People who interact with companies on a more personal level in a social network now expect that same level of personality and "voice" in their email communications.
One of the ways you can make your email marketing program more relevant and engaging to subscribers and customers is to incorporate the voices of your customers and fans in your messages.
Today's consumers are increasingly basing their purchase decisions more on the opinions of their fellow consumers than on the adjectives in your marketing messages.
Social networks are a natural gathering place for user content such as comments and testimonials. Use this "voice of the consumer" in your email messages, both to add the kind of humanization and personality that makes your messages more appealing and to help consumers talk to each other on your terms.
Your email platform then becomes a hotbed of "sideways marketing" in which your subscribers and customers help sell, educate and promote your products and services to each other in your messages.
Putting User-Generated Content to Work in Email
Content that your customers, shoppers and fans produce about your company, brands or products comes in four basic categories:
- Testimonials: Unsolicited and solicited qualitative statements about your products/services and customer experience. Example: Incorporating a customer testimonial in an email promoting benefits of upgrading to a higher service or membership level.
- Reviews: These are qualitative reviews from buyers/users that can serve either as brief excerpts or full testimonials with names. Example: Including a customer review of a featured product in a remarketing email.
- Comments: Postings in social networks, on blogs (both posts and comments on posts), via email contacts, comments to call-center personnel or other sources. Example: "Quote of the Week" highlighting one comment a week from a subscriber.
- Media/Original Content: This includes photos your customers took on recent trips, fun or instructive videos about a product or experience with your company, and other "original" content. Examples: Recipes or cooking tips that incorporate your ingredients or products; a subscriber's travel photo and story.
Everywhere you look you'll find content your users have produced about your company, products, services and customer experience, including some places you might not have considered:
- Your call center: It's not just for solving problems. Your support people can solicit and pass along comments and testimonials from satisfied customers.
- Inbound email messages: This is another reason why it's so important to monitor your email reply-to and related customer-contact addresses.
- Product review pages: Solicit these through post-purchase emails and your website review functionality or third-party software.
- Social networks/communities: These include posts on your Facebook wall, in your Twitter stream, in location-based communities (Foursquare/Yelp/Gowalla), in private discussion groups or communities and similar sources.
- Blogs: Your own posts on your corporate blog can generate comments you can repurpose for email, as well as customer or third-party blog posts or comments.
- Media sites: YouTube (videos), Flickr (photos) and SlideShare (presentations) are just a few examples.
- Solicited comments: These include post-purchase customer surveys, in-store or website comment forms and other feedback sources.
Testimonials Drive Success for King Arthur Flour
These techniques are producing measurable results for Silverpop client King Arthur Flour, a manufacturer of premium baking products.
The company uses the Web, email and social networks to connect with and capitalize on its community of bakers, bloggers and other enthusiasts and to promote its products and resources.
King Arthur used A/B testing to discover that emails containing testimonials generated a significant increase in engagement and revenue over messages without testimonials.
The company ran an email A/B test in which one version of the email featured star ratings and testimonials for the main products, while the other did not.
Results: Approximately a 30 percent lift in all key metrics—orders, sales and orders per unique opens. Also, fewer unsubscribes and spam complaints and a slight increase in average order value. Testimonials are now a key part of their email program.
A final note: You might need to ask your customers or users for permission to use comments or original content. Check with your legal counsel and review usage policies of third-party sites.