What not to do with your e-mail during the recession

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E-mail marketers are bombarded with advice about what they should be doing to navigate the tough waters of these difficult economic times, but few are given pearls of wisdom of what not to do in the current climate. “Don't do business as usual,” said Craig Kerr bluntly. He's VP-marketing for iPost, a Novato, Calif.-based e-mail solutions consulting company. “The traditional outlook is that e-mail is a cheap way to do business, and marketing managers only think about the next tactic they should take. In this market, they need to think like a businessperson and look at the bigger picture.” By focusing on a company's overall e-mail strategy instead of devising the next cool campaign, marketing managers should be able to demonstrate to upper management that they are focusing on return on investment, which is essential in today's environment, Kerr said. He provided some tips on what not to do right now: Don't do the simple math and don't blast e-mails indiscriminately. Don't focus on how big your e-mail list is right now—that's not the most important metric, Kerr said. Instead, “think in terms of what moves the business needle the most” and present those metrics to senior managers so they can see the value of your team's efforts, he advised. In addition, be more judicious in the e-mails you send out to those on your list, Kerr said. Don't send e-mails to everyone with the same message because you have different levels of interest among the roster. “It's important to know the level of engagement subscribers have with your brand and send them e-mails accordingly,” he said. This is not the time to turn off subscribers who could be potential customers down the road, he noted. Don't cut back on e-mail to lower costs. E-mail is still the most cost-effective way to build loyalty and move customers through the sales process, Kerr said. Reducing e-mail can negatively affect a company's bottom line compared with trimming other expenditures, he said. Don't ignore e-mail's impact on other sales areas. Marketers need to stress to senior management that e-mail is a “superhighway” that moves customers to and through various channels of a company, Kerr said. “Marketers have to demonstrate the impact they have on other sales channels and how they drive the customer's buying process,” he explained. For example, they can look at how Web site traffic changes after an e-mail blast goes out or number of purchases made soon after an incentive is offered via e-mail. Don't treat your “hand-raisers” as business-as-usual. There will be fewer people who step up to do business with your company in the current climate, but they will have carefully considered their purchases and are ready to move on them, Kerr said. Identify them through their e-mail behavior, and target them with promotions that give incentives for quick conversion. “It's harder to do business right now, so if you have someone who seems to be engaged with you, jump on it right away,” he said. “Everyone is fighting for that potential customer.” Originally published April 21, 2009
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