Effectively use e-mail campaigns to strengthen consumer relationships
In many ways e-mail marketing has experienced a healthy metamorphosing into part of a long-promised broader digital marketing arsenal focused on what matters most for most businesses - making money. New and growing businesses are strategic and continually evolving in how they embrace e-mail. Marketing automation, cloud-based marketing platforms, digital messaging, and CRM are all ways to deliver e-mail. The companies that are successful in this space and delivering significant ROI include ExactTarget, Pardot, Eloqua, HubSpot, and Infusionsoft.These companies all showcase proven technology platforms designed to persuade customers to buy more often and to turn prospects into customers.30
We should also acknowledge that e-mail marketing is also mobile marketing. The number of e-mails opened on a mobile device (Smartphone or tablet) during the first half of 2012 overall rose to 36 percent.31 New content, technology, and savvy testing can accomplish a lot on the mobile front. In addition to understanding the audience and building a game plan with that in mind, the execution of campaigns to a mobile readership is crucial. The right message on the right device can be the difference between a read, a click, and a purchase.32
Developing the E-Mail Offer
Eloqua, which includes among its clients the Miami Heat, Boston Bruins, Golden State Warriors, and a number of other professional sport franchises and venues, has a variety of tools and e-mail campaigns designed to assist in reaching and converting fans into buyers with highly targeted offers, not unlike direct-mail campaigns. Eloqua offers a platform named the All Star that provides a variety of tools that provide the following, which we view as essentials to an e-mail campaign. Many (but not all) of these concepts and services are highly desirable in direct-mail campaigns as well.
- Fan profiling and web tracking
- Fan acquisition, append, and cleanse
- Fan segmentation
- Fan (lead) scoring
- One-to-one personalization
- Campaign and conversion metrics
- Segment analysis
- Real-time, multichannel marketing33
One of the more intriguing e-mail marketing and sales campaigns surrounded the sale of the New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans as of the 2013 - 14 season) when the team (which at the time was owned by the NBA) was sold to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. Fans received an e-mail that directed them to a website (www.nba.com/hornets/NOLAIMIN.html?source=release) where they were asked to declare their support of the team by clicking an "I’m In" logo and viewing several ticket-purchasing options to declare their support for the Hornets.
The marketing campaign featured icons of the Crescent City alongside everyday fans, each bearing the message that living in New Orleans - and being a Hornets fan - is not an effort that can be done halfway. Well-known residents voicing their "I’m In" pledges included Governor Bobby Jindal, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, political commentator James Carville, Archbishop Gregory Aymond, jazz musician Jeremy Davenport, and Arnold Young, the beloved usher from section 124 of the New Orleans Arena.
Fans showed their support and said, "I’m In" by joining the Krewe of Hornets as season-ticket holders for the 2011 - 12 season with two great offers. The Balcony Buster season-ticket pack allowed fans to buy two season tickets in the balcony and get two free while supplies lasted. Or, fans could put down an initial payment for any other seat location and receive all April regular-season home games free. Purchasing season tickets for the 2011 - 2012 season also locked in playoff priority for the 2011 - 12 playoffs.34
E-mail (and Direct Mail) Can Be More Than an Offer
Organizations that use e-mail or direct mail to do nothing more than initiate the sales process through an offer do not understand relationship marketing. As we discuss later in this chapter, the long-term goal of sales efforts is to develop lasting and deep relationships with the consumer. If the only time the consumer hears from the organization is at renewal time or when the aim is to sell more of the product, the relationship will never be strengthened or expanded. Regular communication through these two channels can be used to enhance sales opportunities through several means:
- By providing a regular method of communication to keep the customer informed (through letters, newsletters, video blasts, and other ways of sharing content that might be of interest to the recipient and be interesting enough for the recipient to share through social media with a wider audience)
- By soliciting input, opinions, and feedback with questionnaires, surveys, chat rooms, and other ways to create two-way dialogue
- By showing accountability and expanding the knowledge of the consumer with an annual report
- Through thank-you correspondence that acknowledges the support of the consumer over the past year and asks for continued support
- By delivering invitations to special events and opportunities that may be of interest to the consumer or a member of her or his family or organization
Making an organization’s annual report available to customers is just one of the ways that a team can keep communication between the fans and the team open. The concept of sharing an annual report with stakeholders has been around for the past 20 years in one form or another. Technology has been a huge innovator in this area because the annual report can now be shared electronically, which is not only green and financially efficient but also brings the report to life because video and audio elements can be added to the content. The annual report thus becomes a multidimensional experience that is both informative and entertaining and includes content that may be shared through both e-mail and social media channels.
The annual report, which can be described as having the purpose of updating the shareholders and various interested publics on the state of the franchise, organization, institution, or campaign, usually contains the following elements:
- A letter from the ownership (could also be a video)
- An overview of the season and a preview of the next season (direction of the team or product discussion)
- A synopsis of charitable activities, ideally including player involvement, which is the type of content that is viewed and shared most frequently
- An explanation (and listing) of the benefits of being a season-ticket holder, donor, or similar role
- Thank-you notes and messages from the players to the fans
- A video or photograph montage of the previous season’s highlights and activities
- Video or photographs of stakeholders at various special events held in the past year
- A thank-you offer from sponsors or the team
The intent of such mailings or e-mails is to make the stakeholder feel special and informed. The annual report can take the form of a printed document or be produced on a DVD or flash drive, but the best way may be to e-mail a link to a website so that the message can take advantage of all the technology available and have a more multidimensional feel that brings the content to life. For an excellent example of such an annual report go to pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/pit/community/report_flip.jsp to view the 2012 Community Report of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Websites can be used as standalone sales tools or as part of an interactive sales approach that brings the website to life through other technological aids or pairs it with a telemarketer to assist in the sales process. The trend in developing websites as a sales tool is to make the process as simple as possible by using technology and interactive video components to enable the visitor to see all available seating options, compare them, price them, and purchase them online. A number of teams have added a live chat button in case the visitor has questions or issues and wants to speak to someone on the sales staff. Even teams and organizations that employ a variety of pricing techniques have been able to create web pages that explain the process clearly and enable visitors to purchase tickets.
The Golden State Warriors, despite using a dynamic pricing scheme whereby ticket prices vary according to demand, which is influenced by the opponent or day of the week, have a site that is simple to navigate and make purchases from. When the visitor clicks on the game that she wishes to see, a price map of the arena pops up. The visitor can then place an order online or elect to call and speak with a group sales representative.
One of the best examples of an interactive web sales approach was introduced by a number of professional sport teams over the past three seasons. The Hornets were one team that used this approach, produced by Chanel1Media. The e-mail link that the customer receives connects him to a website; once on the website, the customer is asked to enter his favorite jersey number and telephone number. After entering the information, the customer watches a video of the Hornets coach and GM talking about how important the customer is to the franchise. At the conclusion of the video, the customer’s phone rings. The caller is a representative of the Hornets sales team who offers the opportunity to purchase a ticket plan. This approach integrates e-mail, a website, and telemarketing to capture the customer’s attention and induce him to act and possibly forward it to friends and associates because of the coolness factor alone. This viral referral process then identifies additional prospects for the Hornets or whoever originated the message and content.