An Email Marketing Tactic that Works Really Damn Well


By Fausto Mendez

    Email marketing is a tricky beast to tame. Effective tactics vary from business to business, so A/B tests and audience surveys can work wonders. But some basic strategies exist that can unlock big rewards if you execute them well – no matter your industry or audience. A recent EDM campaign by REI is a perfect example.

    This morning, I stumbled upon a great piece at Freelance Writing Solutions on follow-up marketing emails that seem to be working pretty well on customers that made recent purchases at REI. Below, I break down the story to the basic details, but the whole thing is worth a read if you have the extra time.

+ The author of the article recently purchased a pair of cross-country skiesat REI, an outdoor-equipment retailer with a lot of street cred within the outdoor-sports community.

+ Approximately three weeks after purchase, he received a follow-up email from REI. The message congratulated him on his recent purchase of skies, and it included some very helpful articles, including how-to guides on equipment cleaning & maintenance and a web-based tool that displays snow reports at your favorite ski spots.

+ The customer felt like REI was paying attention to him because REI knows that he didn’t purchase downhill, or mountain, skies. Also, the email marketing team at REI did a great job at guessing exactly the kind information a recent purchaser of cross-country skies might need. Actually, that customer didn’t even know he needed some of the information in the message, so it was a welcome surprise overall. 

+ This marketing email is not designed to immediately catalyze purchases. Unfortunately  a lot of marketers expect instant results out of every message sent to subscribers, but this message has a much greater, longer-lasting effect. The effect this message seems to have on the customer is that it builds a relationship with the customer, increasing brand awareness and brand appreciation in the process. As a result, his next outdoor-sports purchase will probably be at REI. 

    The story illustrates the importance of building long-lasting and close relationships with your customers – not just through email marketing but through any and all available channels. More importantly, email marketers need to exercise more out-of-the-box creativity to find the best ways to do this.

    It’s a great idea. No doubt. But we suggest a few more tips that’ll help you make the most out of every EDM:

+ Stay visual. Effective web marketing is always mixed in with amazing graphics, photography and lay-out design. Rely on a tried-and-true graphic designer to help you achieve the best results.

+ Though your graphic artist has a great eye for visual design, he’s probably not a great marketing manager. The same can be said about your customer service reps and salesmen. The EDM campaign as whole, including message and content, should be managed by a well-trained marketing manager that can easily see the world through the eyes of other people. 

+ The subject line is critical! This text is the first thing the customer will see, and it will literally determine whether or not the customer opens the email at all. It may even encourage customers to label your messages as spam, which can weaken your delivery rates in the future. In other words, you can build the best EDM emails that have ever existed, but if the subject line is weak, no one will even open it in the first place. 

+ Seek the opinions of an outside consultant with a fresh and unbiased view of your business. This consultant can offer answers to confusing issues that you would have no idea how to approach, such as: low deliverability rates, IP address issues, domain issues, choosing the best email service provider for your current circumstances, A/B testing, blacklists, whitelists, changing privacy laws, and much more. If a consultant is out of your budget, you may consider signing up with an email service provider, SEO firm or marketing company with an EDM specialist on staff that you can call upon when you need help. 

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