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10 Quick Wins for Email Marketing

Barry Stamos
10 Quick Wins for Email Marketing Barry Stamos

Did you know your customers now spend more time reading and sending email than watching TV? Yeah, it's prime time. Plus, the email channel remains the only mass media channel that enables you to engage in one-to-one marketing while reaching your audience at work, at home, and while they are mobile. Now, pay attention to these strategies and tactics to minimize risks and maximize returns from your email initiatives.

Follow this advice and you'll be a hero overnight (well, perhaps not overnight, but definitely this fiscal year) and enjoy ROI each step of the way.

1. Relevance

A single email can make or break a valuable customer relationship. So why are 89 percent of marketers today still sending low-value, one-off broadcast email campaigns? Take the time this year to strategically plan and execute high-value individual lifecycle marketing programs; timely and relevant one-to-one dynamic email dialogs driven by your customers and supported by your multi-channel push and pull strategy. Despite the extra costs, engaging your audiences in more relevant communications increases net profits by an average of 18 times more than broadcast mailings. Email is a profit center, not an expense. Don't delay; each time you send irrelevant emails to your prospects and customers is another missed opportunity to collect the revenues your competitors are leaving on the table. For ammo to build a business case to take your email program to the next level, download this free JupiterResearch report, "The ROI of E-mail Relevance".

Author Notes:
Barry Stamos is the Senior Director of Strategy for Responsys, the world's largest private and profitable provider of on-demand email and lifecycle marketing solutions for leading brands such as Continental Airlines, Forrester Research, Lands' End, Office Depot, Salesforce.com and The Sharper Image. Stamos excels in helping marketers design, automate, and optimize Individualized Lifecycle Marketing™ programs for superior ROI.

Formerly the Chief Strategist with INBOX Marketing, a strategic email marketing services firm, Stamos earned the reputation of "the email expert" by maintaining an impressive track record consulting more than 50 clients, agencies, and email service vendors. Stamos has led multi-million dollar CRM initiatives for Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies. He has also served as the Director of Strategy with Arthur Andersen Private Client Services and has worked in London for the American Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Embassy. Stamos is a recognized thought leader, industry expert, sought-out speaker and prolific author, quoted in numerous media outlets and industry publications.

Seeking ways to boost your open, clickthrough and conversion rates? Redesign your email templates based on proven email marketing best practices. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much simple creative tests can lift response. Upgrade the subject line, from line, photography style (hero shots), layout, headline, copy, call-to-action buttons, text links, icons, testimonials and footer. Additionally, be sure to incorporate multiple points of personalization on all outbound email communications. Invest in the formal redesign of your email template and watch your metrics go from ugly ducklings to swans overnight.

Example: StubHub!, a leading open marketplace dedicated to tickets, engaged in a extreme makeover of their its campaigns to realize a three-times increase in open rates, 35 percent lift in click throughs, and 110 percent boost in online ticket sales conversions. Learn more by attending their LIVE case study session at ad:tech San Francisco on April 27, 2006.

Every media vehicle's effectiveness can be measured against real goals

"I couldn't measure my display down to the sale in the store, so I cancelled it and put the money back in TV." Palm to forehead. While very little media is accurately measurable down to the sale, there are leading indicators for nearly every brand and product that can be monitored to determine how effective each media channel is at driving consumers through the purchase funnel/process toward a sale. Whether it's online surveys, man-on-the-street surveys, or tracking meaningful website activities other than a sale, there are some metrics you can use other than "sales or nothing." Again, this is hard stuff. It takes planning, controls, strategy, and effort. If it was easy, your competitors would already be doing it.

Different channels have different standards?

Just today I had a CEO tell me the company has been frustrated by its inability to attribute sales (many of which are offline) to various digital media. I said, "Digital is measurable, not magical." Being measurable isn't black or white, but that's what so many CEOs think. If it's not measurable, it must be good for branding. If it is measurable, it must drive a sale. Unfortunately, and again, it's not easy thinking in shades of gray, but that's what great marketers do. They understand the degree to which a channel is measurable and make the most of it.

The medium, the message, and...the data?

Marshall McLuhan said, "The medium is the message." Whereas there used to be two considerations when planning advertising, there are now three. Choosing the right media channel and doing great creative now only gets a marketer a "C." Knowing how to harness your own data, upload it, download it, statistically analyze it, and apply it to your campaigns gets you an "A."

The shell game

A friend of mine used to work in the car business and once showed me why he'd stand up and lean over the desk to discuss a certain part of the contract. It was so his tie would cover up a part of the contract he didn't want the customer to read. This behavior was direct and intentional. But is subversive and wily any better?

