Does email reach and frequency trump relevance in email marketing, or is relevance the key to success? My position in this long-running and frequently recurring debate is that you need all three elements to build a world-class email program and generate optimum results.
$59 billion is a number that will ring in your head for some time. 247 million customers spent on average $423 each over Black Friday weekend (according to the National Retail Foundation Survey), adding up to that $59 billion -- a whopping 13% jump over last year. Several trends stuck out that I believe will drive some changes in how we, develop, deploy and optimize programs for 2013. Some may be a bit late to implement this holiday season, but certainly noteworthy to file in your next-ideas vault.
I'm on several spirited discussion lists where email marketers and deliverability folks hang out. Over the last few years, I've seen this conversation played out many times: Deliverability Person (and Occasional "Enlightened" Marketer): "Target, target, target. It's all about relevance. Send the right message at the right time. Take the dead addresses of your list. You will drive higher response rates and have fewer delivery problems." Grizzled Direct Marketer: "More, more, more. Who cares about rates of engagement (clicks, conversions, opens)? I care about numbers.
We have a stock of presentations that we've given to new colleagues over the years to introduce them to the crazy world of email, including the basics of email layout "anatomy" and a crash course on subscribers' "email mindset." Each presentation serves as a sort of snapshot of where the email marketing world was during a given year. I recently looked back over them to see what's changed and what hasn't.
Even though we are just entering the 2012 holiday season, it isn't too early to think about changes you should make to your 2013 email-marketing program. For many marketers, this will mean some significant shifts in direction. But, as I've written throughout 2012, the right changes can help you move the needle farther in the right direction more than endless loops of tweaking and twiddling. Following is my list of program shifts that can help take your email program to new heights of success:
My inbox is losing its voice. Or rather, most of the messages in there have lost theirs. It wasn't long ago that almost every marketing email I received was copywritten expressly for the email channel, allowing me to hear the voices of all the brands I subscribed to. But now most of the messages in my inbox have no such voice, and were instead authored by machines.
Back in 2009, Forrester developed a framework called the Social Technographics Ladder. This focused on seven groups primarily based on their activity within social networks. This ladder still holds up, but I tend to simplify it to the four stages of social activity I believe would mean something for marketers:
Why do any two entities enter into a relationship with one another? Some do it for reciprocity. Some do it to fill a void. Some do it out of obligation. If this were another sappy love song, I'd point out that some fall in love with the mere idea of being in love. Thankfully though, this isn't a love song, and if I had to speak for the countless marketers that I've had the pleasure of meeting, I'd venture to say that they entered into the relationship with their current agencies of record, email service providers or other like entities …
If you're a veteran of the email marketing biz, you may be a wee bit tired of some questions that come up over and over again. I know I'm always being asked what the best time to send emails is. The reason this question keeps coming up is probably due to the insatiable desire to load as many magic bullets in one's online marketing gun as possible. Online marketers are like NASCAR teams, always looking for that one tweak to give them an edge.
Consumers have cited "too many emails" and "irrelevant content" as their top reasons for unsubscribing for years and years now. An email experience that's more personalized in both content and cadence is clearly the answer, as evidenced by the huge ROI that most triggered emails generate. However, the email experience has become more complex because marketers have new sources of data from which to personalize that experience.