Think Before You Blast Those Follow-Up E-mails

A client asked for a rule of thumb about the extra lift to expect when a follow-up e-mail is sent after a direct mail promotion or actual purchase. Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb because the variance of outcomes is so large.

But here’s an important consideration for any follow-up e-mail and, in fact, for just about any type of promotional contact: Significant, cost-effective incremental gains typically are contingent upon data-driven, analytically-derived business rules. Generic pitches are unlikely to generate impressive results.

For example, we once worked with a client with a great deal of experience in sending follow-up e-mails to customers after they had placed an order. Remarkably, the results were averaging $5 of incremental revenue per e-mail. The success of the program was so astounding that the client jokingly referred to it as a license to print money. However, it is important to note that:

  • These sorts of e-mails should be sent almost immediately after the purchase.
  • They should highlight the products that historically have been most closely associated with the just-ordered merchandise, based on an in-depth product affinity analysis.
  • For each merchandise category, data-driven hierarchies of product relationships should be created. Ideally, the selection logic should contain an adjustment factor to handle instances where a targeted customer has recently purchased one or more products within the hierarchy.
  • The marketing database that drives the promotions should be populated with the complete, accurate, atomic-level data required to support highly-targeted contact strategies.

It is important to note that the client had not installed the operational infrastructure required to support real-time, “suggestive selling” initiatives at the call center and Web site points-of-sale. If such capabilities had been in place, it is likely that the follow-up e-mails would have been less effective, and perhaps significantly so. Of course, such a decline in performance would not be problematic because it would merely reflect a shift in the vehicle for capturing incremental customer demand, from e-mail to point-of-sale CRM.

Jim Wheaton is a co-founder of Daystar Wheaton Group.

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