When your agency promises you they can beat SQAD by 30 percent and no other agency can do that, how do you think that's possible? In Lake Wobegon, every child is above average. How is it large agencies can beat SQAD by 30 percent when they are the ones contributing the numbers to SQAD? Either they're reporting false numbers to SQAD or buying lower quality media to come in at the price level they promised. Or both. Agencies are experts at their business. When marketers make unreasonable demands of their agency threatening "to go elsewhere," it's hard to fault a survivalist mentality. As a marketer, you need to know how to get the best out of your agency, not the numbers that only appear to be the best.

But my kids...

How many media plans have you personally derailed using a one-person focus group with that person being you? You thought about how you consume media, your kids' buying preferences, or what your spouse watches on TV. This focus group of one is a misleading bias that harms nearly every one of us. It's important to remember this and remind your clients of it before presenting the plan. It this cat gets out of the bag, the meeting is gone.

"A" doesn't always equal "A," but "A" often equals "B"

No, you're not reading a Mensa quiz. We're talking about digital inventory equality. Just last week we pulled some fascinating data. We looked at all of the impressions we purchased via RTB on one (non-portal) site but then broke it out by exchange. This site was using more than 10 exchanges to bid on its ads. We found that a) different exchanges sold that site's inventory at dramatically different prices, b) the viewability ranges for this site ranged from 2 percent on one exchange to 45 percent on another, and c) the price paid had no correlation with viewability. "A" should equal "A" here, but it doesn't.

Conversely, you might go to a well-known website and hit refresh a few times. Right there on the homepage you might see a major brand ad that paid a $10 CPM for that spot. Two refreshes later you see an ad for an advertiser you know was bought inexpensively via RTB. Same placement, same user. You only blew through one advertiser's frequency cap hitting refresh but see a two to 10 times price difference. A equals B.

Something is better than nothing, except when it's not

Let's say you're launching your first brand campaign. It was a rush to get it up, but the lack of time to get set up for proper metrics was less important than getting the timing of this campaign right. You're not set up to measure online to offline conversion, your site doesn't have any conversion events (c-store, QSR, etc.), and you haven't set up surveys yet. You've been running for one week. How is the campaign performing?

Ninety percent of marketers will look at CTR in this instance even though they know it's worse than a worthless metric. It's inversely correlated with purchase behavior, yet our desire to measure something, anything, is so strong we'd rather look at a misleading metric than nothing. Know when you have something to measure, and when you don't. And leave it that way.

Automate yourself out of your job

I have around 10 direct reports, and rolling up through them are another 200 people or so. When we discover an inefficiency in our company, we want to stamp it out. The front-line person who jumps in to speed this process and make us more efficient quickly gets noticed by me. I see them as having a broader view and better able to take on larger roles. It's counter-intuitive when you're the front-line worker, though.

I've spoken with a number of traditional media buyers who feel their path to job security is to make their job appear as complicated as possible, so they seem irreplaceable. From me to you, any half-decent CEO will see through that in a heartbeat. Automate yourself out of a job. It's your fastest path to a promotion.

Different channels? No, different behaviors and purposes

What is mobile? Is it your phone? Tablet? Both? Regardless, they shouldn't be treated the same. More importantly, each of these devices represents a different mindset and way of interacting with content, brands, and the shopping process.

There have been a number of studies showing where and on which devices shopping processes begin and end. Know the pathway for your brand and your consumers. Then treat each device appropriately within your media plan to get the most out of it.

Final thought: Getting a "C" is easy

Looking at the content of your creative, by medium, and determining the value of each impression relative to each other is hard. Most brands won't have the time to perform the science to get it perfect. Automating yourself out a job, disciplining your brain to avoid thinking about how you shop or consume media -- all of this is really hard. Even if you're the smartest person alive and this is all natural to you, bringing others along with your vision and actually executing it takes massive coordination, persuasion, and patience. But when you look at companies doing the best work and peek behind their curtains, they're doing the hard things on their own and not looking to the industry to give them benchmarks and tell them how to think.

Jay Friedman is the COO of Goodway Group.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Closeup businesswoman hands holding white card sign with Did You Know? question text message isolated on grey wall office background" image via Shutterstock.

The #1 reason for unsubscribing to email is irrelevant contact. Average email performance metrics will diminish for all subscriber lists over time unless a genuine effort is made to improve customer relevancy. Regardless of the attribute used (i.e., purchase behavior, demographics et cetera) any form of segmentation is proven to lift results. Segment your prospect/customer database based on behavior, preferences, demographics, personas et cetera. Work towards the ultimate goal of writing email copy to match the tone and style of your matrix of target audience clusters: right message, right person, and right time.

