How does email marketing enhance customer journeys?
Last updated: October 12, 2023
Customer journey mapping helps you keep track of a purchasing process that’s becoming more complicated than ever. A good customer journey map will cover every interaction you have with your audience, across every channel, to identify what specifically convinces them to convert.
No matter your marketing mix, email should be one of the most prominent channels in your customer journey, as it’s one of the most cost-effective and promising platforms for reaching your potential customers.
And if you’re using the right technology, you can create and automate elaborate customer journeys for multiple different audience segments at once. Once you’re done, your email sending platform can give you a highly granular view of the campaign’s success, as well as your audience as a whole, all of which you can use to fine tune your funnel going forward.
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In this post, we’ll explain the benefits of customer journey mapping, and tell you how to use email marketing in every stage of your customer journeys. Let’s get started.
How does email marketing enhance customer journeys?
Think of a customer journey map as a visual roadmap from someone’s first encounter with your brand to their first purchase/subscription — and beyond. With so many different marketing channels at your disposal, this is a really valuable way to evaluate your highest-impact marketing efforts and pinpoint what really prompts people to make a purchase.
From there, you can hone in on your most effective tactics and deprioritize the less effective ones. Besides the benefits of customer journey mapping go beyond optimizing ROI: It also helps you get in the minds of your customers: What do they want to hear from you? How do they feel about your product/service? What channels do they use to find you? What messages will convince them to make a purchase — and why?
Your customer journey maps should include all of the major touchpoints that a prospective customer/subscriber will have with you before making a purchase (i.e., they encounter a meter when trying to access their third free article, or they receive an email promoting a new subscription bundle). Also include the different marketing strategies and tactics in place to guide each of them toward that purchase.
How does email marketing support customer journey mapping?
No two customers are the same, so no two customer journeys will look exactly the same either.
Say that you’re running audience management for a B2B magazine. Some people might read website articles on the same topic for a month or two before they see a website banner promoting a new subscription bundle for that publication. Others might subscribe to your email newsletter for a while, eventually click through to your website, read some content there, and gradually engage on both channels before deciding to subscribe.
The same goes for different audience segments: A junior marketing analyst might be most interested in content about professional development, but their CMO might be more interested in macro-level marketing trends and broader industry news.
Your customer journey maps need to account for all of these nuances.
Email makes it a lot easier to do that: Segmenting your email audience by demographic, behaviors, engagement history, industry, etc. allows you to personalize your outreach for very specific portions of your audience. Everyone gets a message that’s geared toward their observed needs and interests — and they’re much more likely to move to the next stage of the buying journey.
And if your email sending platform has sophisticated reporting, you can see how each message resonates with each audience and adjust your strategy in hours or days, not weeks.
Email fits into every stage of the customer journey, from brand awareness all the way to purchase and retention.
So if you can reach the right audience with the right message at each stage of the journey, you won’t just get new business. You’ll have your audience’s trust and loyalty long after their first purchase.
How to use email to create more successful customer journeys (with examples)
All of that sounds great, but how can you put this in practice to inform your customer journey mapping? Next, we’ll show you how to use email to guide your audience through each stage of the customer journey.
1. Brand awareness
The goal: Introduce new prospects to your product/service, demonstrate your value and begin a relationship with them.
How to use email in this stage: This is when you want to promote your company newsletter. Since they’re sent on a regular schedule, and they contain multiple different kinds of content, this gives you multiple chances — and multiple ways — to engage your new subscribers. This is a really good way to establish your credibility to your audience over time — and eventually prepare them for a purchase.
But creating a newsletter that effectively nurtures your leads isn’t as easy as slapping together a few articles and pressing send. Turn your newsletter into a lead nurturing powerhouse with these tips:
- Make sure your user data is as clean and complete as possible. From here on out, you’ll be relying on your data to make important assumptions about your customers’ needs and interests, as well as the success of your customer funnel. If that data’s scattered across many solutions, you can’t get a full view of what each person wants — or an accurate view of how your customer journey is functioning. To avoid this, consider using a customer data platform (CDP) to unify data from all of your marketing channels into one accessible database.
