When the economy slows down, the marketing spend gets reviewed. It's a time-honored tradition that has expanded to include online marketing. Marketing strategies and tactics are scrutinized to determine their impact on the bottom line and the worthiness of the investment -- and they should be. Only the most accountable marketing tactics get the increasingly rare spending green light.
For companies to successfully navigate economic uncertainty, email marketing should still get its share of dollars. However, email in its current form is a commodity. Sending more emails to the same list creates list fatigue, and is counter to the goals of effective interactive marketing -- driving sales, building relationships and maintaining brand identity. Here are four keys to improving the efficiency and impact of email marketing when the economic conditions are not ideal.
Key 1: Connect it
Connect email with as many other online channels as possible. If a company is currently using a mobile strategy and an onsite targeting strategy, for example, those tactics historically draw on different sets of customer data. If all customer data is kept in one location, it reduces the waste of time and money inherent to connecting disparate systems and databases.
Email is more efficient when data from other online activity is incorporated. Instead of sending an email confined by the usual data points -- past email opens, clicks, etc. -- it's possible to drive dynamic content based on different items a customer has visited on the website, products that made it into a shopping cart but not out of the sales funnel and even mobile alerts the customer signed up for, to name a few. Email not only gains efficiency, but relevancy and the flexibility to react to customer demands and market conditions.
Key 2: Test it
Consumers' wallets are opening less frequently now. For an email to create an incentive to buy, it must not only be powered with the right data, it must also be tested.
Optimization comes in many forms. It's possible to optimize subject lines, body copy, offer headers, button colors and just about anything else. The oft-overlooked optimization opportunity is timing. Analysts agree that sending an email at the right time cuts through inbox clutter and has a better chance of resonating with a subscriber. A subscriber browses the website, looking at a few products, then leaves. Sending a triggered message, with an offer, to that subscriber shortly after he or she leaves the website is a sure way to convert browsers to buyers.
Key 3: Don't overdo it
It's easy to fall to into a rut with email marketing, especially when economic conditions present some difficult challenges. We forget the best practices and look only at the sales figures. Instead of finding more efficient and effective ways to connect to customers through email, the inclination is to just hit the list a few more times at the end of the month to make numbers. It's a temptation that's hard to resist.
Unfortunately, it's also a bad strategy that creates long-term problems like list attrition and list fatigue -- problems that carry over when the economy is recovered. Using tested, well-timed emails, powered by good data, will preserve and boost sales while avoiding any long-term negative impact.
Key 4: Don't overpay for it
There are some experts out there who insist good, efficient email marketing has to cost more money. That is simply not the case.
Online marketers must expect more from their email service providers. ESPs need to be more aware of the challenges online marketers face and adjust. Marketers should seek efficient systems capable of leveraging valuable customer data for the best possible ROI. Every new capability an ESP adds should not cost more. Improving the product for their clients should already be a high priority -- not an opportunity to ding clients for more money.
Finding ways to cost-effectively integrate consumer data and tested content into email marketing strategies and tactics is the sweet spot for interactive marketers who are waiting out this economic slow period. It is possible to do email marketing better. When every marketing cost must be justified, it is right to expect more. Marketers must expect more of their ESPs and other online solution providers right now. The entire industry, and the consumer, will benefit when the economy recovers.
Brian Deagan is the co-founder and CEO of Knotice.