How to harness email's rise to power

A new era appears ready to surface on the American political front -- one that should certainly spill over in a business and social context. Whether you agree on the politics or not, things will change going forward. One can look to President-Elect Obama's continued usage of technology in how he will use different communication platforms to reach constituents and the media during his presidency.

For example, on election night, before he stepped on stage at Chicago's Grant Park to greet hundreds of thousands of supporters, he sent a note to his email list acknowledging their support and winning efforts, signed simply "Barack." Again, politics aside, this is a winning email marketing 101 strategy. By providing exclusive content to a key audience (those who provided permission), he gave his email audience another reason to stay subscribed. Thus, he can continue to send key information, not to mention "promotional" messages for those upcoming run-off races. Of course, if he segments by state or ZIP code, he can take his email efforts to the next level.

I also read that Obama's staff is considering bypassing the media at times and communicating to voters via "its vast email list," instead of traditional press conferences and other old-line methods. In theory, this is revolutionary, given how the political machine has operated for quite some time. While there is no doubt that this will allow his team to better control the message, this should also be helpful to Obama's audiences in providing timely updates while keeping them in the loop and guiding them on key issues or political races.

This supports email as the No. 1 communication platform for delivering cost efficient, targeted and measurable (yes, politicians too should care about response metrics) messages to any type of audience, whether they are shoppers, customers, supporters, readers or have the potential to be any of the above. So what do we learn from Obama's efforts and what cues can we take from this historic presidential campaign? To summarize, give your subscribers and customers (internal and external) what they want. Consider the following points:

  • Email is booming despite the broader economic situation. MarketingSherpa found that survey respondents who thought that email was becoming more effective were 50 percent more likely to increase their budgets annually. The ROI remains king in the marketing world. The DMA's 2008 ROI findings were $45.06 for every dollar spent on email.

  • Email isn't a niche form of communication for anyone. Period. It is the top way to serve up what your audience wants. There is no better, more cost-effective and measurable way to communicate with your key audience -- who happened to provide permission to receive offers and information from you -- than email marketing.

  • If you are not providing any kind of exclusive offering to your email subscribers, you need to before its too late. Your competitors are, and if you don't, there may be very little reason for them to stay subscribed to your email offerings.

  • Personalization works. Email subscribers want to be treated differently, and it can start with a simple personalization to the recipient and end with a signature or note from a real person, whether that is a CEO, sales rep, local store manager or even the president-elect.

  • Options and choices matter. We all know social networks and mobile usage are booming in the shadow of email. It isn't an either/or situation. During the subscribe and unsubscribe processes -- as well as in between (an email asking recipients to update preferences) -- opportunistic marketers can allow users to provide their mobile number or become a fan of their products or services on Facebook. Especially consider this during the unsubscribe process, when you give people an option to continue hearing from you -- just via another communication platform.

On the internal front, which is equally important in preserving and increasing your budget, resources and visibility, you need to share the power of email. Consider the following:

  • CEOs, CFOs and CMOs don't care about clicks and opens. Paint them a picture of your email program in terms of key performance indicators and overall business impact. It all starts with measurement and the framing of its performance. Remember: A good open and forward rate isn't going to get your executive team's attention, but saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and driving millions in sales will.

  • Communicate internally about your success and leverage cross-departmental news and promotions in your email efforts. Internal teams may not know about your email offerings or, more likely, the success and opportunities that they present.

Use this period of transition to better position your email program for long-term success and capitalize on email's increasing prominence, both in the inbox and the boardroom (whether it is on Main Street or Pennsylvania Avenue).

G. Simms Jenkins is founder and CEO of BrightWave Marketing, an award-winning agency specializing in the strategic optimization of email marketing and digital targeted messaging programs.

 

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