Send a Blast, Kill a Hamster

Ah, hamsters. They're cute and cuddly, even when they're running on their squeaky wheels at 3 in the morning. You feed them and keep them safe, and everything's fine until the day somebody forgets to refill the water bottle over vacation. Bye-bye, little buddy.

Your email subscribers are like hamsters. They're less furry, perhaps, but they also react badly to mistreatment, like a pounding, constant stream of undifferentiated broadcast email messages.

Of course, you aren't deliberately trying to burn out your database or drive your subscribers away by over-mailing. But email messages drive revenue. The more email you send, the more money you make.

In the retail world, the average retail email marketer sends more than 200 broadcast messages annually, or four per week. And many are already sending five or six messages per week, a doubling of what they sent just a few years ago.

It's an ever-escalating tactic, like keeping your hamster running until it collapses in a panting little heap -- or until your customer unsubscribes, goes inactive or clicks the spam button to make the madness end.



The Hidden Cost of Over-Mailing

Even though these emails make money, they have a cost beyond the operational expense of hitting "send." The following hypothetical example is actually reality for many marketers:

  • Your database has 500,000 deliverable email addresses.
  • You send 200+ emails a year (roughly four a week, double at holidays).
  • Your unsub rate is 0.25% per send.
  • You lose 1,250 subscribers every time you send (the model assumes new subscribers are also being added to make the math work).
  • Multiplied by 200, that's 250,000 subscribers lost every year, not including those who go inactive or click the spam button.
  • That is half of your database gone. Ouch.

That's not the only cost. Who are these unsubscribers? Some are unengaged or non-buyers. But, run their names through your ecommerce database, and you could find that you're driving away some regular customers. But all of them were potential customers, and you may have driven them away, never to buy from you.

Maybe some of them are buying in different channels -- your mobile app, your catalogs, in your retail stores -- but do you really want to drive your best customers away from your best direct channel and the influence in buying cycle that email offers?

Behavior Marketing Automation: Three-Part Strategy

So what’s the answer? Add a layer of behavior-driven automated emails to a basic broadcast program in order to get as close to a "segment of one" marketing model. Below are the three essential factors that make up an effective behavior-based program:

1.  Behavior:  Instead of running your email program by the calendar, your messages are sent to individuals based on their behavior or lack of behavior.

2. Automation: Automation allows you to achieve the scale necessary to ramp up your email program from several manual, broadcast messages sent each week to dozens of behavior-driven messages sent each day.

3. Real-time messaging:  This ensures you reach customers when they're most engaged and likely to purchase or take the desired action, minutes after they buy or abandon a cart, or as soon as you need to contact them about a download or order.

Centralized Marketing Data is Key

Moving to a centralized marketing database is an essential aspect of transitioning to an email program based on behavior and real-time automation. You must break down barriers among traditionally isolated databases owned by multiple departments and bring all this data together into a single database.

What's the payoff for making what could be substantial technical, organizational and procedural changes? Incremental revenue. While small per message, it becomes a significant percentage of your revenue from email as you scale the number of automated messages, which often have off-the-charts conversion rates.

Messages that go out, automatically: something that can help you get off your own hamster wheel.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

4 comments about "Send a Blast, Kill a Hamster ".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, March 20, 2014 at 12:08 p.m.

    I'm guessing this was written to win a bet? For readers who prefer hamsters to email, here's a recreation of their famous dance:

  2. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, March 20, 2014 at 5:31 p.m.

    No bet. Was based on my recent keynote presentation at eTail.

  3. ryan anderson from The Clymb, March 20, 2014 at 5:47 p.m.

    Great email Loren. I might have to use this analogy verbatim at a marketing meeting next week.


  4. Jim Ducharme from eDataSource, March 21, 2014 at 7:24 a.m.

    Won't somebody please think of the hamsters!

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