South African marketers are waking up to the potential of e-mail as a marketing tool. In the past, it was regarded primarily as a channel to reach a mass of customers with bulk newsletters and other company information.
Now, they are following the lead of marketers in the United States and using it as a sophisticated customer relationship management mechanism. Technology and companies' understanding of e-mail's role in the marketing mix have both matured, opening up opportunities for businesses to use e-mail to automate transactional processes, to address challenges such as remarketing and making more personalised contact with their customers.
Integration of enterprise e-mail marketing tools with existing customer databases as well as other online marketing applications such as site analytics and ad-serving is the mechanism that allows companies to exploit e-mail in ever-more powerful ways.
Integration of e-mail marketing applications with CRM platforms is not just best practice - it has become a matter of regulatory necessity in the light of the ECT Act. If your customer databases and e-mail marketing tools don't talk to each other, it becomes all too easy to continue hitting users with e-mail messages when they have opted out from receiving communications from your company.
Integration keeps user preferences up to date and in sync across all databases. An integrated platform opens the way for powerful functionality that allows companies to reach the leads they want to turn into customers or the customers they fear they are losing their grip on. The e-mail application could be configured to send a newsletter or promotional offer to customers who haven't visited their Website for a specified time, for example.
Or the email application could be configured to send off a message to a customer that has abandoned a shopping cart halfway through a transaction to entice him or her back with a special offer or a helpful piece of advice on how to navigate the site.
Because integrated e-marketing applications allow for the seamless sharing of information between email and site analytics, they eliminate the need to manually link marketing data and site behaviour data.
This level of integration not only saves an enormous amount of time and money for an online business, but also offers practically boundless opportunities for improving customer retention and conversion. With the click of a button, a marketer is able to specify a group of visitors who may be interested in a promotion and hit them straight away with a customised email campaign, for example.
Analytics tools can be used to pull data from ad-serving and email serving applications, use that information to gauge the impact marketing campaigns are having on site traffic and transactions, and then allow immediate and automated action to drive more traffic to your site and convert more visits into transactions.
Along with integration comes the power of automating e-mail processes. Recurring data processes such as database queries, list filtering and uploading can be integrated, freeing up employees to focus on strategy and analysis and reducing the margin for human error.
Automation gives marketing teams the time they need to conduct offer testing, detailed segmentation, personalised content, remarketing based on past results - new strategies that have a very real effect on online marketing results.
They will also have time to start developing e-mail marketing programmes as opposed to simply sending out individual emails. For example, welcome emails, compliance programs, alerts, birthday wishes and account renewals can all be set up as ongoing programs that need no further manual work once they are configured.
E-mail today is the foundation of a good CRM exercise. It gives you the opportunity to increase interactions with customers and prospects, allowing you to consolidate relationships with them. So don't think of it merely as electronic bulk mailing.
About the author
Jacques van Niekerk has a degree in Communications and post-graduate qualifications from the AAA/IAA (International Advertising Association). He launched his career at Ster Kinekor where he looked after the marketing concerns for studios such as Miramax, Polygram and Castle Rock. He then moved into television where he worked in strategic development and marketing for M-Net, before overseeing the marketing of the launch of South Africa's first free-to-air broadcaster e.tv. Jacques is the CEO of Acceleration (www.acceleration.biz
) a dynamic, results-orientated eMarketing services company that works with leading global marketers and advertising agencies to deliver marketing return on investment. Through offices in the US, UK and South Africa, Acceleration serves more than 100 customers in a broad cross-section of industries.