Email Communications Through the Active Customer Life Cycle
Now you understand the customer life cycle, and we've covered in detail how to utilize email marketing techniques in order to help acquire new customers or to turn leads into active users or customers. But how do you utilize email techniques in the other parts of the customer life cycle in order to optimize customers? In this section, we'll talk about how to use email through the active customer life cycle (before you need to focus on retaining or winning-back a customer) in order to optimize their value and build brand loyalty.
What is the Active Customer Life Cycle?
The active portion of a customer's life cycle is, in short, when the customer is actively purchasing products with you or engaging with your brand or website. This could mean many things, and the time span involved could vary significantly depending on your product or service and its seasonality. Remember the example used earlier of the difference if you sell shoes versus if you sell snow boots? The easy way to think of an active customer's life cycle is "Am I worried that I have lost this customer's attention?" If the answer is "no," then that is an active customer. And if a customer is active, then your motivation with your marketing communications and email strategy should be to optimize the customer's value to you and his or her loyalty to your brand.
Using Email Marketing to Increase Customer Value
While brand and company loyalty is important, it's no secret that the primary objective of almost any customer activity is to increase the monetary value of a customer. After all, it's ultimately revenue that drives and grows a business. So at what points in the customer life cycle can you use email to increase your customer's value to you? Here are the most common points and methodologies for using email to increase your customer's value.
1. Post-Order Satisfaction Follow Up
One of the most overlooked but effective touch points in the customer life cycle is the opportunity that exists immediately after a customer has placed an order or taken an action. If the customer has had a positive experience with your company, you want to make sure that that is what stays in his or her mind. Alternatively, if the customer has had a negative experience, you want to ensure that you discover that fact and then work to remedy it. Implementing an email program that will email customers within a week of a purchase or action can have great impact. Include in your email both a solicitation to provide feedback or the product or the customer's experience with your company. Then, of course, offer an incentive for a repeat purchase or another product that they may enjoy or be interested in. While this email also works to build brand and company loyalty, the most likely point for a customer to make a repeat purchase is shortly after they have been satisfied by an initial purchase. Take advantage of this by being sure to offer a customer communication during that time.
2. Customer Surveys via Email
Similar to a post-purchase follow-up, contacting your customers with satisfaction surveys via email can ultimately serve as a way to increase monetization. The need to gain customer information and the need to boost sales can work hand-in-hand. By incentivizing customers to fill out satisfaction or informational surveys with a discount code or with special sale item if they complete the survey, you can both gain valuable customer information as well as incentivize sales.
3. Cross Sell and Up-Sell Emails for Active Customer
You might also have heard of these called "You Might Also Like…" emails. While presenting cross sells and up-sells on your website itself is a common best practice of ecommerce, you can also utilize your email (and a well-segmented database) to send cross sell and up-sell emails to your customers. If you know that a customer has purchased a great deal of a specific brand of product that you offer on your website, be sure to email them with other products by that brand manufacturer that they may like. If you know that a group of customers have all purchased a cheaper version of a type of product, email them to suggest that they might benefit from buying the upgraded model. If you know what your customers purchase and how they behave, then emailing them with related or improved products based on what they already buy during their active customer life cycle with you can increase their overall value both in the number of times that they purchase as well as in the dollar amount of products that they purchase.
4. New Product Announcements for Active Customer
Often, customers and clients won't return to your website or business on their own, and therefore they may miss out on new products and releases that you have available. Using email to alert customers and clients of new products and releases can increase purchase frequency and amount simply by letting them know that there are more purchasing opportunities available.
5. Sales and Special Offers for Active Customer
The most obvious way to use email during the active customer life cycle is to send your customers and clients sales and special discounts and offers. These could be standard alerts of clearance items or regular monthly sales. They could also be special offers available only for specific client segments or based on a need to generate revenue or clear products. Whether your offer is a percentage discount, a dollar discount, free shipping or a free gift with purchase, you can always increase sales in a spurt through offering clients a discount or sale.
6. VIP Offers for Active Customer
It's often said that twenty percent of your customers will account for eighty percent of your business. If this is true in your case (and it likely is), segmenting out your most valuable customers from your email database and sending them special VIP offers that are specifically designed to spur activity from high frequency or high dollar value purchasers can not only increase your revenue, it can also reward your most valuable customers.
