Email marketing guide: Step 3 Defining your email marketing proposition

Defining your email marketing proposition

Q. Have we defined how our email communications offer differential value?

Discussions of how to engage email audiences often start with reviewing creative or the offers presented to subscribers, but in our view, a better starting point is the customer’s needs. Email is like any other digital channel, whether it’s a social media presence like Twitter or Facebook, AdWords in Google or mobile marketing. Consider the customer’s emotional needs.

      • Be admired by friends. Impress a boss.
      • Increase ego.
      • Save money.
      • Get something exclusive.
      • Have fun and be entertained. Save time and be efficient. Maintain good health.
      • Care for family and friends.

To be successful in integrated communication, each channel like email marketing must offer its own unique form of value that is distinct from other channels. This defines how the digital channel supports the core brand values. Every channel needs a distinctive online value proposition (OVP) to succeed in adding its own unique value in combination with the other channels.

Within email marketing, this is particularly important for an e-newsletter. This doesn’t preclude content re-use from other channels in emails. The unique value of email could be adding additional commentary or simply a round-up of social content that was most popular.

One of email’s distinctive values is the ability to be timely and relevant. Blog posts, website offers, Tweets, and other social media are more broadcast in nature and timing isn’t tied to individual customer activity, behavior, demographic or lifecycle stage.

If your brand offering is wide then this may include different email streams each with their own value proposition. Such at the big grocers that offer newsletters specifically for mums with babies and toddlers as well as their mainstream newsletters.

Review these examples of the types of value that will engage subscribers and improve perception about a brand and see which is most relevant for you:

      • Engaging text content that makes the subscriber feel happy, angry or as if they are learn- ing.
      • Engaging non-text or rich media content such as videos, podcasts, presentations, blog posts, photos, etc.
      • More in-depth content or alternately a summary of content.
      • Sharing of other subscriber views and opinions through votes, product ratings and polls. r Exclusive discounts or coupons only available through the channel.

The email value proposition is tightly connected to the sign-up. Expectations can be set at time of sign-up and in your welcome emails. The emails should deliver any promise of value that has been made to the customer.

The success of daily deal email illustrates this. The customer expectation is for a daily email that carries content which they believe are really good deals. In this case the customer has not signed up for in-depth product reviews, household tips, travel advice and so on.

Contrast this with a newsletter that sets the expectation of weekly tips and advice. It would not be appropriate to send a daily email with product deals.

What is the focus of each campaign? In many cases the direct focus is revenue. This can be more specific. Reduce old stock, cross sell into new categories, up sell to more expensive or higher margin products, increase basket size.

Does brand awareness and trust need to be built? In a complex sale, typical for many B2B companies but also in B2C high ticket items such as cars, the immediate message isn’t ‘buy now’.

Is the focus on ensuring customers are getting the most value from your service so that they are retained?

Write down different types of value that you do offer or could offer:

Define the value offered through email marketing communications

Q. Do we get the sell-inform-entertain-share balance right?

Achieving the correct balance between using your newsletters or other email communications

as a sales tool and adding other types of value is key to their success.

You will definitely have seen examples of overselling, but probably also underselling where the call to action or connections to products is too limited.

Remember that this relates to the structure also – the most enticing content needs to be ‘above the fold’ when the email is opened. Start with what you feel are the strongest articles for your audience. Have regular features plus new, topical, content separate in each issue.

Use the inform and entertain content to bring subscribers through your mail and mix in the sell content so they see that as a result. You can mix this up and emphasize the sales and offers in certain emails while giving it less attention in others.

As well as different types of feature, think about how you can use your e-newsletter to give a sense of community and engage the audience.

The balance might need to change for different customers. Highly engaged, active customers

who buy a lot don’t need the same amount of engaging content. They trust you and are happy to buy already. New subscribers or lapsing subscribers might respond better to a higher ratio of inform and entertain content.

The only way to get the balance right is to test different ratios of content over a period of time.

Write down your assessment of the types of value you offer through your e-communications:

Sell (___/10) _____________________________________________________________________

Inform (___/10) _____________________________________________________________________

Entertain (___/10) _____________________________________________________________________

Share (___/10) _____________________________________________________________________

Define email value proposition

Q. Do we communicate our email value proposition effectively?
Having clear goals around the value you want to offer will help copywriters focus. The

promise of this value can also be used on the website to encourage sign-up.

