Email marketers in the UK, Germany and France are under a lot of pressure right now. The global recession, the tightening of spending by consumers, jobs being eliminated … there is a lot of stress in the macro-economic environment today. Plus, there is stress in our micro-worlds. No one outside the email marketing world really understands what we do, how complex email marketing is or why it matters that we send subscribers messages that they love.
In fact, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising suggests further reduction in media and direct marketing spending, according to their Q4 2008 Bellwether Report released in January. Even internet search shows a reduction in spending, albeit significantly less than direct marketing and media, according to the study. Despite that bleak outlook, email budgets seem to be holding steady – mostly because email works really well.
The result is that many email marketers in the UK, Germany and France are sending more messages – as they trim budgets of more expensive channels. Now more than ever, we email marketers are being asked to deliver more with less – higher revenue, larger subscriber files, more active lists and longer lifetime value. None of our bosses will invest in this channel or support our efforts unless we can prove that the channel deserves more resources and more careful segmentation and content strategy.
Yet just sending more messages can backfire. Subscribers become fatigued and unsubscribe or complain to the ISPs (clicking the “Report spam” button). They ignore our messages. They stop talking about us to friends via Facebook and Bebo. The answer is quite simple. The only way to increase revenues from email marketing is to create great subscriber experiences. That requires good data management and strong creative strategy. It means working closely with your email service provider (ESP) and understanding the impact of your practices on your sender reputation. Your reputation will dictate if your messages reach the inbox and earn a response.
Here’s four ways to do that now – for higher revenues, higher subscriber engagement and more executive support for your efforts.
1. Improve Relevancy in Small Steps. We all know about the behavior triggers that help make our programs more relevant. Basically, you change your contact strategy and cadence to send more email when subscribers are more inclined to buy. This is effective, but can require additional resources or technology. What to do if you don’t have those resources or technology? A great way to improve your program without new technology or data integration is to think about a content strategy that improves the value of your email messages over time. Adding value to just some of your messages, even SOME of the time, will improve response to ALL your messages. So instead of just sending promotions over and over, replace some of them with messages that feel more custom, even if they are still sent to large segments of your file. Insert a few tips in your next promotion or business newsletter. Host a poll. Say “thank you” to everyone who bought this past quarter. Send a no-strings-attached whitepaper to everyone who visited the website last month. Encourage everyone who uses product “a” to take a free trial of product “b.” Help subscribers network with each other.
2. Reach the Inbox. There is no better way to boost response and revenue than making sure you reach the inbox consistently and avoid the junk folder or going missing altogether. Reaching the inbox is based on your sender reputation – the “score” that ISPs like Orange, T-Mobile, Hotmail and the others give to you. It’s based on your practices, including the number of times subscribers complain about your email by clicking on the Report Spam button. First thing is to know your sender reputation by visiting www.senderscore.org. Work with your email broadcast vendor, IT team or a deliverability expert to address the root causes of deliverability failure.
3. Publish Serial Content. I give you full license to abandon that long-held notion in email marketing that every permission grant has to be forever. If the message and action you want someone to take is short term – optimize it! Identify places in the customer lifecycle where three or five or even 15 messages over the same number of days or weeks will move the customer forward in the sale process. For example, subscribers might welcome additional email messages during the two weeks before a big sale, if there are really cool deals or offers. Or, two months before a contract renewal is a great time to send subscribers information about how to evaluate success and integrate your products deeper into their operations. New subscribers might welcome a three to five message series about how to do business with you, navigate your website features or get the most out your new partnership.
4. Gather Email Address Everywhere. Consider this: The most important function of your website, customer service team and even retail operation is to capture email address of prospects, so you can continue to market to them. Really. Make the invitation appealing and put it everywhere prospects gather on your site – especially search landing pages.
Questions? Want help applying this to your own program? Contact us now.