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What Not to Do: When Transactional Email Marketing Turns Too Promotional

Fieldboom logo This is a guest post from the team at Fieldboom.

Marketers continue to look for ways to promote their brands.

You want to show off your latest products, exhibit your upgraded services, and inform consumers of your company’s value.

While sometimes your audience will welcome your promotional campaigns with open arms, there are times when the content doesn’t fit the original intent of your email campaigns.

We’re going to discuss some of the main reasons to avoid being too promotional in your transactional email marketing. We’ll also mention how to promote your brand by leading with value.

Before we dive in, let’s quickly review the differences between promotional and transactional emails.

Promotional vs. Transactional Emails

Promotional emails are created with the intent of promoting a brand’s products, services, or offers. The goal of these emails is to drive a specific customer segment toward a sale.

There’s a wide variety of promotional emails. They include monthly newsletters, new product offers, and sales or discount announcements.

Check out the example below from Orbitz. Their team entices consumers with travel savings by offering a promo code. This email also mentions exclusive deals and perks, like free breakfast.

 Orbitz transactional email marketing

On the other hand, transactional email marketing provides customers with updates about their purchases with the brand. These messages are triggered by a specific behavioral action (or inaction) by the customer.

Transactional emails include order confirmation emails sent after a customer makes a purchase and cancellation emails once a customer churns.

In the following example, you’ll notice a payment reminder sent from the Thinkful team. This transactional email informs the customer about his subscription service.

Thinkful transactional email marketing

Every email serves a different purpose. When working with your team, it’s important to map out your lifecycle campaigns to ensure you’re meeting your customers’ needs.

Limit Your Promotional Content in Transactional Emails

It’s tempting to sneak a bunch of promos into your transactional emails. However, doing so can do more harm than good to your customer relationship. Plus, you may be violating a few laws.

Missing the Intention of the Email

Transactional email marketing aids in furthering the relationship with your customers. The content should relate to the ongoing transaction, whether before, during, or after it.

So, if the promotional aspects of your email overshadows the transactional information the recipient desires, your team will certainly annoy your audience.

You are wasting the customer’s precious time. You also are hindering them from moving through the customer journey.

Take a look at this transactional email from Home Depot:

Home Depot transactional email marketing

Image Source

This message offers zero information regarding the actual purchased product, the cost of the purchase, or shipping and delivery details. It’s a promotional message disguised as a transactional email.

Even as a promotional email, the message falls flat. Too many calls to action exist. And why is free shipping offered after the purchase?

Loading too much promotional content into transactional emails misses the intent of the campaign. It’s nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt at promoting additional products.

Spamming Rather Than Offering Value

Getting your emails labeled as spam is one of the last things you want as an email marketer. Not only does this label mean the recipient ignored the original email, but it also means they won’t receive your future emails.

You run the risk of these emails being automatically designated as spam by email providers, like Gmail. There are a number of reasons this happens, such as:

  • The quality of the email’s content
  • The links included within the email
  • The amount and size of images within the email
  • The source’s history of delivering spam

The more times a company’s emails get marked as spam by recipients, it’s more likely that the company’s emails get filtered as spam in other recipients’ inboxes.

When it comes to transactional email marketing, you can avoid the spam folder by offering relevant, engaging content. It starts with writing straightforward subject lines that address the purpose of the email.

So more of this:

Your order is shipped! Confirmation #128484

Less of this:

Here’s your order + cool discounts

Then, you’ll want the message to lead with the transactional information. A customer should never have to decipher between the transaction and the promotion. Amazon executes this tactic nicely in this shipment confirmation email:

Amazon transactional email marketing

Crossing the Legal Lines

Laws exist to protect consumers when it comes to emails. It’s important that your marketing team comply with any regulations.

According to the United States’ CAN-SPAM Act, transactional content “facilitates an already agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer about an ongoing transaction.” Transactional emails are exempt from the Act, but they “may not contain false or misleading routing information.”

The dilemma occurs when you mix promotional and transactional content. If your email contains both types, the primary purpose of the message is the deciding factor. So, the subject line must lead your recipient to think it’s transactional, and a bulk of the transactional content must appear at the beginning of the email.

When it comes to legal matters, always seek help from an attorney. Legal teams can ensure you’re adhering to local and international laws.

Giving Value with Transactional Email Marketing

Despite the limits, transactional email marketing can still strengthen your recipients’ relationship with your brand. The goal is to give value along with the promotion.

You’ll want to relate the type of transactional email to what you plan to promote. It would be strange to mention recommended products in a password reset email.

Next, you can get creative in your promotional engagement. Here are a few ideas:

  • Add links to your social media pages and ask for a “like” or “follow”
  • Include a call-to-action button to instructional or training materials
  • Request feedback relating to a specific transaction
  • Promote an upcoming customer appreciation event

Wavve illustrates this tactic well in their welcome email. After showing customers how to use their product, the team offers email recipients a chance to get their creations promoted on social channels and featured in the weekly newsletter.

Wavve transactional email marketing

Rather than looking for quick wins with overly promotional tactics, use your transactional emails as a strategic move. Think about how you can enhance the customer experience.

More Transaction, Please!

Swerving away from your intended purpose isn’t helpful in transactional email marketing. Instead, your team can focus on providing relevant content to avoid the spam folder. And remember, leading with value is the best option for your transactional emails.

How do you address promotions in your transactional emails? Tell us in the comments below!