A recent EMI blog post discussed the growing importance of email engagement and the role of preferences in re-engaging customers. In this post, we reference the famous definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. If you have a segment of email recipients who are not responding to your emails, why would you continue to send them the same emails at the same day and time and expect them to respond? While content and frequency preferences likely may re-engage some of the non-responders, it is important to try new emailing approaches to see if the standard delivery method may be responsible for non-response.
For example, if the “typical” mass-deployed email prominently features images and/or other graphics, it would be worth trying an email without images. Image-rich emails could get identified either by corporate mail servers or by email applications (e.g., Outlook) as spam and put into Junk Mail folders, never to be seen again. Additionally, some recipients may be discouraged from interacting because they rely on smartphones for checking their email and graphic-heavy emails often don’t render as well on a mobile device as they do on a desktop machine.
Similarly, if you maintain a best practice-driven schedule of deploying emails during working hours on Tuesday through Thursday, you may succeed in reaching some non-responders by testing different deployment days and times. In some industries, reaching people before the business day starts gives them the few extra seconds for email viewing that you need to capture their attention. For some target markets—especially SOHOs (small office/home offices) in which the potential buyer is wearing many hats all week—sending on Fridays or even on the weekend increases the chances of response.
As with any marketing initiative, success depends on intersecting with your target audience at a moment when it is receptive to your message. By testing new creative and deployment times, you create more vectors for intersection with previously unresponsive segments.
In a recent survey of business executives, increasing subscriber engagement was the most frequently cited top priority—ahead of segmentation and social media integration. The focus on subscriber engagement has been rising over the last several years, driven by the growing role engagement is playing in email deliverability and by the recognition that one has to work harder to cut through an increasingly crowded inbox to affect the target audience. If recipients aren’t reading your emails, they’re not getting your message. Moreover, your emailing reputation will suffer and fewer of your emails will reach their intended inboxes.
Most “best practice” discussions around this topic advocate strongly for asking recipients to define their email preferences—the kinds of topics they’re interested in and the frequency with which they’re interested in receiving emails. Though this should absolutely be part of the email engagement approach, the reality is that for many B2B companies with small email lists, the decision to give people who are currently receiving emails (albeit not reading them) the option to refuse certain emails is an extremely difficult one to make. A compromise approach is one in which only those who are most at-risk of eternal inactivity are “invited” to define their preferences.
A complement to the explicit solicitation of preference definition is an approach that focuses on understanding what the recipient has responded to rather than on the fact that he/she hasn’t responded recently. For example, analyzing customer response data could reveal that a segment of “inactive” recipients used to respond with some frequency to a monthly newsletter; a reasonable hypothesis would be that they stopped paying attention to the newsletter because they couldn’t differentiate it from all the other emails they receive. In this case, testing the efficacy of sending them only the monthly newsletter would make sense. Likewise, looking back at how the contact got on the email list in the first place can yield some potential avenues for re-engagement: if they signed up to receive a whitepaper, it may be worth trying to limit them to only those emails offering a whitepaper download.
The point is that clearly your non-responsive recipients need to be re-engaged. Asking them what they want and responding to them offer two good options for resetting the communications relationship and gaining back their attention.
Recently, The Hartford, John Hancock, and JP Morgan have all been in the news regarding their decisions to equip some wholesalers with iPads. The rationale was fairly consistent across the three companies: leverage the greater presentation capabilities and impressiveness of the iPad versus a laptop, and remove the burden of carrying large amounts of material and technology. JPMorgan appears to be seeking even more out of the new technology as it is rolling-out a presentation app that offers greater functionality than the native web-browser-based version.
From a sales enablement perspective, the iPad represents an incredibly valuable platform: It ensures that sales people will be relying solely on the materials they can access on the device. Whereas in the past, field sales people may have used outdated presentations that resided on their laptop hard drive, now consistent, current presentations can be pushed out to them with a high probability of 100% compliance. In fact, a presentation template app could even enable the real-time creation of a prospect-ready presentation based on input from the sales person. Likewise, apps could deliver, at the touch of the screen, fully updated product comparisons or ROI calculators. Moreover, usage of these tools would now be significantly more measurable.
In other words, the use of iPads by sales is a classic “win-win”: sales gets a slick gadget and can get rid of bulky papers and clunky laptops; sales management gets increased compliance and, with it, consistency.