Content Considerations For Your Automated Email Program

by Loren McDonald, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014

Clients who are adding potentially dozens of automated email messages to their marketing program often ask, “How am I going to come up with all that extra content when I still need to move multiple broadcast messages out the door?”

Good news! It’s not as daunting a process if you follow a content strategy built around this five-step framework:

1. Consider what kind of relationship you have with your customer and/or where you want it to go. Is your intended recipient a lower-value frequent buyer or an infrequent shopper who racks up sizable orders? Is she a first-time site visitor who just signed up for your emails but hasn’t bought yet? These different customer types require different kinds of content.

Customize a standard cart-abandonment email for your different customer sets as your data dictate. Customers with a high lifetime value might receive a loyalty-points incentive or 2-for-1 offer, while a first-time buyer might receive a 10%-off offer.

2. Your email should reflect the customer’s stage in the purchase process. Did your customers spend time on a specific product page without buying? Your browse-abandonment email might link to a helpful calculator, buying-tip video or helpful reviews that can move them to the next purchase stage.

A cart-abandonment remarketing message might focus instead on product benefits, star ratings, alternative items — and, potentially, an incentive or creative packaging of related products.

3. Understand how tablets and smartphones change the reading and conversion dynamic. Optimizing emails for a multiscreen world should already be a focus, but mobile-device screens can create additional challenges for your automated messages.

Order and transactional messages with blocks of copy in a tiny font might not show so well on a small screen. Cross-sell offer buttons that work fine with a mouse could be a disaster with fingers.

Many triggered emails incorporate multiple dynamic content blocks into their messages based on data from third-party services such as recommendation and product-review software. You might have little control over how copy and images are presented from these feeds, making mobile optimization less than ideal.

Finally, some of your transactional and service-oriented messages might link to login pages, shopping carts or forms. Have you optimized these pages for mobile devices?

4. Review your existing content assets to see which you can customize for automated messages. You probably have much of the content you’ll need to populate your new set of automated messages. Consider these sources:

  • Website content
  • Ebooks, white papers and conference scripts
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Product manuals, catalogs and customer-service scripts
  • Broadcast email content
  • Social media or user-forum comments and questions
  • Customer reviews and recommendations

Although you’ll have to tweak or customize the content for your email, it’s probably good enough to start with. Go back later to optimize.

5. Write copy that differentiates between real-time and scheduled messages. Urgency will dictate the tone in your message copy. Reminders to complete a purchase or to finish a process will require different wording from a deadline-driven message like a restocking or account-renewal reminder. Both of those, in turn, will sound different from a birthday greeting.

Consider the abandonment email. An overly aggressive message (“Hey! Come back and check out!”) could turn off a skittish customer. A service-oriented tone (“Did you have a problem with our site?”) turns this message into a helpful inquiry.

Use This Framework to Focus Your Content Approach

These five steps will help you choose the right content for each message and reap the inherent benefits that triggered messages bring to a complete email-marketing program: more relevant messaging that can lead to increased engagement, more conversions and higher revenue per email, which ultimately enriches your bottom line.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

Loren McDonald is vice president of industry relations for Silverpop, a leading provider of engagement marketing solutions for both BtoC and BtoB marketers.

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