Lately it seems I spend more of my time deleting or unsubscribing from email in both my personal and professional accounts than I do reading it. The volume at which this email comes at me every day is almost overwhelming and forces me to FENG-SHUI my inbox multiple times a day. The majority of this email comes from email lists that I signed up for personally from companies and brands like “The Gap” or “Best Buy” to thought leadership and associations like “eMarketer”. I’m not saying that occasionally I do not read one of these emails because of a catchy subject line or content that interests me, but more often than not the content is a generic blast that doesn’t really resonate.

On the flip side I do receive lot of push email notifications from my social networks, both personal and professional, that I do read and click on often. These range from personal friend requests on Facebook to status updates on LinkedIn or content notifications from professional communities.

What’s the Difference?

As I step back and look at what motivates me to click the emails from social networks over the ones generated through a broadcast email marketing program there are two key differences; Relationships and Context. Generally push emails generated on social networks are much more targeted around the things I care about, ranging from:

  • The People I care about
  • The Topic’s I’m interested in,
  • The Discussion’s I’m a part of
  • The Content I’ve subscribed to
  • The Contributions I’ve made

Growing Relationships, not Email Databases

I’m sure the scenario I’m describing above is no different to what you experience every day in your own professional and personal lives. As marketers that own existing loyalty programs we need to think about how we extend them to provide more value with more relevant content and connections with our customers rather than spamming them with content they don’t care about.

Re-inventing your Loyalty programs with Community

I recently published an article titled “Members Are Customers, Too” about how some associations are re-inventing their membership model by building owned member communities. A lot of the points I made in this article are applicable to loyalty programs. A more effective way of engaging your customers and email subscribers is to convert an email record in a database to a dynamic member profile and invite them to join a community. Take all of your companies’ great content, products, ideas and relationships and move it to a community construct that focuses on engaging your customers and prospects vs. broadcasting to them with spray and pray campaigns. Once in a community you are better able to learn about your members, what content is interesting to them, who are the kinds of people they like to connect with, and how engaged are they with your brand. This intelligence is easier to gather inside of a community where you own the analytics and easier to take advantage of when you control the complete experience. Now you can utilize relationships and context to better engage your fans which will inevitably translate into higher loyalty.

Some great examples of this are:

  • Element 14 – Customer Community:
    Premiere Farnell is engaging its suppliers and customers by hosting conversations including t those discussing testing of their products. Additionally they’ve integrated eCommerce into the Community (and vice versa) to drive sales.
  • Harley Davidson – HOG Community: Harley Davidson is inviting its HOG owners into a dedicated community that hosts local chapters, discussions about their bikes, events and general interests:

Whether a community is right for your brand or not, the next time you go to push out that email blast remember to utilize relationships and context to truly engage readers. Focus on the People your readers care about, the Topic’s they are interested in, realize the Discussion’s they are a part of, the Content they’ve subscribed to, and the Contributions they’ve made to ensure you are utilizing your loyalty program to gain the greatest engagement and interest.