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Why and How You Should Be Using Triggered Email, Part 2

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • The two most underused types of triggered email and how they can increase revenue
  • The high value—for marketers and recipients—of welcome emails
  • Tips for improving onboarding and remarketing trigger campaigns

If you're just tuning in to this series, Part 1 explored the difference between broadcast and triggered email, explained the role of trigger-based email, and defined the fundamental characteristics that make triggered email so powerful.

Part 2 will look at the first two of four triggered-email campaigns that no email-marketing program should be without.

Welcome and Onboarding: Are You Saying Hello?

I like to think that email is, in the eyes of the recipient, first and foremost a conversation marketing channel. If we view it as talking with our audience vs. talking at them, it works a whole lot better. And you wouldn't begin a conversation without a hello or a new customer relationship without a warm welcome, would you? (Let's hope not.)

Automated welcome emails are one of the most underused yet easy and powerful types of triggered-email messages available. Recent research sheds considerable light on just how powerful they are.


According to a report released by Experian Marketing Services, welcome emails have transaction rates that are nine times higher than those of bulk mailings.

Experian published "The Welcome E-mail Report: Benchmark Data and Analysis for Engaging New Subscribers through E-mail Marketing" after a year of research, from May 2009 to April 2010, on 65 of its clients.

Although common sense would lead most email marketers to believe the following two findings, the Experian study confirms them:

  1. Welcome emails with an offer generated more revenue than those without an offer.
  2. Real-time welcomes generated eight times more revenue than bulk welcomes (those batched and sent weekly). On average, welcome emails that contained an offer and were sent out as soon as the subscription began generated $6.89 per email. Bulk welcomes generated only $0.78 per email.

If higher revenue and engagement from your email marketing isn't enough, there's plenty more in it for you to get a real-time, fun, and enticing welcome-email program going—or to improve the one you have.

Consider these three advantages:

  1. Confirm. The welcome email can do double duty as sign-up confirmation and introduction to your business. If you're using it to confirm subscriptions to your email list, you're getting an immediate read on the validity and deliverability of the email address provided.

    Enlightened e-marketing tip: Don't just send a plain text "Thanks for subscribing" or "Welcome to the list" message. Do welcome emails right with a visually engaging HTML design that has the same look and feel of your regular program. First impressions go a long way, and this is your prime opportunity to create comfort and familiarity.
  2. Introduce. The welcome is your chance to introduce your organization and begin what's known as "onboarding." Other than offers, welcome messages do well to orient new subscribers to your business in general or to your website. They should also indicate ways to interact with and contact you.

    Enlightened e-marketing tip: Don't bog down the welcome with too much information, but include the basics. If yours is a welcome to a paid subscription, for example, many recipients will save that email for future reference.
  3. Manage expectations. After your sign-up page, your welcome email is the place to let recipients know what type of content and frequency to expect.

    How often will emails be sent? What flavors (e.g., newsletter, sales alerts, reminders, by content category) are available? If your emails lean more heavily toward content than toward promotion, provide a link to a Web-based, dated version of a recent email newsletter so people can see what they will be getting.

    Enlightened e-marketing tip:
    Consider a follow-up welcome or onboarding series after the initial message to further explain your program, and what subscribers can expect and how they can change their preferences. Even better, you can weave free or paid offers into the series.

The overriding goal of the welcome message is to advance your relationship. If you do what comes naturally at the beginning of any new relationship—accentuate the positive (the reason folks signed up in the first place)—you'll be off to a great start.

Remarketing: Reaching Out to the Ones Who Got Away

You may have heard it takes seven marketing touches to make a sale. "The Rule of Seven" was widely popularized by Dr. Jeffrey Lant. The essence of his idea is that to infiltrate the buyer's consciousness and make significant penetration in a given market, you have to contact your target audience members a minimum of seven times within an 18-month period.

The good news: In email, traditional-marketing time frames are greatly condensed. The bad news: You're leaving untapped sales on the table if you market to people only once with no follow-up.

The main idea behind the "Rule of Seven"—even if for email the magic number isn't quite seven (and you'll know only if you test)—is the rationale for remarketing and retargeting emails. From what I've seen, I would argue it is the No. 1 most underused tactic affecting revenue in email marketing today. Hopefully, not for long.

Online marketers will be working harder in the next year to lure back potential customers who may have begun and abandoned a conversion activity, according to an August 2010 survey by SeeWhy. Asked about their usage of various remarketing techniques, almost half of US online marketers said they did not use any—but almost all said they would within a year.

The increase in retargeted advertising will be relatively small, but use of email remarketing will increase from about one-third of online marketers to nearly three-quarters.

So, how do you do it? Here are two easy-to-automate email-remarketing practices:

1. Resend to nonopeners

Although we wish everyone on our lists read every email we sent, we know it's not the case. Much of the blame is due to timing. Our well-thought-out (or forced-upon-us) timing is not necessarily relevant to or opportune for our recipients. Sometimes they're busy and just can't tune in. So if they don't open a high-value email from you (like your newsletter or a new-product announcement), give them another chance.

Enlightened e-marketing tip: Most email-service providers allow you to segment your list based on who did or didn't open your last message. Program a resend to nonopeners a few days or a week after your campaign has deployed. It can boost your open rate by as much as 50%.

2. Follow up with clicker-non-converters

Identifying those who didn't just open but also clicked gives you an even more detailed view of engagement. We have no way of knowing if someone who is reported to have opened an email actually looked at it. If prospects clicked, however, we know they did and were at least interested enough to begin responding.

But the same timing concerns that affect opens can affect conversions. This group of "clicker-non-converters" can be considered qualified—or at least curious—prospects who, given another opportunity or extra incentive to convert, will buy.

Enlightened e-marketing tip: Don't just resend the same message to this group—tweak the subject line or copy of your follow-on remarketing campaign so it doesn't look like you goofed and sent the same thing twice. Or test a juicier offer to make conversion irresistible. If timing was the issue at first, they'll appreciate a follow-up opportunity to act.

Remember the lesson of the "Rule of Seven": Successful marketing requires relationships to be built over time. Setting up automated remarketing email campaigns triggered by response action (or lack of action) shows that you're paying attention and you're interested in an ongoing, two-way conversation.

Stay tuned for Part 3; I'll wrap up this series with a look at using triggered email for product cross-sell and upsell, and for customer reactivation.


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Karen Talavera heads Synchronicity Marketing and writes about how to successfully use email, social, and content marketing on the Enlightened Emarketing blog. You can also follow Karen on Twitter (@SyncMarketing) and Facebook for daily tips and links to emerging email and social media marketing trends, facts, and research.

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