Example: Salesforce.com, the world’s leader in delivering on-demand applications for integrated sales force automation, customer service and support, marketing, file management and analytics, is using segmentation to personalize online dialogs with hundreds of thousands of customers and prospects on a regular basis. Salesforce.com uses personalized email to compress sales cycles, strengthen online relationships, and achieve an average opt-out rate of .01 percent-- well below the industry average rate of 1 percent. Certain programs frequently result in a 100 percent open rate. They send regular email product updates, product training schedules, newsletters and upcoming event invitation to deliver superior service and value to a worldwide constituent base.

Are you making objective (data-driven) or subjective (opinion-based) decisions? Most marketers are relying on their gut to make changes to their email program. The majority are doing no testing whatsoever. Stop gambling with your email program profitability. Test, test, test, to get smart on what works and what doesn’t-- and remember, you are never completely "done." It’s also important to refresh your creative on a regular basis. What worked well for you last year might not work now. Testing to optimize your email campaigns controls risk and maximizes returns. However, cracking the code on the best combination and variation of success factors requires real science. How basic or advanced is your use of the email channel for testing and market research? Do you include a control and run A/B split tests in every email campaign? Some of the most sophisticated and successful marketers are exploring multi-variable testing methodologies, which can simulate thousands of A/B splits simultaneously that statistically identify the best combination of variables to increase conversion rate. Testers achieve significantly higher open and clickthrough rates, and most importantly, higher conversion rates.

The average consumer is exposed to 3,000 ad messages daily, of which they notice 80 and react to 10. How will your emails break through the noise? Think about how you can gain entry into the recipient’s inner circle-- the 10 to 15 companies whose emails they always read. Start by using basic, non-intrusive animations in your emails to direct recipient’s attention to your call-to-action. Include graphic and textual links in your emails to complimentary downloads, web commercials, recorded webinars and push-to-talk technology for richer end user experiences. Be different. Distribute fun and entertaining emails, which often result in higher performance metrics including exceptional forward-to-a-friend rates that enlarge your reach and impact exponentially.


How does your email program rate on the email excellence continuum? This year marketers will increase their email program budgets by 30 to 40 percent using last years return on email program revenues as a defensible benchmark. Compare your performance metrics with internal trend benchmarks as well as industry benchmarks relevant to your sector, market or industry. Continually analyze individual behavior and campaign performance to accurately identify your highest value customers and most successful campaigns. Work with your email service provider or email expert to audit and score your email program to identify and resolve points of failure. Keep a close eye on the symbiotic relationship between email programs and landing pages. Both are essential to close the loop for conversion.

Example: Intrawest Corporation, the world’s leading developer and operator of village-centered resorts, measured $5.7 Million (Canadian) in revenues from just three "email only" campaigns (or $16.9 Million (Canadian) when including guests who have also been contacted by direct mail). Intrawest’s lodging confirmation emails have successfully increased pre-committed measurable revenues from lodging guests by $147 CDN per booking-- or $478 CDN per click. Their email database also grew by 70 percent, which resulted in them sending more than 29 million emails and 2,500 campaigns. They were able to automate much of the process, resulting in them sending twice the volume of emails at half the cost, and freeing up more than 400 hours of staff time per month when compared to their historical practices.

An estimated 20 to 30 percent of all legitimate permission-based emails are blocked or filtered due to firewall and spam filters. These delivery failures are rarely reported by your email delivery system. Why? Email service providers count an email delivered even when it lands in a junk mail folder or a corporate filter holding tank. Said differently, so long as the email doesn’t bounce, all email technology providers report it as being delivered. How can you make sure your emails successful reach your customers inboxes? Start incorporating several best practices such as, asking your customers to add your From Address to their address book, set-up white list and feedback loops directly with the top ISPs, acquire and remove names responsibly, and monitor your email campaigns delivery rates. Work with email deliverability experts or subscribe to specialized third-party auditing tools to address delivery effectiveness and test for basic rendering. Ask for a comprehensive report that covers content and coding issues (spam triggers), so you can get your emails properly delivered to the inbox.

Example: Pivotal Veracity conducted a six-week study across 100 mailers to determine whose emails ended up in the spam folder. They uncovered that an astonishing 54 percent of permission-based email marketers are filtered as spammers, including AOL News, Wal-Mart, IBM, the Feds and many others. For more details on how the study was conducted and findings, go to http://www.pivotalveracity.com/ and download the entire study.

As you can see there’s no need to reinvent the wheel-- simply adhere to the above Top 10 list. Engage in a healthy discussion with your in-house team, agency and email service provider to prioritize which of the aforementioned quick wins are right for you. Make one or all of them a reality to secure "quick wins" in 2006. Questions? Comments? Opinions? Requests? Results? Drop me a line via email.


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Commenter: Duke Kibagendi

2009, September 26

Liked your article on the 10 strategies on email marketing...