Digital Marketing Guide: E-mail

What You Need to Know to Keep Your Campaign From Getting Deleted

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Of all the marketers using e-mail today, what percentage would you guesstimate have a clue how to use it effectively?
Given that we all believe the 20/80 rule, I'll say 20% of marketers really understand how to create effective, compelling e-mail campaigns. Yes, this percentage should be higher. One area that retards results is the lack of attention to cadence or frequency of e-mails. An example is online movie-ticketing companies that send an e-mail survey a day after online tickets are bought. The survey gets sent even if the consumer has never responded over months or years and the consumer is never asked in advance if he wants to receive the surveys. And that's annoying to those who just want to buy tickets online. And many other companies do exactly the same thing. It is imperative with every new e-mail customer that you ask upfront what type of messages they want to get and when.

What's the biggest mistake marketers continue to make with e-mail marketing?
It's still too much of a one-way street. Marketers send offers, ask for opinions or do customer surveys and provide no means for the recipient to directly communicate back to them. All types of companies are sending frequent e-mail surveys. But rarely do they report back the results, and they almost never ask for additional comments that will be seen by a company employee and responded to quickly or at all. Remember call centers? E-mail should be no different. E-mail is a very personal, two-way communication -- or should be. But most marketers fail to understand "personal" means responding to the individual.

Is there one thing that can ensure a successful e-mail campaign?
E-mail is not some magical medium that defies the basic rules of marketing. You must still have a solid offer and the best positioning possible for your product or service to insure success. The good news is there are easy, fast and inexpensive ways to test your offer by e-mail before you launch a major campaign.

What are some of the key elements to using e-mail effectively?
Two words: frequency and relevance. You should always be testing, whether it's the subject line, an offer, timeliness or cadence.

What's the best way to keep your e-mail from getting deleted immediately?
Brand yourself immediately on the "from" and "subject" lines. Seventy percent of consumers say the "from" line is how they base their decision to open or ignore. Thirty percent say it's the "subject" line. That's not surprising, and it just reinforces that you should make your brand equity work in those two spots.

Is there a way to improve the chances that your e-mail will get opened?
It's all about announcing real news such as: "One day sale"; "Five days left to act"; "Product alert"; "Breaking news"; and so forth. E-mail is the perfect vehicle to announce what just happened when it happened. Always keep that in mind, and you will be successful.

What are the average open and response rates right now?
The open rate is 22%. A click rate of 27% of opens means a 5% response rate. These rates assume consumers are familiar with your company and have some prior connection. There are several techniques that can boost the above averages. The most basic but often overlooked is a thank you e-mail arriving soon after a product or service purchase -- with another offer.

Are there new formats developing within e-mail marketing?
Yes. Ties to social media. Many e-mails now encourage advocates to "post to social," allowing campaigns to spread virally. The one outcome to be sensitive to is that your message is apt to be spread to non-targeted individuals.

Is e-mail losing its effectiveness with the growth of social media?
Not at all. Various studies suggest strong growth in volume for years to come. One reason is that e-mail is private -- meaning it goes from one entity directly to a consumer and back. Social media is not private. The vast majority of e-mail folks don't want to share with others -- from buying drugs to cars to managing finances, self-help aids, travel plans and much more.

Steve Cone was formerly chief marketing officer at Epsilon.
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