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Email still delivers. So why is it an afterthought?

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Email marketing is considered the least sexy arm of digital marketing. It’s basic, often annoying to receive and there have been few technological innovations to speak of since its inception. Because of this, it’s easy to see email marketing as nothing more than an afterthought in the digital marketing checklist. But it works. The National client email survey by DMA showed ROI on email is now an almost unbelievable 2,500%. No, that’s not a typo.

The Email Marketing Industry Census, also reported a massive 66% of over 1,300 marketers stated that ROI from email marketing is ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

When email marketing is executed intelligently and creatively, it can be a key player in the success of your campaign. It’s been around since the start of the Internet, which means best practice techniques have been vigorously tested and honed for over two decades.

The National client email survey by DMA showed ROI on email is now an almost unbelievable 2,500%.

Compared to the latest untested digital trends, it should be more than an afterthought. It should be part of your foundation.

Below are a few basic considerations to discuss when planning your email communications as part of your next integrated campaign.

Intrigue, announce and support
First step – compose a list of the different integral stages your overall campaign requires, including the build up, the announcement, the activity and perhaps a shutdown too.

Discuss with your team how you can tailor your email communications to coincide with each stage of your campaign. But, instead of thinking of the message you want to communicate, try to think of the message your subscribers want to receive.

It’s always worth considering if each message is of interest to each person in your mailing list, or if you might be putting yourself at risk of alienating subscribers who will be more valuable later.

If you’re establishing an email programme, take into account purchasing and engagement patterns. Sending a loyal customer a brilliant deal on a brand new car 6 weeks after they’ve purchased the previous model at a higher price is probably a bad idea.

Use the tools available to you to understand your audience. Registration information, email service provider (ESP) recommendations, dispatch results and website analytics will allow you to build customer profiles.

Targeting issues can be addressed with a little content tailoring and simple segmentation. In the previous automotive example, you could filter certain customers from the mailing list, remove the sales offer and focus on the new car or, better yet, offer an exclusive upgrade discount.

Create value
In order to maintain engagement, your emails need to be perceived as valuable to your audience. Put simply, the more ‘worth’ a reader has assigned to your messages, the more likely they are to open, click, share, shop and totally engage with you.

If you embrace the opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of your customer and reward their loyalty, then it is absolutely possible to build a mutually appreciative relationship.

Your database
This is where we get real, and by real, I mean a little bit dry (sorry).

Email success is driven by the quality of data. You can create a beautifully constructed, impeccably designed message but unless you find the right audience at the right time, you will not stand a chance of maximising your return.

As discussed above, a high-quality database is engaged with the brand, so the first thing I implore you to do is stop purchasing email mailing lists. Please.

Not your database
Purchased and 3rd party mailing lists return famously poor results. They are filled with email addresses that do not have a relationship with your brand and could be sold to countless other companies.

For the proportion of active email addresses acquired, you are more likely to confuse or annoy your potential customer. Most reputable ESPs, such as MailChimp, don’t even permit you to use 3rd party data.

Using purchased data is bad for your reputation and I’m not just talking about your bitchin’ street cred. High bounce rates, unopened mails and the inevitable spam complaints can make you seem as credible as a call from the Ugandan lottery association.

Email service clients such as Gmail, Outlook and Sky will block you from their customers’ inboxes. And this won’t just be a block from contacting your purchased data – you will be frozen out from your legitimately acquired audience too.

Because the ROI of an email campaign is often judged on basic metrics like clicks, opens and click-to-open rate, poor numbers here can make you (yes, you) look bad.

If you are combining purchased data results with your own mailing list results, it will make a really great campaign look mediocre, and who wants to be known for championing the mediocre? Not me, I love praise too much.

So, if you’re thinking purchasing a mailing list for your next campaign, I suggest that you stop. Invest the budget in data acquisition through your brand-owned channels instead (I’ll write a post about this too, soon).

Back to your database
Rules should also apply to subscribers you have acquired.

If it is clear that a customer is not interested in your communications, and you’ve tried everything to reengage them, it is good practice to let them go even if they haven’t hit the unsubscribe button.

The reasons behind the above deserve an entire blog post, so look out for that in the future. For now, keep in mind that you still need to protect your sender reputation and constantly sending emails that go unread is going to do some damage.

Invest in data cleansing. Services such as BriteVerify can sort your valid email addresses from the bad ones before you are labelled a spammer.

The most consistent issue when it comes to testing email communications is time. It comes hand-in-hand with the status of email being an afterthought.

On the upside, this does mean that with a truly integrated approach to campaign management, it doesn’t need to be a problem.

When it comes to testing, consider three pieces of advice:

1. Do not stop
Once you’ve started testing, do not stop. Test, evaluate and retest.

For example:
• Imagine early results show that emails sent on a Thursday have the highest open rate
• A year later, you split the database into two groups based on some other behaviour
• A later test reveals that, for one of the groups, emails sent on a Friday have the highest open rate.

You would be doing the right thing by sending your email on the day when you get best results. By performing a second test it allows you to fine tune your approach and make the most out of your communications.

2. Embrace a hunch
Don’t be afraid to follow your gut. If you think group X would benefit from message Y at time Z, assess the risks and, once you’re comfortable, test it.

Make sure that both the test and a control segment have enough people in them to ensure results are statistically significant, especially if your test is high stakes.

3. Prepare for failure
You may find out that your gut was off that last time. Simply blame the questionable pad thai from the night before and move on to the next test.

If you have taken a sensible approach, and your hunch was wrong, learn everything you can from the experience and move on – a well thought-out and executed test is never a wasted one.

That’s it for now
In summary, email marketing is a high-ROI communication tactic that should be considered a fundamental component in developing a successful campaign.

Plan your content early, find out who your customers are and decide which message to communicate, when to send it and to whom. Then test, test and test again.

I’ll keep writing new posts for the Swordfish blog, so keep coming back for more. Peace out.

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