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Break Through the Digital Wall of White Noise

27 July 2017

In the multimedia age there are various communication channels available, meaning that consumers are constantly bombarded with messaging. Between social media, applications and subscriptions to content, the onslaught hits you from all angles at all hours of the day, overloading recipients and creating the equivalent of a digital wall of white noise.

Look no further than your email inbox to see this in practice! On top of this, the proliferation of information available on advertising techniques and exposure to this content means consumers are savvier than ever, almost to the point of a "marketing immunity".

While you may think your email marketing is eye-catching, unique and special, it's quite possible this is lost on the recipient in the context of an inbox that is full to the brim.  So how do you ensure that your communications cut-through?

CLEAN UP, OR SET UP, YOUR CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software essentially assists businesses in managing a rage of corporate processes including customer data, sales, customer support, contracts and marketing.  CRM allows a business to gain valuable customer insights which presents business opportunities, streamlines operations and provides the framework for personalised customer service based on how a customer has previously interacted with you business.  The best way to think of a CRM is as the "brain" of a business - anything you need to know should be housed and updated regularly and automatically.

When the opportunity to input or update customer data presents itself, take advantage of it.  The likelihood of customers opening and reacting to your correspondence is obviously higher if you're actually reaching their inboxes.  Emails can bounce or be undeliverable for many reasons, including invalid or incomplete email addresses, so mitigate the issue by keeping details up-to-date or prompting members to update their details themselves.  Membership applications and renewals are perfect opportunities.

Ensure you obtain as much relevant information about individual customers as possible, the base line being name, date of birth, email address, home address and phone number.  It is also worthwhile noting that your must ensure your customers "opt in" to receive your communications.  In New Zealand under the Unsolicited electronic messages act (anti-spam law), advertisers are only able to send electronic communications with the expressed consent of the recipient.  Easy ways to ensure that you have this approval is to add a tick box to your membership renewal process seeking permission to send your communications, set up a web form on your website where prospective visitors can enter their details, or add the option at the bottom of competition forms.

The more information you can gather about your members the better targeted your messages will be.  Offering club's activities such as food and beverage, entertainment, gamin, sport and more in the form of interests will ensure your member receive the most relevant content.  This assists with segmentation and targeted communications down the track.  Running a monthly "what's on" campaign that outlines top acts performing at a club for those who selected entertainment, or promoting new weekly bistro specials for the food and beverage lovers, will result in higher engagement.

It is equally important to ensure that your data is clean.  Assess your data regularly and check that email addresses that are incorrect or incomplete have been listed as undeliverable or unsubscribed and are removed from your active mailing sends.  Continuing to send to these addresses can damage your deliverability and could see your content blacklisted as spam.

A final consideration when choosing or tidying up a CRM is making sure it integrates well with an email marketing platform.

USE AN EMAIL MARKETING PLATFORM

Email direct marketing or EDM platforms have a range of functions that improve the ease and quality of your communications.  These platforms serve multiple functions - storing the data (fed through your CRM system) that you use for your sends, housing the creative collateral you use to design your emails and offering basic analytics through which yo measure the success of your campaigns.

Whether your platform offers the feature or note, segmentation or splitting your email database to create targeted groups of recipients to hone your communications is imperative to improve the quality of your messaging.  Dividing your broader audience into sub-groups based on their profile and shared characteristics such as geographic location, age, gender, or purchase interests will ensure your audience receives individualised content based on their preferences.  Rather than upload individual lists based on different groups, many EDM platforms divide the data up for you internally.  Regardless of which way you do it, segmentation is sure to pique your audience's interest.

This individualisation can be extended through the use of a personalisation tag - inserting the individual's name into the body of the email or even the subject line.  This is done through the use of a tag that pulls the information from your list - for example, in Campaign Monitor you would use Hello [fullname,fallback=].  Each system has its own tags but this tiny personal touch can be the difference between a positive reaction and straight to the recycle bin.

Template storage and design is another important functionality of email marketing platforms.  The contemporary drop-and-drag abilities and resizing tools present within these designs make building your emails easier than ever.  When deciding on your template design, implement you club's branding while ensuring that the content is legible - less is more and white space is your friend.  You must also ensure that you include a clear "opt out" where your customers can flag that they no longer want to receive your messages.

Ensure your copy is concise and catchy and utilise the pre-header, the second line visible when you look at an email on your phone, to reinforce your leading call to action.  Test the effectiveness of these elements using A/B or split testing - this functionality tests two different types of content by sending them to a small section of you target audience over a set period and measuring the opens and engagements so you can see a clear winner.

Your customers will view your email on different devises, so ensure it is "mobile and tablet friendly".  It is also worthwhile testing how your email looks in different browsers.  While Gmail will download images automatically and lends itself to more creative campaigns, ensure that if your email platform offers you the choice, also send a plain text email to customers who may not want to download images in Outlook so that they get the gist of your message.

HAVE A GOAL IN MIND

Whether your main aim is to share news and updates, promote your products and services, or get more people through the door, ensure that your objective is clear and the way the email is crafted aligns with the desired outcome.  If you are promoting a seasonal menu change in the hope of driving restaurant bookings, include a button or link through to making a reservation.  If an online booking system is not available, include a phone number to call, or set-up email replies to be sent to someone who can manage this.  Prompt the reader to act - something as simple as "Reply to this email to book now!" would suffice.

Consider you target audience's customer journey and begin by basing your campaigns around their behavioural habits. Rather than just a static send, these series of emails aim to hold your audience's attention based on their engagement with your product.  A great example of this is Fitness First who target their customers along their fitness journey.  Class timetables are suggested at the beginning along with a complimentary fitness test to ease new members in, while tips on goal setting, different training styles and health articles keep the user engaged as their experience progresses.

This premises can easily be applied to your club.  During their membership life cycle, you could entice a customer with monthly vouchers during their first visit, suggest various food and entertainment options as membership progresses, remind them that loyalty points can be used at the restaurant and to use points.  Get creative, inspire and excite with your communications so they don't end up in your customer's spam folder.  Stuck for ideas?  Delve into your own inbox, search Pinterest or subscribe to mailing lists with similar services for inspiration.

STICK TO A SCHEDULE/TIMING

There are general guidelines regarding the best times and days to send emails to incite the best response, but this doesn't always translate across industries.  Three o'clock on a Friday afternoon clearly wouldn't work for a sales company hoping to lock down a deal, but it's probably a great time to promote Friday night rugby festivities!

Utilise the analytics metrics in your email marketing system to learn more about your customers and the success rate of your communication.  Measure effectiveness through open rates, bounces (emails not delivered), click rates (clicks within your email) and conversions (how many people took a desired action), list growth (new subscribers) and your Return on Investment ($ in additional sales made minus $ invested in the campaign) dived by ($ invested in the campaign).

With so many options available from Mail Chimp and Campaign Monitor to Marketo and Exact Target, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the information overload.  Do not allow yourself to become immune to the effects of new technology, but embrace the possibilities.  Utilise the data at your fingertips and research the right option for your skill level and business objectives.   

(SOURCE: Elyssa King and Gioenne Rapisarda, ClubsNSW Digital Communications Officer and ClubsNSW Communication Officer, ClubLIFE June 2017)

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