For business-to-business e-newsletters, think about how you can add value by acting as a filter for information about your market sectors.

Your e-newsletters can potentially Alert, Aggregate and Distil information through market alerts, industry trends and in-depth best practice case studies. But to deliver this information- based value will not be cheap as the content will have to be up-to-date, relevant, accurate, concise and clearly presented.

Best Practice Tip 11 Define and communicate value of your e-newsletter or email programme

You should explain your newsletter proposition, i.e. how it will deliver value to subscribers, for example, through:

        • Saving time. By providing a single, up-to-date source.
        • Learning. Increasing knowledge and solving day-to-day problems.
        • Saving money. For instance through exclusive offers, discounts or offering new ways of working through a company’s products.
        • Entertaining. All newsletters can and should be enticing or fun for their audiences – this is not only the preserve of B2C newsletters.
        • Sharing. Sharing information about your organisation or facilitating sharing of content from customers.

To achieve engagement, you should review how the newsletter should deliver value and translate it into the content and topics of the e-newsletter.

You should answer these questions and emphasize them through the design of the e-newsletter.

And here is an example for an engaging newsletter for a consumer brand. The focus is not around product or offer but customer need and interest. Sales offers are below the fold:

Integrating value into social media marketing communications

Q. Do we show the value we offer from our email marketing in our social media communications?

With the rise in popularity of social media, companies have invested in channels like Twitter and Facebook which are also offering value to their audience. A marketer can choose between campaigns and messaging per channel or let them complement each other. Think how email marketing can be more valuable compared with these other media.

Alternatively, it can be argued that a company simply needs to offer choice and many customers will prefer email for its convenience and richer media. Email can help the time-poor audience by filtering or summarising the high frequency messages from blogs and social networks.

In the example below, the retailer is using email to promote an exclusive campaign offer available through Twitter but, equally, the campaign could work in reverse.

Best Practice Tip 12 Enable ‘share to social’ options A ‘share to social’ feature allows email marketers to include links from the email so recipients can easily post (part of) the content of the email to their social network page, where friends and followers can see the message, make comments and even re-share the email on their own pages.

Speaking about the ‘share to social’ concept, Matt Lindenberg, assistant director of marketing for, explained the benefits like this:

‘Social networks are all about communication. This feature empowers our customers to communicate with each other, and therefore allows our messages to move beyond our email list. One of our emails was posted on 50 different social network profile pages. That kind of customer endorsement turns our email “push” marketing into a powerful “pull” campaign.’

Getting a share to social click is no different to succeeding in getting the reader to take any other action. Simply putting in social icons with little reason to explain what they are for or the benefit in clicking will result in little social sharing.

For example, just a Facebook logo on its own doesn’t explain whether clicking will like the brand or share the content. So indicate the action (like, share) and the benefits to the reader when interacting on the social channel.

This example of icons in the footer from Screwfix does a better job of explaining what customers can expect from the social presence.

If getting social engagement is important to campaign objectives then doing all the same things as for any other call to action will increase sharing or social media interaction.

      • Dedicate more space to the social share.
      • Use headlines, copy and images to highlight the call to action.
      • Explain the benefit of clicking.
      • Use an incentive.

Here is an example from Pizza Express with a call to action to join a debate on Facebook:

A simple, but effective approach is to include more reference to customer ratings within your emails as this example campaign encouraging purchase based on customer-picks shows.

The Macys example uses this approach. Yet, customer reviews / ratings don’t always increase the conversion rates, so it will be something you should test.

Best Practice Tip 13 Using social media channels to encourage email opt-in A like or a follow is essentially a low commitment action. Whereas providing an email address and marketing permission is a higher commitment.

Email offers more personal, targeted communication and generally leads to higher conversion rates. So it is a logical step to encourage email opt-in via your social presence.

Now that many brands have grown fan bases and have ongoing social media activity, the social media and email integration opportunities are both ways. This includes bringing socially engaged customers into the email channel. Social media is a great conversation medium and email is a great conversion medium. Reaching out through social media to gain new email subscribers should be a key objective of the social media marketing plan.

You can even get the best of both worlds by encouraging email sign-up and liking simultaneously. Just like Scribblers use as described in this post11 and in the more detailed case study.

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