevancy and interest in email marketing content, according to Stewart and Alan See, VP-CMO at Berry Network, a local search and Yellow Pages agency.
  1. Work with customers to make sure profiles are always updated. There is a universal truth that many marketers sometimes completely overlook, Stewart said: What was relevant to a customer yesterday may be irrelevant today. While marketers should do their best to update segmentation—moving a prospect to a customer list, for example—they should also be reaching out to list members regularly to ask them what's relevant to them. Stewart cautions marketers against using multiple choice surveys, however. “People often answer the way they think they should answer,” he said. Instead, marketers should provide open-ended dialogue boxes so people can detail what they really want to hear about. The caveat, of course, is that marketers must be willing and able to make changes based on those responses, he said.
  2. Tap news to boost relevancy. Berry Network's See said he ensures relevancy by including industry-related educational material. “In short, we want our clients and prospects to view Berry Network as a trusted marketing adviser,” he said. If a news story hits the Web, his team creates content around that information so that his company is viewed as a resource, he said. Using this type of content on a company blog also can boost natural search traffic and newsletter signups, too.
  3. Update website content frequently, if not daily. Your newsletter content might be fresh and relevant, but if your website isn't updated, customers and prospects can lose confidence in your company and may opt out, Stewart said. This includes social media channels, he said. “There's been a fairly dramatic jump shift that email and social need to work together,” he said. “There was a little turf war going on, but it's dissipating now that companies realize that silos and department lines need to be broken down in order to ensure true relevancy across the board.”
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