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Win the Email Marketing 'Hunger Games': Five Tips to Survive the Unsubscribe List

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Black Friday deals. Holiday sales. Travel promotions. New Years offers. This holiday season, email marketers and online retailers are in a Hunger Games of their own: Keeping their promotional emails alive—and out of the spam folder—will determine their ability to survive this season.

Avoiding the dreaded delete button is a taxing battle: 23% of consumers claim they get overwhelmed with holiday offers and just ignore them, whereas 31% look but rarely take action (make a purchase), according to a recent Campaigner survey.

So, for example, just as Katniss Everdeen puts on fiery dresses to entice sponsors and amaze fans, email marketers need to adopt a mix of eye-catching graphics and personalized content to make a lasting impression.

In the spirit of the just-released The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Campaigner has developed a few tips for email marketers to channel their inner Katniss and emerge as victors from the email arena.

1. Channel your inner Katniss and prepare to be on-the-go


With her life on the line, Katniss is constantly moving from one side of the arena to the next. Your target audience will also likely be on the go, and using mobile devices, so be prepared to easily connect with them. Be sure to implement mobile responsive design templates to make your email content easy to read and interact with.

Like Katniss, who has more important things to do (such as fighting killer bees and jabberjays) than put up with small font sizes or excessive scrolling, your customers won't tolerate them, either. So avoid the email equivalent of the cannon blast signaling a tribute's demise; don't become a victim of the delete button and leave the email marketing games early.

2.  Appeal to all Districts through personalized content

Though Katniss's on-screen flashy persona and initial romance with Peeta were not her preferred choices, she gave the audience what they wanted. To effectively connect with your customers and avoid the unsubscribe list, make sure your emails are tailored to your audience's desires. A/B split-testing and segmentation can help you identify just what your customers are looking for.

Use testing to find your winning formula by testing a variety of factors, including subject lines, calls to actions, graphics, etc. to determine which campaign aligns best with your customers' preferences and will result in a victory for your brand. Finally, use segmentation to distribute tailored messages to different groups within your list.

After all, the way Katniss talks to her sponsors is different from how she talks to her peers in District 12, right?

3. Play the Peeta game to win over your customers

Though forced together through unfortunate circumstance, Peeta consistently fought to win Katniss's heart; similarly, as a marketer, you need to turn on your charm and win over the hearts of your customers and build strong brand loyalty.

To do so, be sure to avoid promotional topics in your subject lines—and don't come across too needy. Don't be forceful with your audience, either; if they elect to receive a fewer number of weekly emails, then give them some leeway until they come around, just as Peeta gave Katniss the time and space she needed to realize their connection.

Finally, be timely and relevant with your content so your customers become eager to hear from you; they might not be willing to eat a handful of poisonous berries for you, but they'll become loyal customers.

4. Tick-tock: deception is coming

Competition is fierce during the holiday season, causing brands to make some missteps. The Hunger Games arena is filled with competitors, obstacles, and traps; and during the holidays, consumers often confront confusing and conflicting messages from the same brand. For example, a cooking brand may distribute an email campaign all about healthy recipes for a lean holiday season—while sharing calorie-bearing cupcakes or mac n' cheese recipes via social channels.

Be sure to implement an integrated marketing strategy with a consistent brand voice across all channels (email, social, direct, etc.). Nobody likes a President Snow who deceives and manipulates to achieve his personal and political ends. Find your brand's voice, whether it's strong and confident like Katniss or a loyal romantic like Peeta, and stick with it across all channels of communication with your audience.

5. Find your email marketing Mockingjay in transactional emails

In tough situations, Katniss draws strength from her Mockingjay pin—her secret weapon used for emerging victorious in any battle. As an email marketer this holiday season, find your own Mockingjay in transactional emails.

With countless online purchases expected this season, customer inboxes will be flooded with transactional emails, including order confirmations, e-receipts, shipping confirmations, etc. Use these much-awaited emails as your secret weapon to stand out from the rest.

Integrate transactional emails into your promotional strategies; harness the high open rates of transactional emails to suggest other products or deals your customers might be interested in.

In the email marketing games, any advantage is a competitive advantage—so channel your inner Katniss and exploit any opportunity to connect with your audience and exit the email marketing games a victor.


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Seamas Egan is manager of revenue operations at email software and services provider Campaigner.

LinkedIn: Seamas Egan

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  • by Zo @ Traction Digital Wed Dec 10, 2014 via web

    Great Hunger Games references :D On that transactional point, I'd also add to be a good listener - if you're sending a series of emails for example and someone doesn't open the first five, maybe put a brake on the rest of that series rather than blasting them into oblivion!

    More tips at our Christmas campaign post: http://bit.ly/10SpmEE

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