Yes, I have received that subject line, and no, I did not open the piece, and yes, I did promptly flag the email as ‘spam.’ Other email campaigns at more reputable institutions, however, might have you similarly asking, “Why you speak like preschool toddler?!”
Here’s why: according to the Direct Marketing Association in their October 2009 Annual Economic Impact Study, email continues to deliver the highest ROI of any marketing channel, with an average of $43.62 returned for every dollar spent. In a distant second is internet search advertising, with a still strong $21.85 return for every dollar.
Pruning the Digital Money Tree
With the low cost and high return, marketing departments run the risk of taking a laissez- faire approach to email marketing. Because new revenue is always good, right?! How can anyone argue with results? Let’s try.
MailerMailer.com recently published their 2009 results study, showing over the past two years, they have seen the open rate percentage fall from 14% to 11.2%. With ‘list fatigue’ cited as one of the major factors, and all the emails sent on a daily basis from <insert retailer’s name here>, I think I can hear a collective “amen.”
The other main factors MailerMailer.com cited in the reason for the drop, however, appear to be interrelated: image blocking and handheld devices. Though many smart phones are indeed image capable, image wrapping just isn’t the same as text wrapping at the end of the day. It is a trend that should be noted, as The Radicati Group* estimates mobile phones accessing email will increase from just under 200 million in 2009 to a billion (yes, that’s a ‘b’) by 2013! Note to self: make sure to account for mobile devices in email campaign.
But, images themselves aren’t that bad in email campaigns (just image-only emails). Consider a couple of stats side-by-side. MarketingSherpa** released findings that only a third of email campaigns contained an image, while Forrester Research*** found video in email (even as an image with click-thru to the video) could increase click rates by two to three times! There’s a lot of room for video in the other two thirds of email campaigns! Note to self: get that multimedia crew back in here for the next email campaign.
What is completely unforgivable, however, is a really bad email campaign which drives not just potential customers, but loyal customers away. Poor grammar, inappropriate humor, ineffective promotional offers and bad decisions in general might show new revenue for a time, but erode a company’s future. All it takes is one really big mistake. Just consider this: Richard Nixon ended segregation, was the only President to achieve a balanced national budget between 1961 and 1998, is largely responsible both for creating the EPA and helping to end the Cold War, and had one really big lack in judgment. What do you remember Nixon for?
Getting Email Right
“First, leverage existing customer information stored within internal IT systems. The goal is to provide a personalized and relevant experience and therefore, mining and utilizing existing customer information is a tremendous resource to the savvy marketer. Understanding the steps required to integrate customer data into the email marketing solution can make or break a successful campaign. One recent client required 39 different customer data fields to ensure the customer relationship was managed effectively once an email marketing solution was deployed.
Next, recognize that email marketing is a responsibility as much as an opportunity. Email marketing is a primary touch point for many organizations and must also be utilized to update and keep customer information reliable. Most departments within the marketer’s organization don’t have the resources or the ability to enable updates to customer information with the same magnitude or significance that marketing does when utilizing email marketing as a tool. The words from a popular movie a few years ago come to mind, “With great power, comes great responsibility”, I believe this was Spiderman’s uncle, but this seems relevant here too.
Have a plan. Email marketing is only one component of your integrated marketing and communications plan. Implementing email marketing should be tightly integrated with this plan. Understanding the implications of the various moving parts of email marketing will affect your plan. For example, implementing an internal or outsourced email marketing solution will affect budgets, timelines and internal resource requirements. Similarly, have you decided to use the email solution for internal communications as well? If so, how does this solution tie to the internal communications plan? If you are like many of our clients, internal and external communications are handled by different people within marketing. The need for a well understood plan across marketing and affected departments becomes the foundation to build consensus and direction while providing the necessary leadership to keep the ship moving in the right direction.”
Beyond building and deploying an effective email campaign, then, consider your best way to monitor and measure results, whether through tracking of total opens from time of delivery or click-thru rate to that cool new video you just embedded as a picture with a play icon. And don’t forget to get social. From 2008 to 2009, the number of marketers planning to grow their email list via social media rose by 32%.** Joining social media and rewards programs appears to be one area receiving current attention (but that’s for another article).
What do you want from me?
In an interesting study on restaurant email marketing at Bennigan’s**, personalized coupons were offered to customers in a four-day-only offer. The offer was relatively big: two entrees for the price of one. But the payoff was also big: a 12% lift in overall sales, including a 12.7% lift in beverage sales, 7% lift in appetizers, and 10.8% lift in dessert sales. The study notes Bennigan’s restaurants which even ran out of menu items!
Being personalized and purposeful, the email coupons were coded in order to track the exact effect of offline sales, providing the stats for the campaign. The personalized part was the time boxing: rather than sending on a specific day of the week for a mass blast, the email was sent to a restaurant customer based on how they plan visits.
Without a purpose, email marketing might as well not be done. Without personalization, it might as well be a mass mailing. Always remember you are unique. Just like everyone else.
*”From Wireless Email Marketing, 2009-2013,” The Radicati Group, October 12, 2009.
**“2010 Email Marketing Benchmark Report,” MarketingSherpa
***“As Seen in the Inbox,” Forrester Research, May 2009