When in doubt, one of the easiest things marketers can do is send an email blast. The approach is predicated on a strength-in-numbers mentality. If you send out enough messages, somebody, somewhere, will receive it and take the desired action.
While marketers still use blast messages, their value is waning. Why? You are competing for attention with your emails, website, advertisements, collateral, events and any other initiative. People are using their phones, computers, tablets and TVs to consume information. It’s harder than ever to reach, much less sway, a customer.
By 2010, SAS marketing efforts included a blend of blasts and more personalized emails. The marketing team’s goal was to find the right mix of messages and communications methods that would anticipate customers’ needs and turn emails into a conversation with them on their journeys.
The advent of a new customer-journey approach at SAS gave us an opportunity to rethink our email strategy and see what approaches worked best at different phases of the journey.
The marketing team looked at historical data and asked some questions. For example, where along the path is thought leadership more effective than something product-specific? And where is third-party content more compelling than internal content?
The marketing team members began assembling data on the customer journey and behavior across each phase. They found examples of customers receiving messages that were out of sync with their actual buying stage. For instance, a contact would receive messages designed for the early stages of a journey even after the deal was won (or lost).
Marketing analysts also evaluated and identified content gaps across the customer journey. Looking at the totality of interactions, it was clear that building a conversation with the customer would require an overhaul of the email marketing strategy. Here are some key takeaways from the analysis:
- Scoring allowed the team to assign a value to all actions, not just registrations. Each interaction with SAS was tracked and added to the score. With more pervasive – and more realistic – scoring of these behaviors, the team could further analyze the relative value of different messages and offers.
- Segmentation identified the stage of the customer journey. Once scoring was complete and applied to contacts, the team could choose which message to send based on the stage.
- Automation provided the foundation for faster, analytics-driven communications. With segments in place, the team created targeted and relevant email communications to provide the right message at the right stage of the customer journey.
- Analytics delivered the right business strategy based on the desired outcome. Marketing analysts could evaluate how the entire marketing mix was working to move customers through different stages.
After this analysis, the team created and refined email campaigns to fit the stages of the customer journey. The content for the phases included:
- Need. High-level messaging, including industry-specific content and thought leadership strategies. Blogs and articles at this phase explain the problem and provide a path forward.
- Research. Content that validates the customer’s need to solve the problem. Material here focuses on specific business issues and includes third-party resources like analyst reviews and research reports.
- Decide. Deeper content that provides more product-specific information. This material validates the proposed solution through customer success stories, research reports, product fact sheets and so on.
- Adopt. On-board and self-service content. This stage focuses on introducing customers to support resources and online communities, as well as do-it-yourself material that introduces the customer to the solution.
- Use. Adoption content, such as advanced educational information, user conferences, and product-specific webinars. At this stage, users turn to more technical resources to expand their knowledge.
- Recommend. Content specific to extending the relationship with the customer. This includes speaking opportunities, focus group participation and sales references.
When customers reach the buy phase, interactions occur primarily between sales and the customer. As a result, customers are typically excluded from email communications.
Eventually, our entire online experience will be personalized as a way to best engage our customers and prospects and to help ensure we are communicating with them in a way that they prefer. How do we do this? By using customer experience analytics to track, analyze and then take action when appropriate based on behavior, instead of simply when we want to promote something. In other words, we have adopted an analytical mindset.
How SAS can help
We've created a practical ebook to modernizing a marketing organization with marketing analytics: Your guide to modernizing the marketing organization.
SAS Customer Intelligence 360 enables the delivery of contextually relevant emails, ensuring their content is personalized and timely. Emails sent with SAS Customer Intelligence 360 are backed by segmentation, analytics and scoring behind the scenes to help ensure messaging matches the customer journey.
Whether you're just getting started or want to add new skills, we offer a variety of free tutorials and other training options: Learn SAS Customer Intelligence 360
Editor’s note: This post is part of a series excerpted from Adele Sweetwood’s book, The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization. Each post is a real-world case study of how to improve your customers’ experience and optimize your marketing campaigns.