Make these workhorses work even harder.
By Charles Austin (first published in Franchise World magazine)
Franchise organizations have been using email and text messages for years as part of the marketing mix. Text (both SMS and MMS) and email are still incredibly effective, but as technology and the regulatory environment continue to change, it’s always wise to review best practices.
Despite the growth of spam filters, customer acquisitions via email have quadrupled in the last four years (according to predictive analytics firm Custora). Text messages still have a 95% open rate and are extremely effective in driving desired responses and actions, particularly with younger demographics.
Together, email and text messaging have become an important part of the customer experience and are great ways to stay in front of customers and prospects (once they opt-in). As rules and best practices continue to evolve, what once worked well may need to be tweaked to continue yielding high returns (and to stay in compliance with increasingly stricter regulations).
Tip #1: Optimize emails for mobile
Two-thirds of email is first read on a mobile device, according to data from the U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report by Movable Ink. That means promotional emails need to be easily accessed and read from a mobile device as well as a desktop or laptop computer. Here are a few ways to accomplish that.
First, make sure content is mobile-friendly. Your customers have small screens and big fingers. So keep your layout framed for smaller screens, your font at 14-point or higher, and your buttons or links large enough so fingers can “click” on them. Numerous commercial email marketing and mobile application cross-platform tools automatically adapt messages for presentation on different mobile device form factors.
Second, include click-to-map, click-to-call, or other ways that recipients can connect with your business or a local store. Essentially, make it as easy as possible for customers to respond to your message via their mobile devices while on-the-go.
Third, customers may prefer text messages vs. email for offers and alerts, so if you plan to use both avenues, use cross-channel opt-ins so customers can select the vehicle they prefer. Including an option for phone calls is also important for select demographics.
Tip #2: List segmentation is key. Use your data.
Because it was so inexpensive compared with direct mail marketing, early email marketers frequently used the “spray and pray” method, meaning marketers would send the same email message to their entire customer or prospect list and hope for the best.
Big Data has essentially changed all of that. Today’s savvy marketers use data from all customer interactions to segment their lists and provide more targeted and customized offers, obtaining a higher response rate and a better return on investment. All online and offline customer interactions should be used to create segments, or categories, of customers or prospects that are likely to be interested in certain types of offers. Prior purchases, responses to emails and texts, data from customer phone calls, and responses to print ads are all fair game.
But to use this data, you have to track it and obtain it in a usable form. In the past this data came from different systems in different formats and was difficult to assimilate and use. New industry standards have led to application programming interfaces (APIs) for most commercial products and services, which enable the integration of data from disparate sources without prohibitive costs.
The specific data and platforms you use and the segmentation strategies you employ will depend on your demographics and your business model. Regardless, it’s time to move away from “spray and pray” as the costs of doing business require you to be more efficient with your marketing spend.
Tip #3: Automate the follow-up
“Multiple touches” or “the seven-touch rule” are tried-and-true approaches to marketing, meaning that prospects need multiple touches before they buy, and customers need regular touches to remain loyal customers.
“Drip marketing” or “marketing automation” was one of the first techniques for achieving these goals. New types of email services such as Act-On and Pardot™ allow marketers to set up “if/then” scenarios and program automated follow-up messages based on recipient response (or non-response).
For example, if you’d like to publicize a new store opening, you might send an email to all customers or prospects in a certain geographic area. For those who respond, you might follow up with a customized coupon to use during opening weekend, followed by a survey after the grand opening that gauges customer perception of the new store. For those who do not respond, you might plan a second and third blast of the store announcement leading up to opening weekend.
Because of the automated yet strategic nature of these campaigns and the multiple touch points they deliver, well-planned drip campaigns can achieve conversion rates of 50% or more.
Tip #4: Stay abreast of regulation changes
Certainly, there are always those who abuse both email and text marketing. In the U.S., CAN-SPAM laws govern email marketing, and even stricter laws prohibit unsolicited text messages. New Canadian regulations have gone farther than ever before and have been referred to as the world’s toughest anti-spam laws. They cover promotional emails, text messages, and even instant messaging and social media messaging.
The new laws, which went into effect on July 1, impose stiff fines against sending “commercial electronic mail” that is unsolicited. (If you need to become more familiar with these new regulations, a great resource is http://fightspam.gc.ca.)
A summary of the highlights:
- If you are going to send commercial emails or text messages to Canadian recipients, make sure these recipients have provided express consent. This applies to any marketing or advertising-related message.
- Non-commercial messages, such as quotes or estimates, order confirmations, warranty/safety/recall information, and ongoing subscriptions, are OK.
- If you received express consent from Canada recipients prior to July 1, 2014, that still stands today. If you only have “implied consent,” meaning the recipients on your Canada email list have been receiving offers from your company but have not unsubscribed to date, you have a grace period of 36 months to obtain express consent.
- In each message, clearly identify your organization, make sure your subject lines and content is truthful and not misleading, and include your company name, address, phone number, website, and an easy way for recipients to opt-out at any time.
If you already practice good email marketing etiquette in compliance with U.S. CAN-SPAM laws, chances are you’ve got most bases covered. But since fines can reach up to $10 million per violation, it pays to prove that you’ve obtained the proper consent.
If you only have implied consent for Canadian customers or prospects, take advantage of the 36-month grace period to politely send them an email message (or other correspondence) requesting their express consent to continue receiving commercial electronic messages from your company.
Of course, AdGeo is not a law firm, so this is not legal advice. Always check with your legal counsel regarding your specific situation. Two other great sources of information and best practices are CTIA-The Wireless Association (www.CTIA.org) and the Mobile Marketing Association (www.MMAGlobal.com). Email and text marketing will continue to yield great returns, as long as we stay abreast of what works, what doesn’t, and what is legal, practical and moral.
Charles Austin is president of AdGeo, Inc., which provides marketing measurement, call routing, mobile location routing, and other communications services to franchises large and small. He can be reached at email@example.com.