Imagine a world without email? I just sent around the latest AOL report "Email Addiction" to my global team and some of the comments were fascinating, all coming from people that live and breathe email marketing. I had used two-year-old stats on consumer email behavior in many presentations over the years, so it was fun to see the newest statistics that recognizes that email is even more addictive than it was in the past.
I think sometimes we blur the trends of consumer use of email for personal reasons and professional reasons, with that of email marketing and the business value exchanges that have evolved our use of this digital channel. All the consumer trends indicate we are using it more, and it's more pervasive in our lives than ever. But is it a great marketing and sales channel, though, from a Lifetime Value perspective? Is social media diminishing the value of these communications? Some say, with the rise of participation in social networking sites, people are using email less and relying on updated information on their site to syndicate updates rather than email.
This may be the case in some instances, but remember we use email for many things --and the real issue is time in the inbox that's important to us as marketers. When the consumers that buy goods from us begin to spend more time managing their social networking sites and profiles than they do in their inbox, then I'll be worried. In my opinion, these social networking sites will collide with consumer management and expectations, as did email. It will be too hard to keep up with Linked In, Gather.com, MySpace, FaceBook and all my other health-related, sports related and family related sites that I manage today and the flood of updates and notices I will receive on my pages. This is akin to managing email across six active email accounts.
Getting back to email -- with list attrition at or about 30% per year, people will fall off your customer email file for any number of delivery, tenure or opt-out reasons. You will likely have a staggered set of customer groups that are not very, or never, engaged -- or not active in the email channel with your business.
Our goal as marketers is to incrementally engage as many people through the preferred channel of their preference with as many diversified values as we can possibly entertain and support. Some do a better job than others of diversifying their email portfolio, by providing service value in email exchanges. But few have the bandwidth to focus or engage the other 30% or possibly 40% of your database that will expire within two years of their initial opt-in.
There are many tactics to try to re-engage dormant or lapsed customers via email, but it starts with a really close assessment of your email portfolio. Do you have a newsletter or broad, engaging content sent on a regular basis? Do you support all the service and transactional entry points to your business (online/offline)? Do you provide other site-side communication value (content syndication, membership programs)? Are your promotional strategies built for the seasonality of the consumer and continually evolving? Are there other loyalty values you drive through email, outside of the proverbial newsletter and adhoc promotions? Do you have a program specifically designed for new members, old members, high-value members and lapsed members? And it goes on!
Each communication strategy you develop is an asset in your portfolio and should be looked at that way. It makes it easier to make decision on which touch point and asset align for the greatest value to the business.
Something to chew on for the non-engaged! Look closely at the core reason customers entered your email program and gave you permission to send them email in the first place, and expect that opt in connection to last only so long before you have to re-engage them or expand your email portfolio for this changing need.
If there is a pure connection to the brand, a purchasing relationship with the business, you have to continually challenge your email portfolio to perform and drive the value it did when your consumer's first joined. And guess what? The portfolio you had yesterday may not have enough value to the consumer two years from now or even today. Continue to re-invent reasons for your consumer to connect through the email channel, and diversify your email portfolio.