In the bad old days ( or good old days if your hat was thrown in the ring with TV and Print), brands spoke at customers, interrupting their daily lives in the hope that it would cause a reaction . That reaction being that they would purchase your product, based on how the message defined the brand.
You could also argue that email marketers followed a similar route. The substantially cheaper version of ‘’spray and pray’’ was adopted by many brands and indeed encouraged by email service providers who hid behind a very thin veil of targeting to justify a great deal of finger wagging at those unaccountable ATL marketers.
But obviously the world has changed .The ‘advertising' landscape has changed alongside. And it has changed from a communications perspective in a number of ways.
Firstly we marketers have realised that stand alone campaigns are really nowhere near as effective as creating a chain of integrated cross media communications that built on the previous communications making the subsequent one a little more effective. We started to take part in a dialogue.
Customers actions speak louder than words and so we began to plan responses to what they did, as opposed to what they said they were going to – after all, customers are all liars.( more on that another time). And we began to realise that customers actions or reactions were dependant not solely on the message we delivered, but also in what mind set they were in, not only to the brand, but also the ‘purchasing’ mind set they were in. What point on the sales cycle they were in or in the ‘customer/brand relationship’. So CRM was born…(and quickly adopted by the technology companies!)
In my opinion, it is the customers reactions to brand/selling messages and the interaction with the physical manifestation of the brand ( the product, the store, the call centre conversation) that help define the brand in the customer’s mind.
The customers themselves have changed as well. Much more media savvy with an understanding of some of the snake oil on offer, they participate in an ever increasing number of peer to peer conversations though many 'social' channels'. Here they talk about the brand and their exposure to it, often without talkingto the brand itself.
Brand, CRM and Customer Experience are all linked. Actually they are joined at the hip(s)!
And of course email communications should reflect all this.
It is a message from the Brand ( not the despatch office) and should be a reflection of where the customer is in terms of their relationship with the brand, not where the Brand wants them to be. Are they a potential customer, a recent customer, an advocate or a lapsed customer?
And of course the customer experiences the email itself – emotionally for example, its good news that my new pair of shoes or it's bad news that my credit card statement is ready to view online
But the experience also takes the form of how easy it is to interact with the email and whether it has arrived at a moment when I am most receptive to that type of digital communication – no point in sending me an offer on PVRs when I bought one from you last week Amazon!
So I doubt that anyone could really argue that even a basic segmentation based on this idea of a lifecycle would not be appropriate.
Now don’t get me wrong. I fully concur with the ideas put forward by say McKinsey that this is a very over simplified version of how the modern consumer interacts with the brand and a purchase . That it’s not all about push but there needs to be some pull.
But I would argue that you need to start somewhere basic – although to be honest even the basics are beyond many brands
And so any real email programme needs to be based on an understanding of the sales and customer lifecycle and the various touchpoints on that journey – whether they be physical or digital
It is about understanding how the individual reacts, changes course, seeks advice, comments, using the various touchpoints available to them these days.
An email has to be ready to react to all,whether it’s a
1 confirmation of purchase
2 request for a post purchase review
3 response to a negative comment on Twitter
4 new fan on Facebook
Email doesnt work best in isolation. It needs to form part of an eCRM programme which itself needs to be embedded in an organisations overall CRM Strategy. And it's CRM that helps to create the Customer Expereience that defines the brand.
That's what your email programme has got to do with CRM and Customer Experience.