When a company finds itself struggling for sales in a tight economy, the first response is often to start competing on prices.
Although price slashing, discounts and other costly promotions can bring short-terms gains, they could end up tarnishing your email program if you simply turn it into "the discount channel."
Frequent discount offers simply train your customers to wait for a deal before pulling the sales trigger. Your best customers, though, will likely be more interested in getting better value for their money than yet another 20 percent discount that all of your subscribers receive. When every other commercial email is pushing the same promotions, your email is fighting harder to stand out in the inbox.
How to do it? Find ways to strengthen your relationship with your brand-loyal, high-value customers. These are the people who will continue to buy from you, but you must offer something more tangible than another free-shipping promotion.
Use customer data to create targeted or lifecycle messages, such as shopping-cart reminders, cross-selling, upselling and restocking reminders, which build on preference data or previous purchases.
If big-ticket items aren't moving, feature lower-cost alternatives, such as a pair of earrings that match a previous necklace purchase, or a three-day domestic cruise instead of two weeks in Italy.
Keeping email a high-value, high-return channel will help you resist the trend toward turning email into a low-value discount channel. I talk about this in more depth in my recent Email Insider column, "Strategies to Meet 5 Macro Trends Altering Email."
The other four strategies:
- Market with global sensitivity to avoid sending culturally irrelevant emails.
- Use a mix of channels--microblogging, social networks and email--to speed news and communications.
- Build engagement to break through "attention distraction" from channels that compete for your readers' eyes.
- Give your email messages a distinct personality through looks and "voice."
I welcome your comments about these strategies and what you're doing to help maintain your email program's value in these stressful times.