You get it. Email needs to be relevant, timely, and personalized, and it has to arrive in the inbox—not the spam folder. When an email renders, it should load images perfectly, guide the eye through stunning, effective design that drives subscribers to convert—download, purchase, whatever.
But effective one-to-one marketing is more than just email.
Don't get me wrong: Email is critical. If we've learned anything in the last decade, it's that email drives commerce and influences people, and it's a linchpin in marketing programs. In no way am I belittling the power of the email channel.
But as marketers, it's critical to build from—and with—email to create new, multichannel campaigns to engage today's subscribers. Here's why (and this is probably obvious): Your subscribers and customers aren't always staring at their email inboxes. Rather, they're also posting, texting, watching, commenting, and they step away from the computer sometimes, too. But we don't have (legal) methods to track them out there in the world... yet.
Enter digital one-to-one marketing. It can mean a lot of things, but for the purposes of this article, let's assume that digital one-to-one marketing means crafting an experience for an individual subscriber across multiple channels that guides them to a desired action.
If it's done correctly, a subscriber might not even realize that the experience was crafted by a marketer. When it's done correctly, the marketer is some sort of digital Hermes (the Greek messenger god who guided the dead to the underworld in addition to inventing the lyre; seems like the whole way to the underworld might have been a romp!).
In place of the lyre, you have a host of marketing channels as your instruments. Offline and online, you can create campaigns that include not only email but also text messaging, social networking, video, print, outdoor... and so on.
Like a marketer returning inspired from an industry event or conference, you should at this point of the article be exclaiming: Yes! I'm ready to go start taking one-to-one beyond email! Good! Here's how:
Step 1: Start Small
Email is proven. Channels like text messaging, voice messaging, RSS, social networking have not been explored, optimized, or tested in the same ways as email marketing. By starting with a simple mobile-originated text campaign that somehow links to your email campaign, you can gauge your customers' interest in communicating via that channel.
For example, you could ask that subscribers text their email address to a short code and receive a welcome email or email coupon as a response. If you don't want to start with text, consider social networking or using a Web experience that subscribers can find when they click through from an email campaign.
(If you're looking for ideas, check out ExactTarget's One-to-One Marketing Field Guide, where you'll find sixty of them ready to go for your industry and use case.
Take time—make time—to try a small campaign, gauge results. I bet you'll be hooked and want to keep trying new ideas.
Step 2: Strategize
After you've tried out a small one-to-one campaign that includes more than an email, consider how you might take it to the next step. Ensure that you have a goal in mind and measurements in place to review effectiveness.
For example, you might ask subscribers to click from an email to a personalized, dynamic Web site/URL that populates with offers or content specific to their interests. Or click from a social-networking call-to-action to a Web form that, when completed, triggers an email or voice message to them.
When you extend your data and personalization beyond email, your subscribers see something that appeals to them not only in one channel but across multiple. Yes, it takes some additional time to map out the experience, but the results are worth it.
Strategize on how you can leverage current data across multiple channels, then put it in action.
Step 3: Measure
Measurement seems to be the most obvious instruction, but it is also the most overlooked. Email marketers are now used to comparing open rates and clickthrough rates as measures, but expanding a program across multiple channels requires a more comprehensive look at the conversion funnel.
Remember that not all channels support the same measurement—for example, text messages don't offer an open, and in most cases a click, as metrics. Ultimately, you should be most concerned about conversions—did that one-to-one campaign result in the desired action?
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One-to-one marketing is about (and you've heard this before) delivering the right message to the right subscribers at the right time—and through subscriber's preferred channel. Email isn't always that channel, but it is a piece in the puzzle. Push forward with that small one-to-one campaign that links up one or more additional messaging channels.
Keep the email campaign, but push out from the pack and add in other marketing channels to leverage your data and deliver on the promise of one-to-one. Go for it. You'll be surprised at the results.