7. Birthday or Anniversary Emails
Whether the birthday or anniversary in question is the actual birthday or anniversary of the customer or client, or whether it's their birthday or anniversary of their first transaction with your company, an email on the "big day" with a discount or promo code to celebrate can spur not only sales but also customer loyalty.
8. Seasonal Offers and Reminders
Of course, as a sub-section of special offers and promotions, you'll want to coordinate seasonal offers based on your product or industry segment. Regardless of your product or industry, certain holidays always suggest the sending of a seasonal offer. However, your industry segment may have seasonality as well. For example, if you sell farm equipment, then you should be sending a seasonal offer as spring approaches to capture users or customers during their time of primary need.
With a little creativity, of course, you most likely can think of a number of other reasons to contact your customers during their active customer life cycle to incentivize them to either purchase more or purchase higher-value dollar products. However, all of the above listed techniques have been proven in numerous case studies to increase sales and revenue via email marketing.
Best Practices for Revenue Generating Email Marketing During the Active Customer Life Cycle
Best practices for emails designed to increase sales or generate revenue are incredibly similar to those used to acquire new customers. However, here are five important ones to keep in mind.
the Call-to-Action Clear: Ultimately, you want clients to do one thing when they get a sale or revenue generating email, and that's make a purchase. Make the call-to-action to buy or purchase clear in a text link (not an image link) and don't clutter the email with too much information or other options for the customer to get distracted by.
Segment, Segment, Segment: The more you can put the exact right product in front of the exact right customer, the more you will convert sales. Avoid, when possible, sending one blast email to your entire database. Instead, split the database into segments and give them the most topical or useful information and products for them.
Don't Overdo the Images: While it's true that images sell products, remember that many email clients do not download your images and therefore your subscribers may not see the images that you're hoping will sell the product. Make sure that you include compelling copy that will make them want to either click through to your landing page or alternatively download the pictures in the email.
Be Careful of Spam Words: Much like with customer acquisition emails, sales and revenue generating emails during the active customer life cycle can run the risk of using too many words like "free" and "on sale." Be careful that you don't load your email up so much that it ends up in a spam or junk folder.
Make Unsubscribing Easy: Also not unlike customer acquisition emails, sales and revenue generating emails during the active customer life cycle can run the risk of being marked as "spam" by users if the users feel that you are sending them too many offers, too frequently. In addition to monitoring your email metrics and calendar, make the unsubscribe link easy to find to avoid being marked as spam rather than simply unsubscribed from.
Using Email Marketing to Increase Brand Value and Customer Loyalty
In Section 2 of this book, we discussed what a brand building or customer loyalty email is and the best practices surrounding sending them. However, as a brief overview, the following are all techniques for using email communications to increase customer loyalty or brand awareness.
1. Informational Newsletters
Newsletters are, obviously, the most common form of brand building and customer loyalty email. While newsletters can result in sales spikes or user activity, their primary purpose is to build a relationship between an active customer and a brand or company.
2. Thank You Emails
You may be surprised how far simply sending a customer a standardized "thank you" email after a purchase or transaction can go in making that customer feel connected to your brand or company!
3. Customer Surveys
Though customer surveys can work hand in hand with offers and promotions to meet both of your needs during the active customer life cycle, simply sending customers surveys allows them to feel as though their voice is being heard in your organization. Using email as a two-way street to make customers feel as though you are in a conversation with them makes them feel invested in your brand or company.
4. Birthday and Anniversary Wishes without Offers
With or without the offer, recognizing a customer on a special or important day – again whether that is an actual birthday or anniversary or the customer's birthday or anniversary with your company – makes a customer feel like a person instead of an order number.
5. Event and Informational Alerts
Similar to how airlines send alerts about flight deals and notifications, emails that remind customers of upcoming events or other pieces of information in short email form can also work to keep your brand front-and-center in a customer or client's mind.
Actively emailing your clients or customers while they are engaged with your brand, product or company has a two-fold benefit and may be the most important segment of email marketing. It extends the customer's life cycle with you by extending their feeling of relationship with you. It also drives revenue and sales through offers and incentives. When planning your email marketing program, make sure to put great thought into email techniques during the active customer life cycle.