In the software world, one of the most important and exciting times is when a new product goes to market. Your teams have worked tireless hours for weeks or months developing and testing the product. You’ve gone through multiple iterations fixing bugs and adding features. Everyone feels confident that you have a great product that can be a differentiator, and the marketing team is ready to get the product in front of the consumers.
How do you maximize revenue during this critical time?
The Answer Is Email
With the ability for people to check email in the palm of their hand, it is becoming more important than ever to properly utilize the email marketing channel. During a product launch, email can be one of the largest marketing levers used to propel sales. Marketers have the opportunity for one-on-one communication with the consumer. With personalization and segmentation, the effectiveness can be tremendous. In fact, when properly executed, email can drive over 40% of online sales during a product launch, and generate 50% more revenue than standard email campaigns.
In order to really take advantage of email as a marketing channel, you need to have a reasonably sized list. One problem facing many small companies and start-ups is that they do not have enough email subscribers to make a big impact with their email program. The good news is that it can be fairly easy to grow your email list, specifically in the software industry.
The easiest path for list growth is through free trials. There are several ways email capture can be implemented in the free trial process. The most effective way to get an email address is to require it in order to download the software product. Once a user submits their email address, a follow up email should be sent which would contain a link confirming the email address. This double opt-in process insures the marketer has collected a valid email address that can be used later. Other options for collecting email addresses would be to require it as part of the registration process, or making it an optional input when a user downloads the product.
The tactic used would be dictated by the circumstances surrounding the product. In some cases there is a strong need to just get a mass of free product in the market place. In those cases, you want to eliminate as many barriers as possible, making an optional email input the ideal capturing technique. In the case of an app on a mobile device, distribution may be done through the Apple or Google ecosystem, making a registration after download and install the optimal mechanism. There is no right or wrong answer, as every situation has it’s unique nuances.
Look At The Data
There are many ways marketers can look at data to drive tactics that will boost email performance. Two common questions that need to be answered are: What day of the week and what time of day should I send my emails? Some of the easiest data to get is overall web analytics data on a website or online store. In an app situation, downloads and in-app purchases would be key data points. In looking at this data, a marketer should be able to see what days and times of the day are associated with greater sales activity. In the below example, a marketer would deduce that Sunday between 1-3 pm would be the optimal time to execute and email send.
In addition to looking at data to decide when the campaigns should be launched, it can be used to improve response and deliverability. Looking at a past purchase date or the date the consumer signed up for the email program is one of the most effective segmentation techniques. In general, the more recent the activity, the more likely the consumer is to interact with the product launch campaign. Consider giving a free upgrade to people who have purchased recently, and a discount to purchasers in the last year. Putting the consumer first can go a long way towards building a favorable experience and turn them into brand advocates and loyalists.
Beyond the recent purchasers and subscribers, segmentation should also be applied to consumers who are less likely to respond. When sending out a mass email campaign, consider breaking the list into many segments ranked on their likelihood to respond. The segments who have the highest chance to respond should be sent first, as these people will be less likely to issue spam complaints and are also less likely to be blocked.
People who are the least likely to respond should be sent last, or not sent to at all. Once spam thresholds are crossed or a large number of invalid email addresses are sent, the reputation of the sender is damaged and it can take weeks to repair.
Test, Test, Test
Optimization is more than just looking at data, it involves trying new tactics and figuring out what resonates best with the consumer. There are many possibilities to consider when testing. One of the easiest and most common is subject line testing. Should a percent discount be used, or dollar amount saved? Will people respond if their first name is used in the subject line? These can all be tested in an A/B format, ideally before the product launch.
There are other things to test as well. Brand imagery, adding a human element, the amount of product features described in the content. All of these things can make or break an email campaign, so it is important to get it right during this critical timeframe.
A recommended testing strategy is to use a random sample of the larger email list. An example would be to randomly select 20% of the list, and A/B split the list so that you have 2 test cells. A marketer would then send this A/B split one or two days before the scheduled larger send, to gauge the results. Once a champion has been declared, that winning version would then be applied to the larger 80% allowing for an optimized campaign.
Expect The Unexpected
Of course, there are all sorts of things that can go wrong or pop up during a product launch. Marketers must be prepared to pivot and switch gears at a moment’s notice. Many times new and fresh creative must be introduced, or additional efforts need to be applied in order to achieve revenue goals. The key is to be flexible and put the consumer first, sending the right message at the right time.