Sales and marketing

Email Marketing Tips: Don’t Alienate Loyal Customers, Instead Reboot Like This

Author: Emily Collins
Author: Emily Collins

In the realm of multichannel customer communications, email is still king. It’s the easiest to send, it’s inexpensive and it’s the channel on which most marketers rely to connect with all kinds of customers. Email marketing is ingrained and inexpensive, but as a result, many marketers abuse it, defaulting to a routine batch-and-blast approach. In 2015 alone, U.S. online users received 3.7 trillion emails. Today’s email practices fail loyal customers because they treat everyone the same way and struggle to deliver basic relevance.

Over-emailing is a persistent problem, and marketers face cultural inertia trying to get over the notion that if they email enough, the customer will eventually take action. One incremental email for a thousand customers may only cost you a single dollar, but the emotional value given up from an annoyed customer will cost you in future purchases and in investment needed to rebuild a loyal customer relationship from scratch. In essence, the long-term investment in building a relationship with loyal customers is compromised because of a short-sighted push for conversion.

Marketers can’t afford to alienate loyal customers. After all, those customers are the ones who want to engage with you in the first place. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data, 58% of loyalty program members subscribe to a brand’s email list, compared with just 28% of consumers overall. It’s time for a reboot.

Email Marketing: Got Context?

To start, marketers must improve and enhance the relationship they have with their loyal customers by providing contextual communications. The cadence and content of branded emails should be adjusted based on customer needs. Test-and-learn tactics can reveal when and how customers engage with email. From there, customer journey analytics can reveal a wider range of next-best actions that can prolong the relationship. Your loyal customer base wants more than a transactional relationship; the value exchange your brand has calls for you to measure success beyond click-through, opens and conversions. These metrics should be triangulated with customer lifetime value to better help predict potential customer value.

Once you’ve tweaked your email approach for loyal customers, you must build the content and communication tactics that will push your email marketing to the next level of maturity. To move the needle on loyal relationships, send emails that:

  • Promote sharing. Your loyal customers are more willing than most to advocate on your behalf. Take advantage of that by making it easy for the customer to share content to public communities or privately to friends and family.
  • Instill trust. Most people spend only a fraction of a second deciding whether to open, ignore or delete a message, so the subject line must provide a reason for the user to open the message. Rather than describing the content of the email, focus on emphasizing the value of the email to the reader. For instance, a telecommunications email might ask customers whether they’re getting the most out of their plan in the subject line and provide a dynamic, video-based answer to that question in the body of the email.
  • Compel the user to open. Customers want to know that you respect their privacy and that you offer the choice to unsubscribe. A comprehensive email footer may save you from being creepy. At the very least, include the physical address of the sender, an unsubscribe link, a reason for receiving the email, the ability to change preferences and a link to the privacy policy.
  • Seek feedback in the body of the email. Customer feedback is a powerful tool that helps optimize the cadence, tone and content of future communications. Start soliciting feedback within the body of the email about content, frequency or even satisfaction with a recent purchase. For instance, a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down question about the relevance of a particular email notification can remind your customer that you care and help you gather invaluable feedback about the relevance of your content.

Are You On Message?

Sending low-quality emails may not cost you much, but the spike in unsubscribes will. Your loyal customers raised their hands and gave you their email addresses; don’t squander that opportunity – take advantage of it with the steps outlined above.

To learn more, listen to Forrester's podcast on rethinking loyalty programs where Rick Parrish and I examine the changing state of customer loyalty and provide insights on how to use loyalty programs as part of your organization's customer experience strategy.

Emily Collins is a senior analyst at Forrester, where she serves B2C marketing professionals. Read more Forrester blogs here.