How Strategic Email Marketing Can Create Great Customer Experiences and Improve Your Bottom Line

This week’s guest on the Digitally Irresistible podcast is Emily McGuire, a self-proclaimed email marketing nerd! As the customer evangelist at AWeber, Emily applies her email marketing expertise to create a great customer experience through email at every step of the customer journey. On this episode, Emily explains three key elements to creating an exceptional customer experience using email.

Delving Into Data-Rich Email Strategy

Emily’s foray into email marketing began about eight years ago while working as a digital marketing generalist. Although she initially focused on social media marketing, she soon discovered her love for email marketing. She was drawn to email marketing by its ability to engage with people in order to gain insight into where customers are in their relationship with a brand.

She worked on email marketing for a large e-commerce brand and then began her own consulting business to help a range of companies with their marketing efforts. Today she’s the customer evangelist for AWeber, an email service provider that delivers email marketing software to help small businesses and entrepreneurs harness the power of email to create deeper relationships with their audiences while growing their businesses.

Emily notes the value email marketing adds not only in the context of marketing campaigns but also to help brands grow and scale their business by creating a great customer experience.

3 Elements for Creating Exceptional CX through Email

Throughout her years of work in email marketing, Emily has identified three primary elements for creating exceptional CX through email.

These three stages of the customer journey with email are:

  1. Onboarding

For Emily, it all begins with customer onboarding. Although this phase looks different for different types of businesses, it always encompasses beginning the customer relationship on the right foot—anticipating the customers’ needs and providing the information they need to be successful with your brand.

This step is focused on educating and nurturing new customers to set the stage for their relationship with your brand. Email onboarding campaigns keep the customer experience at the forefront to build customer trust, whether it’s navigating a new platform they signed up for, anticipating the next steps in a professional services relationship, or learning when to expect a product they ordered and how to use it effectively.

This involves predicting what the customer needs for a personalized experience every step of the way. One example of a successful e-commerce email onboarding campaign Emily shares is from a company that sells washable rugs. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Emily purchased a rug with a removable top that can be cleaned in the washing machine. She began to take note of the company’s engaging post-purchase email series before her order even shipped. After placing her order, she received a series of onboarding emails beyond simply an order confirmation.

This included helpful emails telling her, as a new customer, how to prepare for her new rug and how to care for it. She also received an email addressing shipping delays due to the pandemic and supply chain issues. Soon thereafter she received a shipping confirmation email, an email confirming her rug was delivered, and a reminder email about how to care for her new rug along with potential problems that may arise and how to contact customer support in the event of an issue.

Throughout the new customer onboarding process, the brand proactively anticipated the questions their customer support team was likely to receive and answered them up-front instead of waiting for new customers to reach out to customer service, probably reducing some of the volume of inbound customer service calls for this brand. They shared useful information at each step of the customer journey, and built a strong relationship with Emily, as a new customer, to foster brand loyalty from the get-go.

This step looks very similar in the software as a service (SaaS), B2B, tech, and professional services worlds—anticipating questions, offering new customers a tour of the product upfront, and providing a brief introduction to the most common features people use first with their new product or service so they aren’t left to guess or reach out to customer service in frustration. A happy customer is more likely to be a loyal customer.

  1. Retention

The next step in Emily’s map of the customer journey is customer retention, to nurture your brand’s relationship with customers and make sure you strive to gain their loyalty. As the great management thought leader Peter Drucker said, “The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers.”

To foster loyalty, Emily says it’s important to ensure customers get what they need from you. This includes making certain you provide information in your emails to customers on how to get support if they need it so they don’t need to search for it on your website.

It’s also important, especially in the e-commerce world, to thank people for being a customer and for being a part of your brand community, incentivizing them to order again. In the SaaS and B2B world, this involves looking at critical touchpoints for customers and the types of services or future adoptions they are likely to take and nurturing them to take those.

Ultimately, it’s not just about retention, it’s also about adoption and usage so you bond customers to your product or service with a long-term view of their lifetime value. This means anticipating the information they need and reinforcing it with the value that it provides. The deeper their connection, the more value they’ll see and the longer they’ll stick around. By guiding customers through each stage of your service or product and helping them make the most impact with those features or services, you can capitalize on their customer engagement and garner better, more cost-effective results than trying to win them back after they ghost you.

For example, Emily recently signed up for a SaaS product and, during the sign-up process, indicated that she works with a team. The first onboarding emails she received provided a standard overview of the platform and the value it provides. Then she began receiving emails about collaboration and the advantages of adding team members to her account. The SaaS provider capitalized on the information they gathered from Emily to target their email campaign to her anticipated needs. They knew that if she adds collaborators she becomes “sticky” — a strong signal that she’ll become a loyal advocate for the product.

  1. Reactivation

The third and final step of the email customer journey is reactivation. Emily explains that there are two types of reactivations.

The third and final step of the email customer journey is reactivation. Emily explains that there are two types of reactivations.

  1. Reengage. The first type of reactivation is with customers who display a loss of interest in your product and are at risk of abandoning your brand. These are customers who are cooling off, starting to ghost you, starting to put distance between themselves and your brand, and are using your product less frequently and contacting you less often. You can gather data by looking at how many times customers are logging into their accounts to use your product if you’re a SaaS business. Similarly, B2C brands can determine if it has been a while since they were in contact with their account representative or ordered your product. Looking at these signals and developing campaigns to remind customers of the value you provide and sharing information on how they can get that value or giving them a discount code for additional products or services can help reengage their interest and improve customer satisfaction.
  2. Win Back. The other type of reactivation is focused on bringing back customers who have abandoned your product altogether or canceled their account or service with you. Sending them a series of follow-up emails addressing why they left, offering them incentives, and having a representative talk to them about what you can do to win back their business can give insight into how you can improve their experience with your brand and win them back.

Although reactivation offers a significant ROI because there are lower costs associated with gaining business from an existing customer than winning a new customer, Emily finds that reactivation strategies are fairly uncommon. Brands often don’t think about customers that disappear because their data simply goes away. It takes actively seeking them out and understanding the needs of your customer in order to win them back.

Marketing in the Customer Journey

Emily concludes that these three themes are really about anticipating what customers are about to do and nurturing your relationship so they can be as successful as possible with your product or service.

Marketing is often focused on lead generation and conversions, but retaining existing customers is much more profitable. These three elements can guide brands to cultivate great CX through email marketing campaigns as part of a unified customer experience strategy. Remarketing to customers over and over again in these ways deepens their relationship with your brand and optimizes their customer journey.

What Emily Does for Fun

Emily loves playing with her child in addition to exploring old hobbies that went on hiatus during the pandemic. Rediscovering the joys of disc golf is at the top of her list right now. To learn more about the email expertise AWeber offers, visit www.aweber.com. To connect with Emily and follow her email marketing tips, visit her page on LinkedIn.

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