There is a blatantly clear and present opportunity on the table for almost every marketer out there. This amazing opportunity is foundational to building a relationship with consumers, understanding them better, delivering on their wants and needs, and driving conversions.
This article originally appeared in ClickZ on April 28, 2015.
Just as they do in the worlds of dating and job interviews, first impressions matter in the email marketing arena as well.
There is a blatantly clear and present opportunity on the table for almost every marketer out there. This amazing opportunity is foundational to building a relationship with consumers, understanding them better, delivering on their wants and needs, and driving conversions. I’m talking about the "First Impression Factor."
Very few marketers are truly capitalizing on the impact of a well-done first impression. We all read about how massively important a first impression is in interviews, dating, and all other scenarios – and the same applies to email. When we gain permission to market to someone via email, the email address provides a digital key to unlock other touch points across channels, such as custom audiences, display retargeting, and more.
While most marketers are deploying basic welcome messages, a huge opportunity is missed by not using a comprehensive and contextual messaging strategy to drive early activation. Let’s explore a few of the possibilities:
Focus on the Future
Sure, it’s great to welcome new subscribers and thank them for being there, but what do you want them to do next? What types of actions do they need to traverse through to become a more engaged and valued customer over time? Once you have permission to communicate via email, it’s time to get consumers engaged in various ways to lay the foundation for ongoing interaction via the following actions:
- Mobile application downloads
- SMS messaging opt-in
- Website, in-store, or event visits
- Social media participation
- Account and preferences creation
- Social authentication
- Initial or repeat purchases
- User-generated content contribution, including reviews
- Social sharing
- Progressive profiling
- Surveys and polls
Consumers are most engaged early on, so prompt them to take these actions early in the relationship to queue up a ripple effect of future actions.
Make It All About THEM
Considering a consumers disposition (demographic, psychographic) as well as their situation (states, sentiment) is key. Early messaging elements should be dynamic based on existing data, such as acquisition source or site browsing data, and build from there. Understanding if a subscriber has already made a purchase or is already using a mobile application creates the opportunity to dynamically prioritize other content for delivery, and to prioritize what new data attributes need to be gathered from an individual.
For example, if you have a ZIP code and a mobile number for an individual, personalize messaging with localized information or geography-related offers. And, use dynamic content to gather a next set of data attributes, such as birth date or brand preferences, to be put into action. Being respectful to new subscribers by acknowledging who they are, what you know about them, how you plan to use the data, and what additional data you’d like to gather to continue delivering more VALUE to them is key. Building out a data schema to prioritize which data points are most valuable to your communication strategy is a first step.
The Action On-Ramp
Use an early activation strategy to create an engagement ramp-up. Rather than a "one and done" welcome approach, trigger additional customized messaging targeted to those who engaged with initial messages to drive even deeper engagement. For subscribers who are highly engaged, give them the opportunity to share more data via progressive profiling, polls and surveys over time. And, use engaged audience data to build predictive modeling based on highly engaged subscribers for use in acquiring even more of them. Conversely, consider different strategies for email non-responders to begin to understand what the profile of the disengaged segment looks like and to discover what other channels they prefer.
Think about how open time personalization can add value and a sense of urgency to drive action. Incorporating personalized content in real-time, such as weather feeds, deep links to mobile apps based on device, countdown clocks, product inventory updates and more, can boost early actions.
Refresh and Repeat
Don’t let your early activation stage programs get stale. Consider a different flavor for each season to align with changing themes and offerings you want new subscribers to act upon. And, for any subscribers who have been inactive for some time and recently re-engaged, deploy a "re-welcome" strategy to deliver a comprehensive update on all the things they may have missed, updating their data in the process.
Make a great first impression in the inbox and the rest will follow. After an initial promise is made to consumers at the point of opt-in, build on their active interest to continue educating and gathering data that will set the stage for a strong, loyal relationship over time. Audit your early activation strategies now, and be ready to drive more action during the busy fall and winter acquisition seasons.