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5 Marketing Changes to Make in 2013

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
12 December 2012

As you look ahead to 2013, there are dozens if not hundreds of possible tweaks you can make to your digital marketing program. But unless you’re one of the lucky few who have infinite marketing personnel and budget at your disposal, time and resource constraints mean you’ll need to narrow your wish list to a select handful of changes.

As I’ve written before, some marketers make the mistake of tweaking and twiddling rather than identifying the primary opportunity(ies) for driving the most revenue. While these key “fulcrum” points will differ from company to company, there are several initiatives that virtually all companies can take to move the revenue needle. Here are five such digital marketing shifts to consider in 2013:

1) Move from sending a single “welcome” message to creating an onboarding program.
The one-off welcome message is a good way to introduce subscribers to your company, build up customer engagement early and head off inactivity. While infinitely better than just dumping newbies into your general email stream, one of the limitations of the traditional welcome email is that it treats every subscriber alike, regardless of where they opted in to your program and what pages they visited on your website prior to opt-in.

In 2013, consider expanding your single welcome email into a multi-message format, with each email warming the new subscriber to a different value proposition or call to action based on his or her point of entry, interests or what the new contact needs to do to become an experienced user of your product or service. For more ideas, including two onboarding examples, check out this video:

2) Transition from a traditional preference center to a behavioral database.
Your typical preference center, where contacts can go and provide information on what content they wish to receive, and how and when they want to receive it, increases a company’s ability to deliver engaging content. The downside, though, is that not enough customers typically use them, and those that do often forgot or neglect to update their preferences when they change.

One step in overcoming this challenge is to add a “hidden” behavioral element to your data/preference collection process. For example, you could use Web tracking to connect subscribers’ pre- and post-registration Web behavior to their email address. Then, you can use this data to “fill in” some form fields for your contacts based on their actions.

For example, let’s say a subscriber to your wine email newsletter has never explicitly indicated his favorite type of wine. By setting up your system to capture certain key behaviors, you might discover that this person has visited the merlot section of your site on numerous occasions. You might then identify him as a merlot fan and send future content tuned to this preference, rather than just generic emails highlighting your full product range.

3) Shift from mass broadcast emails to personal “one-to-one” messaging.
Setting up your system to capture more behaviors opens up a range of exciting new ways for you to connect with prospects and customers. Although the mass broadcast email remains a part of a well-rounded marketing program, it’s now easier than ever to mix these messages with highly relevant, personalized emails triggered by recipient actions.

In 2013, put the behavioral data you’re collecting to use by setting up one or two new automated messages triggered on the actions, preferences and events relevant to each contact. These messages, which can range from abandoned cart reminders to “happy birthday” emails to upsell/cross-sell offers, often result in massive ROI compared to more general emails.

4) Move from seeing emails as static to viewing them as dynamic content platforms.
Want to transform your one-size-fits-all message into something more personal? Add a few dynamic content blocks within the email and – boom! – you’ve changed it into something uniquely relevant to the recipient.

What’s even more exciting is that recent technological innovations now enable powerful integrations that allow you to pull real-time content from sources such as your ecommerce service, Twitter feed, or recommendation and product review software into these dynamic content blocks.

The ability to transform a generic offer with one related to a previous purchase, plus pull in a user review or related social comment, can instantly give your email a more personal, human feel and drive revenue in a hurry.

5) Go beyond mobile optimization to “mobile-first” design.
It seems like every day, there’s a new study about how more and more people are using smartphones to open and interact with emails. Accordingly, most savvy marketers are acknowledging the importance of optimizing messages for mobile devices and taking steps to improve the mobile experience.

As you’re fine-tuning your mobile approach to email in 2013, remember to also optimize landing pages and websites – such as those you’ll be linking to from QR codes or check-in programs – with mobile in mind.

Equally as important, remember that design only represents half the mobile success equation. You also need to think about “mobile context” – the fact that people on mobile devices are frequently multitasking – and make sure you streamline your conversion activity accordingly, perhaps even focusing your email on a single conversion.

For more tips on how mobile design and context work together, watch this video:

Related Resources:
1) White Paper: "6 Key Marketing Trends for 2013 – and Tips for Succeeding in the Year of the Customer"
2) Blog: "Using Behavior-Based Triggers and Other Tactics to Make Automated Emails More Personal"
3) Blog: "Moving Toward a 'Mobile First' Strategy for Email"

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