This is an exciting time of year for me. My son and daughter just started school. With the third quarter winding down, my sales team is gearing up for the final stretch. The holidays are just around the corner, and retailers are already celebrating. Most importantly, college football has finally begun.
These days, my favorite way to watch University of Alabama games is on the couch with my family, but I plan to attend at least one game this year. This is the perfect time for sports venues and merchandisers to engage me with content and to guide my customer journey. It's not just about blasting me with promo after promo, but informing and exciting me so I'll want to keep engaging with their brands.
Everyone loves a good deal or tailored recommendation, but there's more to email marketing than the hard sales pitch. Conversion is just one stop on a customer's journey. To turn browsers into repeat buyers, you must guide them through other stops along the way.
Why the Customer Journey Matters
For modern marketers, personalized communication with customers is no longer optional. The average person receives 416 commercial emails each month in today's digital landscape. Not surprisingly, super-relevant content has a much better chance of avoiding the trash folder and generating engagement. Case in point: Transactional emails vastly outperform broadcast emails. According to Silverpop's annual Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study, transactional emails generate a 44.9 percent open rate versus 10.9 percent for nontransactional emails, and a 10.4 percent click-through rate versus 3.2 percent.
By mapping messages to each customer's journey, you're helping ensure that individuals only receive content that applies to them. These are messages based on their behaviors, actions and history with the brand.
Mapping Messages: 5 Stages and Strategies
Your company's customer journey might vary based on its industry and business model, but it probably includes five key stages: awareness, consideration, conversion, post-purchase nurturing and dormancy. Which email marketing strategies work best at each stage? Because I have football on the brain this month, let's say you run marketing for a sports venue. Here's what your journey-based marketing plan might look like:
At this stage, users have visited your website and perhaps subscribed to your contact list. Some might not have made a purchase yet, but they're interested in learning more. An automated welcome email, or better yet, a welcome series, is a great way to introduce your brand, explain the value subscribers can expect and entice them with special offers. For a football stadium, this might mean offering a discount on the first ticket purchase or a free soda at the concession stand. This would also be a good opportunity to share interesting information about the stadium, players, team traditions or even the mascot.
At this stage, buyers are still in research mode. They're engaged with your content and are considering a purchase, but they still haven't bought anything. Rather than sending one promotional email after another, try sending content that demonstrates your thought leadership or helps readers make an informed decision. For example, instead of repeated "Get your tickets now!" emails, a football stadium might send out profiles of new players to excite fans, or news stories that suggest it will be a successful season.
Cart and browse abandonment messages also work well at this stage. These automated campaigns remind users of their interest in certain products and then (depending on the circumstances) sweeten the pot with special offers.
Congratulations! You have a new customer. But conversion isn't the final destination in the business-to-consumer customer journey because you want buyers to purchase more. Now is the perfect opportunity to re-engage users with fresh content. For example, let's say I buy a ticket to the next Alabama game. When the stadium sends me a confirmation email, they could also include an offer for discounted parking, season passes or team merchandise.
4) Post-Purchase Nurturing
To inspire loyalty and keep customers engaged between purchases, create nurture campaigns that deliver relevant information based on customer preferences, behavior and personas. This includes promotional content and offers, as well as thought leadership content that educates, informs or entertains your users. For example, the stadium might send local hotel deals, parking tips, restaurant reviews or even tailgating recipes. For more tips, read “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Drive Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue.”
Even if you're doing everything right, some customers will lose interest in what you're offering. Rather than continuing to send the same emails, which clearly isn't working, use the behavioral data you've collected to get back on lapsed users' radars. For example, if the stadium notices I haven't been purchasing game tickets over the last few years, but that I’ve bought several children's T-shirts from the online store, they might figure out I've become a father and don't have time to travel to Alabama very often. This would be a good chance to remind me of how much fun sporting events are for kids and families, and what special family packages are available. Because my preferences and behavior have changed over time, the best marketing approach to engage me has also changed.
Of course, your strategy will vary based on your company and industry, and there's not a silver bullet for marketing automation. The key is to let the customer journey shape your messaging and timing. For more on engaging audiences at different stages in the customer journey, check out the resources below!
1) White Paper: “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketing”
2) Blog: “Mapping the Customer Journey: A New Vision for Digital Marketing”
3) Marketing Automation Ebook: “Best Practices for Marketing Excellence and Organizational Efficiency”