Perspective After Time Off

After two weeks out of the loop, listening to very little about email marketing, I thought the best way to get back into the swing of things was to reflect on the important elements of email programs, those that I feel are somewhat trivial -- and then those that are just open for discussion.

Let's start with what are the important issues in my world.

Targeting and segmentation. We all talk about it, some do it very well and some overdo it. I was reading an interesting article the other day about segmentation that said we are taking segmentation too far. There is a point where you can over-segment your customer base, rendering it ineffective.

What is that point, though? How do you know if you are drilling too deep? I recall a client of mine from a few years ago that had hundreds of customer segments ranging from demographic, purchase behavior, online behavior and even score-based RFM segments. The problem with this depth of analysis was getting to meaningful data. Everything the client did was a huge undertaking. We even did one test and found that of the 46 segments for this particular campaign 15% of the cells were statistically insignificant for any meaningful analysis.



I believe the rule of thumb in this exercise is simply, segmentation is about categorizing meaningful, actionable, statistically significant groups of consumers in an effort to customize the experience.

Frequency and relevance. You're thinking, not another statement about relevance. I believe many are taking the right steps and looking to real, meaningful opportunities to communicate with their clients through email, but the vast majority aren't. It starts with understanding all your touchpoints, mapping them out, thinking about the real experience you are delivering -- but also trying to gain an understanding of the threshold for which you can communicate. Too much may be a relative question, as some brands can afford to communicate often, while others are at risk, mostly due to the content and type of connection they have with their customers. For me, it's critical to find that threshold and testing frequency, testing different types/versions of communications and trying to migrate from direct response to direct communication styles are most important for me.

Measurement: I get so tired of hearing about people in this space arguing over what is a click-through and how it should be measured. There was even a post on an industry list recently about whether a click on an opt-out link should be counted as a click -- or if someone didn't open a message but clicked on a link, should it be counted as an open. In my experiences this is wasted breathe. The numbers associated with both these activities are so small they are irrelevant for this discussion. If this is important to you, then you likely have more problems with your programs than you think. What's important is to dig deeper into the consumer experience and why they click, behaviorally what do they do after they click and how to tie that back into actionable plans.

What's important but not at the top of my radar?

Deliverability! It's gotten so complicated; I don't pay a lot of attention to it. I see all these companies trying to manage it themselves and work around the ISPs, and I can't help but think, why are you doing this? I don't want to discount the importance of this, but I do want to emphasize that marketing is about managing efficiencies -- and putting your best IT people chasing down Comcast bounces is not my idea of good use of resources.

List attrition! While I love this topic and put together the panel for EEC (unfortunately I didn't get to present it, but heard it was a hot topic). Most of my clients do not have big attrition issues, they have bandwidth issues. The top complaint isn't about losing 2% to 3% of their list per month, or deliverability, it's, how do I build a better communication strategy and measure it in an actionable way?

ESPs! I still can't believe so many people are considering new ESPs as often as they are. I think it's actually becoming an exercise more than a need. People are redeveloping RFPs and looking at a lot of vendors. I wrote an article two years ago on this subject. I do feel that you should look around at new vendors once a year and see what's out there, but to actually run an RFP and do deep dives into email vendors is becoming an increasingly costly task for both the vendor and the marketer. It serves no one to just go through the motions without understanding the costs and risks of migrating.

Just jumping back in, and I'll build on these ideas and thoughts over the coming month.

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