Monday, October 1, 2007

Top Five Reasons To Communicate With Your Customers

by David Baker, Monday, October 1, 2007


I DON'T THINK WE have enough fun with email these days, so let's take a break from all the issues with the channel and get inventive. Considering we are coming up to the busy holiday season, I figured a look at the top five functional reasons to communicate with your customers would be an appropriate theme.

5. To fulfill or confirm an order. Can you add some creativity to standard emails? This can be as easy as modifying your template with a holiday theme, or having fun with the messaging. For example: "Santa thanks you for your order; it's less for him to carry down the chimney." People appreciate humor and creativity, and your team can have a lot of fun with this.

4. Promote your site, product, or service. When you promote your company, do you tie your USP to a theme? A creative voice gets the most attention in the inbox. Try a few options with your promotional strategy. Tactics like countdowns to Christmas got a lot of traction last year in the retail space, but think outside of that and come up with some witty metaphors to wrap your product/service around. Imagine a product promotion that's a surprise only to be opened on the site or tied to an instant win, or sweeps with pick-a-present under the tree. Check your calendar. There are over 20 events from October to January to which you can tie a theme, each unique and with different audiences.

3. Deepen the loyalty to your site or brand. Think about the considerations involved in making your consumers enthusiastic supporters and evangelists of your brand. They need a "container" to carry your message and build on it in their own social mechanisms. Is it a refer-a-friend / share component or an incentive to share? Think outside the box and bring a creative metaphor to the table. It could be putting their face on "Sexiest Man Alive" on the cover of People magazine, or a comical photo-sharing contest -- anything to create additional value that can travel. Instead of thinking solely about your communication goal, think about enabling the community of customers. Remember, Halloween is the most prolific photo-sharing event of the year; how many ways could you take advantage of this community event with your product or service?

2. Introduce your brand or acquire a customer. It's tough to brand amidst the noise of the holiday season. This puts more pressure on you to create great acquisition messaging and programs that are fun, engaging, and have the ability to be shared and syndicated. Whether it's a list rental, partner email, sponsored email or your own prospect list, this is the time to be creative with themes. Remember, though, they may not know your brand well enough to understand an off-the-wall metaphor, but that doesn't mean they won't appreciate a bit of fun and humor in your messaging. Remember the first time you traveled on Southwest Airlines and you got a sarcastic response from the flight attendant? You were a little shocked at the candor, but worked yourself into enjoying the experience.

1. Thank them for their patronage. Did you know that the type of email that gets the highest open rate is an apology letter? The personal touch is widely appreciated, yet we reserve it for mistakes only. We all want to be recognized, so personalized notes thanking customers for their patronage to your brand is a worthwhile effort. A brand can't live on direct promotion alone - there needs to be a little massaging of your messaging to show you aren't a robot marketing arm sending to the masses. This is ideal for a New Year's e-mail, thanking them for a year of loyal patronage to your brand. It's also very easy to tie a reward to this message.

The most successful opt-out page I've ever seen was for Milwaukee Best Beer. It had a super-attractive female asking if you were sure you wanted to opt out. For men, that was a reaffirmation of why they were on the site in the first place. An opt-out page doesn't have to be a lost cause. You could have Santa ask them if they are sure they want to be taken off his list. Satire and humor give color to your brand. Play with it and you'll be amazed at the feedback you get.

I look forward to seeing some great creative samples this holiday season. Please feel free to share with me if you have one or two you are particularly proud of.

Cheers!




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David Baker is vice president of email solutions at Avenue A/Razorfish. Visit his blog at http://whitenoiseinc.com