Automated response

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E-mail marketers know that there are certain events that should always trigger an automatic response, such as purchase confirmations and newsletter opt-ins. However, there are other events that merit an automated response, too. “Welcome e-mails get a lot of press, and post-purchase gets a lot of press; but e-mail marketers should be thinking about a whole range of other events to help them boost sales and improve customer satisfaction,” said Jim Wehmann, senior VP-global marketing at Digital River.

One example, Wehmann said, is the b-to-b equivalent of a shopping cart abandonment—something that b-to-c marketers have been taking advantage of for years. In the b-to-c example, a registered user comes to a site, puts something in the cart and leaves before making the purchase. The retailer might then e-mail that customer a coupon or offer to entice him or her to complete the purchase.

The same scenario is possible in the b-to-b world, Wehmann said. Instead of putting something into a shopping cart, however, b-to-b customers might spend a significant amount of time browsing a product page or downloading a white paper. When they leave the site without making contact, the marketer can follow up with a dynamically created newsletter that features several content items, including a specific offering or deal related to the “abandoned” product. “We're seeing really good success with this strategy,” Wehmann said.

Marketers must use this tactic within the parameters of their existing rules, of course, so that the customer doesn't receive too many e-mails. “You always have to dovetail this type of strategy with a frequency throttle so the customer isn't getting inundated with offers or e-mails,” he said. Wehmann also suggested allowing some time to pass between the customer's visit and the follow-up e-mail to “lower any discomfort” that could arise if the prospect feels too “watched.”

There are other important events that marketers can consider for triggered e-mails. Marketers can wish customers a happy birthday (if they have access to that data) or send them an e-mail thanking them for their patronage on the anniversary of their first purchase, Wehmann said. In many cases, this type of follow-up can also contain upgrade or service offers as well.

Marketers should also consider sending e-mails when their own company has news. Whenever a company hires or fires a value-added reseller, salesperson or service provider, for example, an e-mail should go out immediately. The message should contain the name of the old contact with an introduction to the new contact; including photos can personalize the news. “Any kind of turnover should prompt an e-mail,” Wehmann said. “You can take the opportunity to remind the customer about what they purchased in the past and list all the different ways they can reach out to their new contacts.” Include links to the contact's social networking pages on sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn, he said.

Finally, don't forget e-mail follow-ups to live conversations and in-person meetings, Wehmann said. “You want to thank people for visiting your booth at a trade show, but also thank them for a customer service call, for coming into your office, or meeting with a salesperson,” he said.

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