How to stay nimble and use email as an effective part of your marketing funnel (or any other oddly shaped object).
I've been fortunate to attend a handful of fantastic conferences over the past six months, including SXSWi 2010, Marketing Sherpa's Email Summit 2009, Innotech and various smaller ones. The topic that keeps popping up in workshops involves what lots of folks like to call "the marketing funnel."
The traditional marketing funnel — which involves introducing individuals to your brand and converting them to customers — has changed significantly with social media, email, geo-social, viral and other ingenious ways to nurture customers. We're being told to flip the funnel, invert it, bend it or cut it, among other things, depending on which blogs you read or which workshops you attend. Poor funnel.
Most marketers agree that the old-school version of investing a large portion of your marketing budget in general, mass advertising is outdated. Too many messages. Too many options. Too many channels. So, what do we do as email marketers? We focus on retaining current customers through email, keeping them thrilled with our products and services and loyal to our brands … and then they send us testimonials and referrals.
Know your audience
Do you know whether you're delivering what your audience wants? When's the last time you asked them? Use an email to send your customers an online survey and ask them for feedback. If you haven't yet, get to know your ESP's survey tool. Go on … it's fun to give people exactly what they want after you find out what it is. Isn't it always enjoyable to watch a person's face light up when you give them a particular birthday gift they've asked for instead of something generic? Same idea with giving your customers exactly what they enjoy about your business.
Segment your audience
Avoid the dreaded "email blast" at all costs. You know what your audience wants, so make the extra effort of segmenting your customers. Create different types of audience groups from your overall list and deliver specific content that matches what you know about them.
Reward your audience
Here's a common thread to many current perspectives on the marketing funnel: Turn your customers into your 12th man (or woman). Loyal customers can be as strong of a sales force as your sales department if you keep them enthusiastic. Surprise them. That doesn't always have to mean a free offer or a discount — you can also give them useful content and sneak previews.
Communicate with your audience
Use a mix of informative emails, offers and rewards and commit to sending those emails regularly and at the right times when you've scheduled them on your calendar. Your email marketing calendar (you have one, right?) should include a survey check-in at least annually.
Share with your audience
Consider using tools that let your audience share your emails across their social networks. You can also use links to your Facebook fan page, Twitter page or blog so your customers can connect with you in all your communication hubs. Don't believe the naysayers trying to, ahem, twabotage email by saying Twitter and other forms of social media are enemies of email marketing. Make those other channels into friends with your email campaigns, so your customers can share your brand with their friends, family and fans. (By the way, Emma's new social sharing feature is free with your account.)
Email is uniquely adaptable to this changing marketing funnel, and it just takes a few basic techniques likes these to be sure your business is always growing in lots of new ways. So see, there's no need to get so rough with the funnel … just make friends with it.
Jonathan, along with Taylor Schena, will be leading a session about email marketing and design at this year's HOW conference in Denver on Tuesday, June 8, from 10:45 AM – 12 PM, so please stop by and say hello if you're in the area.