Connecting with Customers: Brand Building Strategies for Consumer Goods
Barbara Tallent of Boldfish discusses methods for establishing relationships with customers via targeted, personalized e-mail communication.By Barbara Tallent, president and CEO of Boldfish
Many savvy brand strategists attempt to extend their presence beyond commercial relationships with distributors or professional affiliates to include direct contact with consumers. For many firms, e-mail represents an ideal medium in which to establish and build this connection.
Creating a Resource
To build lasting, valuable relationships with customers, it is no longer good enough to send product updates or announcements of new services. Forward-thinking brand strategists are evolving customer relationships by creating truly useful resources delivered via e-mail.
E-mail is recognized as the best one-to-one communication vehicles available, providing the fastest, most cost-effective way to deliver personalized, time-sensitive information while maintaining close relationships with customers, prospective customers, vendors, and partners. Yet, there are certain criteria that must be met in order to build a consistent, useful e-mail resource and communications channel for customers.
This article addresses strategies and scenarios that are working for successful brands, plus IT (information technology) requirements that must be met for timely delivery and smart e-mail management.
Real World Resources
The following examples illustrate the methods that some companies are using to create a "brand resource" through permission-based e-mail:
- A major insurance company sends alerts to homeowners in regions that are expecting severe weather on how to keep pipes from freezing, get vehicles ready for snow, etc., providing valuable and timely information for protecting vehicles, homes and family health. Beyond helpful facts, this information is designed to connect with customers' unique interests relevant to their geography, age, gender and type of vehicle or size of home.
- A health and fitness organization provides nutritional tips, recipes, weight loss and exercise advice to customers. More than information, this firm taps into lifestyles of its target customer segments. In addition, it offers opportunities to participate in discounts and rebates designed to help growing families.
- A major automobile manufacturer offers safe driving tips, basic automotive repair techniques, advice on buying consumable products such as gas, oil and tires, plus profiles of recommended road trips to popular or unusual destinations.
There are several pieces of criteria that you should use to maximize your use of e-mail as a branding tool, including:
- Create relevant content: The best way to ensure that subscribers remain on your list is to provide them with content that is interesting and relevant. For instance, if your company develops computer games, you may want to provide a newsletter that contains information on the latest games, tips and tricks, and special offers on new releases. If your site provides the latest sports news, a newsletter with the latest headlines would potentially be of interest to your prospects and customers.
- Target and customize your messages: Be sure that you segment your lists appropriately and send targeted messages to each segment. For instance, if you're a shoe retailer, at the very least you should segment your list by gender and send a message promoting men's shoes to men and a messages promoting women's shoes to women. To further customize your messages, allow subscribers to select their own preferences for receiving e-mail in HTML, plain text, digest, or URLs.
- Personalize, personalize, personalize: Personalized messages sell. Talk to your readers on a one-to-one basis and your e-mail marketing campaign will be much more successful.
- Prepare for explosive growth by making certain that your e-mail system will scale to high volume; you may be surprised at how quickly you'll want and profit from this capability.
- Make sure you have an automated subscribe/unsubscribe process: If customers are not interested in your resource, make it easy for them to disengage. Also make it as easy as possible for new subscribers to get on your list.
- Have viable storage for customer data: Maximize the value of your customer data throughout your organization by storing it in a standard relational SQL database so you can share and integrate with the rest of your organization.
- Automate e-mail "bounce" resolution: Efficient automated bounce handling is crucial because of the enormous amount of effort involved in processing bounces manually, and because of the wasted bandwidth involved in ignoring them.
In concert, these practices will help you to ensure a sustainable, successful relationship with your customers that extend brands online to new levels. Moreover, enterprise-wide your CRM strategies come to full fruition without negatively impacting your IT infrastructure or staffing requirements.
The guiding principal is to be of service and useful to your customers. They will reward you with loyalty and sales that would not have been possible with standard offers and discounts.
Santa Clara, Calif.-based BoldFish, Inc. provides software and services to enterprises that need to communicate to customers, partners, employees or investors. The company also licenses developer kits to software vendors who need to integrate high-volume e-mail into their applications. The BoldFish system enables high-volume, high-speed, personalized e-mail delivery with intelligent management of bounced messages, while minimizing enterprise network load. BoldFish has a unique "opt-in" philosophy and incorporates an anti-spam clause in its licensing.