Imagine, if you will, that you're paying a visit to a favorite online
store. You're there because you want to buy cheesecake. (Just go with me
here - I have cheesecake on the brain today...)
You find what you're looking for (New York-style, no fruit), add it
to your shopping cart and click "buy." Simple.
As you fill out the online order form, you're presented with a
listing of 25 cheesecake flavors with a note asking you to "check
off your favorites, please, so we may better serve you in the
Okay, you'll bite (so to speak). You sign up for this offer because
you love a good special and want to be kept informed of any and all new
developments in the world of cheesecake.
And so it's done. You've opted in. Two weeks later, voila...
"Dear Kim," the email starts, "We at
CheesecakeLoversAreUs.com want to inform you that we just finished
baking the most wonderful
toffee-cherry-marshmallow-pineapple-caramel-crunch cheesecake that you
told us you love so much. Why not go to our site right now OR - if you
don't have time - just click on the dancing graham cracker below and
your cheesecake can be shipped within 24 hours..."
No fuss, no muss. A true no-brainer. (Or so it seems...)
Back to reality. Due to the latest developments in email technology,
scenarios such as the one above are taking place more often. Dot-com
companies are using similar methods to build their own email lists, and
are segmenting them based on customer preferences.
They're also testing offers and messages... tracking and analyzing
results... applying any new knowledge to future campaigns. Traditional,
complex direct marketing fare.
Which brings me to my point (and, yes, I do have one): A seemingly
simple email interaction is actually quite complicated to create.
I would recommend several critical steps that companies need to
implement in order to launch a robust email component. Following is a
brief overview of each:
Design. This is the brainstorming part of your venture... the
time when you plan how powerful you want this channel of your business
to be. If you're running a content site, your goals will be different
from those of an e-commerce site. Some questions to keep in mind:
- Will you promote using a catalog or publication format?
- Will your message be better sent in plain-text or HTML?
- Will you address customers by name?
How often will you send out messages and how many will you send out
at a time?
- Do you want/need the ability to segment your lists and, if so,
what kind of segmentation will add value to your marketing?
Build. It's time to pull together the logistics that will help
you realize the goals you set forth in the "Design" phase
above. In the cheesecake example, the powers-that-be decided that
personalization was critical, as was the ability to speak to each
cheesecake lover differently and to deploy in HTML. The infrastructure
was built accordingly.
Test. Simply put, this is the step that evaluates the various
segments of your list. It also will help determine which types of offers
should go out.
Deploy. All systems go. The final message is sent. As the days
go by, all inbound responses are collected. Complaints and "unsubscribes"
are managed, and you're ready to process the resulting transactions.
Track. There are a variety of behaviors that you can track,
such as how many recipients opened the message, which specific links
were clicked, how many emails were forwarded, how many recipients made a
purchase and more. You make the call as to what information is important
to your goals.
Report. Even if you're using a third party, this step is most
effective when you, as the marketer, have complete access to the
reporting system. Make sure yours is set up to provide reports in
real-time - this kind of power can give you a lot of flexibility when
making last-minute decisions and changes.
Analyze. This step is self-explanatory and certainly nothing
new to traditional direct marketers. As each campaign is analyzed, the
quality of the list is improved and subsequent campaigns can be
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Keep in mind that if your
deployment numbers are relatively small, you can probably handle most of
this in-house, though it probably won't be easy.
Outsourcing, however, can save you significant time and manpower -
particularly if your ultimate goal is to market to tens (even hundreds)
of thousands of... uh, cheesecake lovers.
Just remember: The dancing graham cracker gets them every time...