Email marketers need to find a way out of their sender-controlled silo to take a recipient driven multi-channel marketing approach. Michael Leander explains why.
This article was first published at the UK DMA Email Marketing Blog
If your situation is like most email marketers, you may recognize the following facts to be true:
– Click-through-rates (CTR) have been declining steadily over many years
– the real Return On email marketing Investment (ROI) is becoming increasingly hard to prove
– unsubscribe rates are increasing while the lifetime of your average opt-in is declining.
As a result the channel has become less reliable in delivering tangible results. Both B2C and B2B marketers find it increasingly hard to leverage the email marketing channel to generate, qualify and convert leads into action.
Unfortunately the usual tactical quick fixes are not likely to miraculously prevent the decline. Significantly better results are unlikely to come from improving frequency, writing better subject lines, improving content or using higher quality imagery.
You see, more often than not, the challenge lies at the very foundation of email marketing strategy.
Over the course of many years I have consulted hundreds of email marketers, spoken to thousands and audited more email marketing activities than I can remember. I almost always see a huge interest in quick fixes when there are at least three fundamental issues that should be addressed first, or go out of business.
Apart from switching focus from the inbox to the mind-box, these three things could put email marketers out of business if not dealt with properly
- failure to unsilo email marketing efforts
- avoid a sender controlled approach
- take behaviour and profiling seriously
I am very much looking forward to hearing how email marketing experts address these issues at the Email Marketing Day @Your Desk web seminar .
Here is my take on the matter:
1. Unsilo your email marketing efforts
At the heart of nearly all poor email marketing efforts lies a fundamentally flawed approach. An approach which essentially siloes email marketing activities from all other communication channels.
Where there are shortcomings in processes and technology, the reliance on outsourcers means that email marketing remains siloed, thereby preventing organizations from providing customers with a unified, satisfying experience across all communication channels.
At the centre of this problem is the email marketers’ inability to work as an integrated part of the communications mix. Brand owners, heads of marketing and so on need to prioritize email communication channels on a par with famous TV channels, radio and print. Marketing managers need to understand how email marketing can complement other channels of communication.
We all know that email marketing can make and break reputations. If practiced it automatically becomes part of the customer experience. For that reason alone it earns its place on priority ladder.
And then there is the ever important data management side of things.
It is a known fact that direct and digital marketers who have managed to structure all their data into one data repository tend to achieve a much better ROI on their email marketing activities. A majority of email marketers see the idea of one data repository as ludicrous.
However, to achieve a 360 degree approach to segmentation data must be easily accessible.
2. Avoid a sender controlled approach and become media agnostic
I remember when email marketing started and e-newsletter subscribers were offered choices related to either the frequency or the content of communications. Back then email marketing pioneers took the right approach; by offering their audience choice they put them in the driving seat.
But those days are gone. Now most email marketing efforts are sender controlled. In other words, email marketers decide what is to their own benefit, and tend to forget recipient preferences.
I am not only referring to those old chestnuts, relevance and timeliness. I am also speaking of the significant number of customers who prefer either direct mail or text messages to email. Several surveys suggest that in any audience there are bound to be 20% or more who prefer to receive direct mail rather than any other channel of communication. Naturally a consumer’s preferred media differs depending on where the individual is in her buying process.
If email marketing remains a one-trick pony operation, we will end up losing touch with the 0.5%-2.5% of customers who opt out of email communication. I’ve often seen how the top five customers are amongst those who opted out of receiving emails. So, if there is no other instrument in place to inform, promote and win back those customers, the conversation abruptly stops. Those email marketers who do exceptionally well, continue to communicate with opt-outs by sending direct mail or postcards.
Best practice would suggest that you offer your customers a choice. And that you neatly tie the choice in to fit the customer’s buying process and align that with your own communication/selling process.
Email marketers need to become media agnostic and to be recipient controlled.
3. Take behaviour and profiling seriously
I believe that one of the best ways to improve email marketing results quickly is to increase the focus on putting your behavioural data to good use. In fact, I would say that it is a crime not to base future communications on each individual’s past behaviour.
However, if your behavioural data is not readily available, or if your ESP cannot integrate seamlessly with your CRM system or marketing database, then it becomes a daunting task to leverage it.
So the second best choice would be to increase your awareness of the power of profiling. Set up a plan to acquire more information from each customer. Try to improve your understanding of exactly who you are communicating with, what their interests are, when they are likely to purchase next, and so on.
Using your newly acquired profile data will help you improve your content and make your promotions more relevant. If you can manage to leverage behavioural and profile data for better segmentation and improved targeting, you are on the right track and probably won’t be put out of business anytime soon.
Email marketers are more likely to stay in business if they can manage to put the recipient first; meet expectations through each individual’s preferred media; and find ways to leverage behavioural tracking and profiling.
Email marketers need to understand which content to target to which individual and be prepared to offer information and promotions through channels other than email, such as text messages, direct mail or telephone.