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Using email to make your customers feel special this holiday season and beyond

Christmas present

Ryan Phelan is VP, Marketing Insights in Adestra Inc. He’s been in the email marketing industry for 15 years and has a lot of tips and tactics to share from his experience.

Recently, I visited a local tire shop for a nail in one of my tires.  Having been there before and buying quite a bit, I expected to get a charge for the repair.  When the bill came, he handed me the keys and said that because I was a loyal customer, they were not going to charge me and that they hoped I had a great day!  Needless to say I was shocked, but the thought that came next was the surprise.  I thought to myself “I am going to keep coming back here because they were so nice and recognized me”.

Time and time again, we talk about segmentation and building a relationship with the customer.  It’s a struggle for some and I think it’s because we’re too removed from our customers.  What if we started thinking about that individual customer to invest time and money in us?  What would change in our approach to communication and what would we like if we were on the other side of the inbox?  Loyal consumers want us to recognize the loyalty they feel.  If we fail to see that, we ignore the reason our businesses are successful.

Let’s talk about three ways in which we can make some minor changes that could have a huge effect during the holiday season and beyond.

Best customer email

Ever open your mailbox (yeah, the one on the street) and get a piece that says “you’re one of our best customers” but you only shopped there once….2 years ago?  If I’m their best customer, they’re in big trouble.

This holiday, try working with internal teams and see what it means to be a “best customer” and define one of your existing emails to have some text in there about being a best customer.  Heck, change the subject line to reflect that.  You would be surprised at the response!

Say thank you and sell nothing

Picture this, it’s the day after the online holiday sales are over.  That time between the shipping cutoff and Christmas day.  You’re exhausted, frustrated, glad to be alive and glad it’s “over”.  Yet, you have one more job.  Come on…rally…you can do it.

This lull is where the consumer inbox clears out because the “war” is over. What can you do?  Well, how about saying thank you!  Now, we’re not talking about a long letter from the CEO about how they value your business (I hate those).  How about an email that just says “thanks for being a loyal customer”.  Use some of our advice on advanced segmentation or just devise three emails that you can send to three segments:

  1. Your first segment are people that made their first purchase during the last year. Those people need to feel that you succeeded because of their help. Sure, it may seem that someone that purchased a $5 t-shirt didn’t contribute a lot, but the mass of people that purchased the $5 t-shirt did.
  2. Second, how about your repeat purchasers? The message for them should show that there’s loyalty there and should be recognized.
  3. Lastly, back to your best customers. They really deserve to hear from you. All of these messages MUST be authentic and not a cheesy message. Make them short and sweet, and make sure they reflect your brand equity.

These types of messages may not seem like much to you, but just like my tire shop, they do matter to the consumer.

Offer something exclusive

OK, everyone likes to have the inside scoop especially during the holidays and who better to get these than your best customers?  Send the email early to them and acknowledge their loyalty. Now, it won’t happen all the time, but it’s something that you can do to juice sales.  Remember, what you’re trying to do is add value where none is expected.

Create your message, play on its exclusivity and the privilege to have it before anyone else.  Then deploy that email and wait a day or two before sending to the rest of the list.  You can test different messages, subject lines and delays.

These three things are not only something you can do during the holiday season, but something that you can work into your regular strategy.  As always, test these approaches and have control groups to compare results.  This can provide key insights into what works and the advantage you’ve just created. Who knows, you may stumble on to a segment that’s more beneficial to your business than you knew!


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