Today’s email marketers are often responsible for cross-channel relationship marketing — and for good reason. Email marketers have long experience with leveraging first-party customer data to send targeted and personalized communications. As channels like SMS/MMS, push and display retargeting became more prominent, it was only natural that email marketers would have a major hand in orchestrating these communications across the lifecycle.
Still, many brands struggle with how to make cross-channel the new normal. Here are the steps I’ve found tried and true for building a successful cross-channel program with an email program as the foundation:
1. Be fluent in your customer data. You probably have a strong grasp of your customer data, but I challenge you to understand it as thoroughly, if not better than, anyone else within your company.
For example, do you know what data fields are available and what are the possible field values? What about how often data is updated? Or, what sources the data comes from?
By understanding customer data as well as your business intelligence and analytics teams, you will grow your aptitude to strategically guide opportunities that you would be blind to otherwise.
2. Map the customer journey. Once you’ve become a master of customer data, it’s time to fully outline the experiences your customers have with your brand.
A warning here is that there could be many paths. For example, you may be a financial services company with multiple account types offered for new customers, each with a different communication process. You need to map out these possible scenarios from the point of someone being a prospect or lead, all the way to someone no longer being a customer.
If you have a user-experience team, they’ll go a long way in helping you to map all the various experiences and communications needs a customer has at various points in the lifecycle.
3. Prioritize communication opportunities. Once the customer journey is mapped visually, mark all the places where there are communication opportunities. What do I mean by communication opportunities? Say you have a large number of people that sign up for a subscription service, but then never use it. You could send friendly reminders of the benefits of the service, or even deliver instructions on how the customer can get started.
4. Select appropriate channels for each part of the journey. Once you’ve outlined all of the communication opportunities, it’s now time to figure out what channels make sense for each touch point.
When working through this step, consider what channel will be most helpful in guiding the customer on what to do. For example, do you have a customer who has downloaded a certain app, but isn’t using it? It would make sense to test email with deep links to pages within the app vs. push notifications or a combination of both.
In summary, choose channels that are the closest to the customer experience that you are encouraging.
5. Set it and optimize it. Notice I didn’t say “set it and forget it.” For true cross-channel success, it’s important not just to build and automate customer journeys, but to periodically check in on these programs to figure out what is and isn't working.
It’s even better if you have a test running on your automated programs at all times, so that you can determine a winner and subsequently a new test to challenge the winner. Some ESPs will even automatically determine the winners for you after a period of time and funnel new traffic to the winner. Even with this great functionality, it is important to remember to build in a new test and constantly be in a state of learning and optimizing.
This article originally appeared in MediaPost on April 14, 2016.