11/21/2012 03:02 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2013

E-Mail: 3 Best Practices for Driving Engagement

The Challenge: Email is an essential element of almost every marketer's multi-channel mix. But, it needs to do a better job of engaging readers. Here are 3 best practices.

Per the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) Council, 67 percent of marketers worldwide rated email as the most successful digital marketing tactic. In today's competitive marketing arena, however, the key to that success hinges on being able to engage your customers. According to ExactTarget, engagement and customer revenue are directly connected to the relevance of your content. RealMagnet holds a similar view, stating that relevant content is fundamental when it comes to maximizing the lifetime value of your customers.

ExactTarget's research has shown that as marketers increase the level of relevance, the potential to drive revenue increases exponentially as marketers begin to utilize more personalized, one-to-one marketing tactics. Our own Voice of Customer research indicates a similar finding; the value consumers receive in exchange for providing their information must be obvious and compelling. To overcome the legacy of receiving untargeted and irrelevant communications, consumers must see an obvious increase in relevance.

The following 3 best practices about engaging your customers via e-mail will help you deliver obvious value and relevance. Remember: if the value is not obvious, consumers will assume you have betrayed their trust and expectations.

3 Best Practices for Engaging Customers
via E-mail

1. Segment your communications.Use every piece of relevant data you have about your customers. Their gender, job title, hobbies, interests, purchase history, browsing habits, and social media presence all provide essential insights. Use this information to create messages tailored to their daily needs and expectations.

2. Integrate your e-mail marketing and CRM (customer relationship management) systems.Instead of spreading customer data across multiple third-party and in-house CRMs (staff-compiled databases), you should consolidate your customer data into one integrated system. Doing so makes it easier to personalize your marketing to create precise segments, acquire new leads, and nurture leads through your sales cycle.

3. Test to discover what works.Run an A/B test each time you create a new marketing piece, so that you can maximize your level of engagement. Test various subject lines and content -- such as sales copy, promotional offers, and calls-to-action -- to see what performs best. Simple tests like these are easy to perform and guarantee that you're delivering the most relevant content that you can offer. You can also give consumers the ability to hear from you through multiple channels by sporadically testing the promotion of other channels within all of your social networks.

Ernan Roman is President of the marketing consultancy, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.
Recognized as the industry pioneer who created three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-In Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.

Ernan was recently inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame.

Clients include Microsoft, NBC Universal, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

2010-12-08-ernan.jpgErnan was named to "B to B's Who's Who" as one of the "100 most influential people" in Business Marketing by Crain's B to B Magazine.

His fourth and latest book on marketing best practices is titled: Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.

Ernan is also the co-author of "Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing" and author of "Integrated Direct Marketing: The Cutting Edge Strategy for Synchronizing Advertising, Direct Mail, Telemarketing and Field Sales."