Driving More Value From Your Email Investment

It's fourth quarter -- budget time -- and in this economy many of us are focused on maintaining our budgets rather than obtaining approval for additional spend. As marketers, just like our colleagues, we need to step up and contribute. We have to do more with less or make a solid case for how we'll do more with more. Email remains the most efficient direct channel there is. It's time to stand up, pound our chests and make sure senior management knows it!

Here are a few areas to consider that will help you drive more value from each dollar you invest in email:

1.    Improve delivery and clicks/conversions will follow.  It remains a mystery to me why many companies invest serious dollars in campaign management, creative, and testing but pay little attention to the impact of small improvements in delivery rates and delivery placement. For instance, have you reviewed your Sender Score?  Are you certain your images are rendering at the critical ISPs?  Are your messages landing in the recipients' inbox or their junk folder?  If you have access to tools that test these factors, do so regularly.  If you don't, then make sure you're sending test emails to check placement and rendering. You'll be glad you did.  For example, raising delivery by 8% for a mailing to 200,000 recipients with an open rate of 25%, a click-through rate of 15%, a conversion rate of 5% and an average price per order of $89 will lead to a 17% increase in top-line revenue.  

2.    Answer questions before they are asked.  If you have a call center, it's important to use the information gleaned from the most common inbound inquiries to prompt proactive email campaigns. For example, if the most frequently asked questions include "Did my order ship?" or "How do I activate my service?" or "I need a new password?" be sure to understand how your business is using email to answer such questions before they arise. Companies that integrate email into service messaging are able to increase the effectiveness of customer service while reducing the burden on live reps.

3.    Sell, here, sell there, sell everywhere.  For you email experts out there, this question shouldn't come as a surprise -- are you taking advantage of every opportunity to offer your products and services to customers? If you're not certain, take an inventory of your service-based and transactional email streams -- purchase confirmations, shipping confirmations, password resets, etc. Each of these customer communications may provide a unique opportunity to increase top-line revenue. You don't want to miss out on utilizing these email messages that we have seen result in click-through rates that are three to five times higher than traditional promotional mailings.

4.    Can IT do that? As marketers, we sometimes forget what drives our IT departments -- making the business more efficient through the application of technology. If you work in an organization where the relationship between IT and marketing is solid, reach out to your technical counterparts and share with them how you run your email programs. Help them understand your needs around data, segmentation and campaign management. Take a look at the solutions available today that empower IT to help handle email deployment in-house, while still outsourcing critical functions like deliverability management and strategy. While this could change your current processes, it may also free up hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to reinvest in your programs, giving you the optimal chance to do more with more.

Regardless of the road you choose during this budgeting season, you should build your plans knowing that $21.9 billion was made this year as a result of email marketing. With a lot of planning and a little luck, your company will help push that number to the next level in 2009.



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