Oct 8, 2010

Email strategy for Q4 crunch time

The fourth quarter has started, and marketers that don’t have an email strategy that takes advantage of the opportunities of this unique time period should start planning. After all, many companies will be looking to ramp up spending to make the most of what’s left in their budgets. The best way to come up with a plan is to look at customer data from Q4 2009. The more you know about what happened and what didn’t happen in the past, the better off you’ll be reaching out to your customers today. You can’t wait around for customers to show up. You’ve got to get out there and incent them to act.

Here are four strategies that can help you boost your end-of-year sales:
1. Create customer profiles. Who were your most profitable customers during the fourth quarter of last year? While you’ll reach out to them, of course, you can also find more like them by mining your customer data. What do your best customers buy? What kind of buying pattern is associated with them? How often do they buy? What was their first purchase? Look for profiles, products and services that match those that your best customers have. Those are the people who have the greatest chance of becoming good customers. If you can get to a point where you can dynamically recognize purchasing patterns, you have a much better shot at conversion.

2. Look at last year’s most successful campaigns. What subject lines had the best open and conversion rates? Which offers resonated and led to sales? While you wouldn’t want to repeat them verbatim, you can make subtle tweaks that build on the success of those campaigns. You’ll also want to look at the campaigns that didn’t work and make sure you avoid repeating the same mistakes.

3. Turn to your “dead” file. The fourth quarter is a perfect time to reach out to customers who stopped buying from you, because people are often more likely to buy when their budgets enter the “use-it-or-lose-it” space. Start experimenting, using some of the best subject lines and offers that you know you have.

4. Reward your best customers. During this quarter, many companies introduce special offers and promotions to get more of the end-of-year spend. While this is a good strategy, don’t make the mistake of sending the same offer to everyone in the email database. Treating new customers and existing customers the same way—giving them the same discount—tells your best customers that they’re not really that special after all. Your best customers should always feel like they are getting something better than the average person. That doesn’t necessarily translate to deeper discounts, although it might. Instead, consider expedited shipping, personalized service or follow-up emails and phone calls to make sure they are happy.