● Consider the value proposition. Becker said it’s not enough to provide a simple e-newsletter or even targeted offers and ads anymore. Instead, you need to show your customer in detail how they can make their business better using your products and services. “You have to show customers how other companies are using your products. You have to give them testimonials. You have to give them tools,” he said. For client My M&M’s, a division of Mars Snackfood, Becker and his team created an experience in e-mail that couldn’t be delivered via print, including a “really cool” landing page, he said.
● Do your research. The best way to find out what customers want is to ask them directly. Becker said his firm regularly conducts focus groups with his clients’ customers so he knows what to focus on in e-mails. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money,” he said. “All you need to do is talk to 10 or 15 people. There are even online focus group providers that can do this for you. Most people are more than willing to talk.”
● Set a master plan. Magazines and newspapers have editorial calendars—written plans that show exactly what they will cover over the course of a year. Becker suggests creating what he calls a communications calendar that lays out all of your e-mail communications for a year using a combination of three types of e-mails: promotional, ad hoc and e-newsletter content. Promotional messages should go out when you release new product versions or updates, while ad hoc messages are based on industry news and use triggered communications or simple messages. E-newsletter content is the easiest to plan because it should be focused more on the customer’s needs than your marketing needs, he said.
● Give subscribers the control—and make it personal. Once you’ve got your content plan in place, drop that information into a preference center, complete with frequency information. Your prospects and readers should be able to opt in to the exact content and frequency that suits their needs. “You want to make sure prospects feel like they are the center of the experience,” Becker said. “This means putting a personalization strategy in place, too. If you can mention the tools and content your customers have purchased or expressed interest in, they are going to feel like you are listening and you care.”