- To get more subscriptions, promote your newsletter to your website visitors via exit-intent pop-up. This way, if someone’s liked your content, they’ll be served with a pop-up right before they click out — and be much more likely to subscribe.
- Reluctant to put a hard gate on your website content? Consider making certain website content available only to email subscribers. If your content is strong enough, this alone can net you more email subscribers.
- The more personalized your content, the more likely someone will be to stay subscribed. But logistically speaking, that’s really hard to achieve. The solution: Use dynamic content in your emails to ensure that your readers see content that’s tailored to their individual needs and interests.
- Use your website analytics to guide your content selection — or even create different newsletters for people with different interests, as shown by your analytics.
By now, we’re moving toward the middle of the funnel. Your leads already know who you are and, generally speaking, what problems you solve. Now they need to figure out why you, specifically, are the best fit for their needs.
The goal: Help customers overcome objections or visualize how they’ll use your product/service.
How to use email in this stage: This is where lead nurturing campaigns fit into the customer journeys. Lead nurturing campaigns most often fail if they’re not fully aligned with the customer’s specific needs and interests. Besides segmenting your new leads, you can use your website analytics solution and customer data to figure out your audience’s most common questions. From there, you can craft email content addressing those topics.
Also use a marketing automation solution that allows you to conduct multiple nurture campaigns at once, customize your wait times between emails, and easily remove recipients that have stopped engaging with your emails.
So your audience has moved through the first few stages and they’re buying what you’re selling — literally, now. At this point, your email strategy should shift from persuasion to reassurance. Everyone gets a small sense of buyer’s remorse after making a purchase — especially if it’s a recurring subscription — so it’s your job to alleviate those concerns through your transactional emails.
The goal: Convince your new customers that they’ve made the right decision by choosing you.
How to use email in this stage: Send a clear, transparent confirmation email that tells the recipient what they’re receiving from you, how they can access it, and where they can go to resolve any payment or delivery issues.
4. Onboarding and education
Unfortunately, you can’t step off the gas once someone buys or subscribes: If your onboarding process isn’t good enough, your audience will start regretting their purchase and ultimately churn. Not only does that leave you without revenue, but you need to work twice as hard to replace them with another customer. Left unchecked, those costs add up over time. Prevent churn — and preserve revenue — by orienting your new customers to your product/service through email.
The goal: Help your customers make the most of your product or service and minimize churn.
How to use email in this stage: Your specific strategy will depend on your product or service. If you’re running a magazine, you might send your new subscribers instructions on how to access your website/subscription portal, then introduce them to additional resources (like podcasts, webinars, or any subscriber-exclusive content). If you’re onboarding new users for your software, you might do a 4-week onboarding email series, each of which tells users how to achieve a specific use case on your platform.
Whatever your product, the objective is to give people the information they need to achieve their stated goals with your product/service. (Not sure what to include in these emails? Consult with your subscription, success and/or customer support teams for your audience’s most common points or confusion and requests .)
5. Retention and loyalty
At some point, your customers will reconsider their purchase. This could be because they’re less satisfied with your offering — or they’re encountering new problems and exploring other options for addressing them. Either way, your goal as an email marketer is to maintain the relationship, both by reinforcing your value and introducing new ways to use your product/service.
The goal: Continue to provide value to your audience, help them master your product/service, and keep them involved for the long haul.
There are a few different ways to cement someone’s loyalty through email. At a basic level, sending milestone emails for purchase anniversaries is an easy way to make your customers feel appreciated and keep them invested.
But that’s not enough to save someone’s business if their needs are evolving: To prevent this kind of churn, you can also review your website analytics, purchase history and/or demographics to identify when someone’s in the market for new products/services. The right email can keep them from scouting the competition too closely.
For instance, if you’re running a B2B marketing magazine, but someone’s reaching retirement age, you might send them a special subscription discount or, using dynamic, promote end-of-career content in your next newsletter to them.
But what if you’ve got a happy customer? Look to increase their lifetime value through effective upsells and cross-sells: Use your website analytics, purchase records and/or email reports to identify which of your other products/services someone might be interested in buying, then target them with a promotional email for that product/service.
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