Personalized Forwarding: It's PERF!

  • by February 17, 2009
The email marketing world is buzzing with the questions and possibilities surrounding social networking tools. The potential to reach more people in a viral way is exciting, and we're all striving to maximize opportunities to share our email messages using new technologies. In his article "Are Your Emails 'Shareworthy'?." fellow Email Insider Loren McDonald analyzes people's motivations for sharing content and offers practical advice on creating "shareworthy" messages.

Until "share with your network" (SWYN) functionality was unveiled in email, the only way to spread messages beyond your subscriber base was to encourage subscribers to "forward to a friend" (FTAF). Standard FTAF technology rarely inspires more than a .7% forward rate, and SWYN is reported to inspire about two to three times that.

Using the Email Experience Council's holiday ecard as a test case, Smith-Harmon recently tried out a new viral sharing technology from Quorus: the "personalized forward," or PERF. Yes, "PERF," not "PERV," and not "SMURF" (Share Marketing with your Urban Rich Friends, according to Forrester analyst David Daniels). PERF lived up to its name -- the test results were spectacular!



The viral, personal forward version of the holiday ecard generated nearly five times the unique CTR of the standard FTAF-enabled control -- 6.18% vs. 1.3% -- and over five times the forward rate of the control: 3.73% vs. .74%. The forwarded PERF message itself had a 45.14% open rate. Further, the campaign showed activity a full two weeks after the launch, which is stunning considering that most emails are dead after 72 hours.

The Details: Forward this fruitcake -- or choose from a regiftable selection

The control, FTAF-enabled holiday ecard featured a holiday greeting and graphic of a glorious technicolor fruitcake, encouraging recipients to FTAF so that friends would receive an identical message.

The fancied-up PERF-enabled version gave recipients the chance to send one of four re-giftable items to a friend -- a fruitcake, a reindeer sweater, snowflake socks or a boogying Santa. The landing experience allowed the original recipient to pick his or her favorite gift and to add a personalized greeting so that the friend received the custom message and could then regift the gift or send a new one.

In other words, the advanced and personalized viral forwarding technology allows recipients to forward messages that include new content. Further, the recipients of the forwarded messages enjoy the same social experience in spreading the messages to still more friends.

Try it for yourself, starting with the landing page from the first email -- why not spread holiday cheer through February?

Beyond the ECard: What this could do for email marketing

The impressive contrast between the results of the standard FTAF technology and this new PERF technology demonstrates how social concepts can be integrated into email marketing to dramatically increase message sharing.

This example centered on a greeting ecard with virtual holiday gifts, but the technology also opens practical opportunities for the sharing of marketing email. For example, Zappos could send an email to subscribers providing three "gifts" that each recipient could share with up to five friends: free overnight shipping on any purchase, 20% off any purchase, or $10 off any item.

With PERF technology, subscribers could click through to Zappos, select the gift they want to send, write a personalized note, and share the love. Subcribers get the pleasure of sending personalized gifts to friends, and the friends get relevant gifts and fun notes. Zappos gets the chance to make sales and to recruit email subscribers, not to mention making positive impressions on multiple people. Even if the shoe reatiler didn't win sales or subscribers, Zappos would still benefit by making it into new inboxes -- very personal spaces -- in a manner completely acceptable and even welcomed.

Using SWYN technology, the original recipient could post a Zappos discount to his Facebook profile, but that's less effective. It's more like hanging a poster in your room or putting a photo on your desk at work. Some people might see it, but it's not actually personally directed and doesn't guarantee any interaction or benefits for the person who posts it, the people who see it, or for Zappos. The personal appeal to an actual PERSON is what's super-exciting about PERF.

As an added bonus, PERF could allow email marketers to get around the challenge presented by up-and-coming Yahoo Connections, as friends would likely be on one another's "connections" lists already.

Embracing PERF

If we think creatively and stay open to new technologies, we have the opportunities to use social concepts to enhance email program performance. The thing we have to remember, though, is that this only works when our product and our content are compelling. People need to be interested enough to take our messages viral.

For even more info on the test and the Quorus technology, check out our case study on the EEC Web site.

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