How can marketers best use e-mail marketing to build brand loyalty?

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Marketers should view e-mail marketing as a valuable channel that can help build a long-term relationship with a brand-loyal customer (as opposed to reducing upfront marketing costs or driving immediate revenue). As much as possible, attune your outreach to your customers' needs and tailor communications to their particular preferences. As a guideline, consider the following issues when it comes to customization of digital messaging:

Transparency: Do you explain to your customers exactly what they are signing up for?

Privacy: Do you make your privacy policy explicit so that your customers know they can trust you with their information?

Confirmations: Do you send a welcome message to new customers in a timely fashion after they've signed up, and do you use that opportunity to deliver information?

Relevancy: Do you segment your lists according to customer interests and past behavior?

Frequency/Timing: Are you being careful about how often you e-mail your customers, and are you sending your messages at times that are most useful or practical for customers to act upon them? More is not always better—marketers that indiscriminately flood their customers with e-mail run the risk of eroding brand loyalty and losing subscribers to e-mail fatigue.

Channel: Are you asking your customers which communications channels they prefer (e.g., e-mail, Facebook, IM, RSS, SMS, etc.) and making use of those preferences in your outbound campaigns?

In addition to considering these questions, marketers should follow the four golden rules of engagement:

1. Continually refresh permission in order to keep pace with the ever-evolving needs and preferences of the customer. The best way to do this is to build an interactive component into your mailing in which you prompt the customer for a response to continually solicit and eventually fine-tune your messaging just for them.

2. Periodically survey customers to determine if they'd like to continue to receive e-mail communications or if they'd like the frequency of e-mail communication adjusted.

3. Deploy an e-mail technology solution that allows you to segment your messages to a number of different audiences and reach them according to their expressed preferences.

4. Pay attention to the metrics of e-mail campaigns—e-mail affords the unique ability to look at deliverability rates, click-throughs and actual sales. Marketers should look at these metrics and instantly act upon them.

By making a dedicated effort to attune to customer needs and leveraging the right technology solutions, marketers can deliver against their immediate revenue objectives while building brand-loyal customer relationships for the long term. Dave Lewis is CMO at Message Systems (

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