101 on Email Marketing: Part I IntroductionPosted: December 7, 2010
(This post was published on Plugged In)
Online stores and e-commerce transactions are increasing steadily in India. Some call this the inflexion point in for the e-commerce industry. Many new e-commerce sites have been featured on www.Plugged.in. However, 10 years after the dot-com boom, getting the right mix of online channels to reach our consumers effectively is still a tough task. SEO and display ads channels are very well established today. We are seeing a surge in Social Media with a revival / renewed interest in Email Marketing.
(Click to enlarge)
Email marketing industry is very well organized, established, regulated and growing in the west. While email marketing is projected to grow at CAGR of 11% in the US (Forrester Research), in the UK, the top 10 firms report turnover of £26 Mn in 2009(NMA). Here are two documents on US and UK statistics.
(http://bit.ly/NMA-Email) (Click to enlarge)
Email Marketing has proven to be a channel that has shown measurable and positive returns.
- Commercial e-mail returned a whopping $43.62 for every dollar spent on it in 2009, according to the DMA’s Power of Direct economic-impact study http://bit.ly/DMA-Study
- Email channel performed the strongest in 2009 – Dataran http://bit.ly/Dataran
- Ticket sales company Eventbrite says: When someone shares an event with their friends through social media, this action results in real dollars. Our most recent data shows that over the past 12 weeks, one share on Facebook equals $2.52, a share on Twitter equals $0.43, a share on LinkedIn equals $0.90, and a share through our “email friends” application equals $2.34. http://bit.ly/Event-Brite
Email Marketing is a vital channel in the online marketing mix. However it is no longer a viable option to simply bombard your audience with a full image / html email without giving any thought to the email content. This medium has become a science and an art as well. The IP address that you send the email from, is monitored by ISPs (Internet Service Providers). You can monitor the reputation of your IP via services like www.senderscore.com or www.senderbase.org
Every time you send email that bounces back, or someone hits the spam button on your email, your IP reputation gets affected. Hence it is important to send emails to people who have opted-in to receive your updates. If your IP address is black listed then your emails will not reach the audience at all. Your emails will either be dropped by the ISP or will be sent to the junk email folder. Additionally, email service providers like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail etc have introduced special “engagement” features that filter and mark certain emails as priority. If your consumers never click on your emails or never reply to you, your emails might get a lesser priority.
Email Marketing needs careful planning. It’s a dialog that you build over a period of time, which is one-to-one with your consumer. Here are a few of the areas that I would like to highlight about Email Marketing in the coming few posts:
- Email List Building
- Email Delivery
- Email Content Planning
- Email Frequency
- Email Subject Lines
- Email Design
- Email Segmentation
- Email Analytics and
- Email Landing Pages
I have always believed that the heart of online marketing is the CRM system /the database of your consumers. It must be treated with respect. Comb it; maintain it like how ants maintain an ant hill. Measure its growth, record by record, field by field to the point of being considered slightly fanatic.
There is treasure buried in your email list. To give a simplistic analogy, if you had a wad of 1000 lottery tickets and if you knew that in 6 months one of them would win, you probably would save all the 1000 tickets. Email list is like those tickets, which with right nurturing could convert your uninterested visitors and prospects into consumers.
Thoughts on building your email list:
There are multiple ways to build your email list. Depending on what your industry is you can acquire email lists from your inbound and out bound call centers, mobile and SMS channels, casual visitors to your website, brick and mortar stores, affiliates, banner ads, social media sites etc and even your regular official email is a channel. I was pleasantly surprised that many shops asked me to write a feedback and took down my email in their visitor’s book. Social Media tools are one of the best for doing this.
Do not buy email lists.
Mull on the fundamental question of why should your reader or visitor share her email with you in the first place. What is your value proposition? Will you be giving something exclusive in your emails? Do they get an incentive or a discount, or an update on their loyalty points or anything else? Avoid regurgitating a marketing banner / poster into a full image email.
Use specific targeted campaigns to build your list. Measure these campaigns and compare them with the past. You should be able to say with confidence which channel is building you more audience over a period of time. Later, you should be able to say with confidence which channel gives you more profitable customers.
Understand what are the barriers faced by your visitors in giving you their email addresses. Are they afraid of spam? If so, can you show them a few sample emails before they sign up without too many click-throughs? Even better, can you show the latest email or an online archive? Is the subscription process so long that they are abandoning the sign up process? Can you make sure you have a 1-click email subscription process and not ask the name of their grandfather, please? If you are taking the email address of your prospects, only during your registration process, you are missing out on many who are just visiting. It’s a good practice to have one click subscription for your visitors who may not want to register and build and account with you. Have various options of registering Facebook connect, open ID etc.
Run contests, promotions to acquire email addresses. For example, on twitter a popular website DM-ed me and gave a 5 % discount which was time bound for me to register on their site. Another email from an online retailer gives me discount if one of my referred friends buys something. Consumers are very active today. How best can you use this to your advantage? Talk to them; ask them for opinions via polls, surveys and feedback. Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are simply begging for content for you to engage your readers. Each engagement instance is an opportunity to acquire a prospect.
Having said all this, I want to stress that by taking the user’s email and bombarding them with emails everyday is not only disrespecting the readers intelligence, it shows a remarkable lack of foresight and is plainly inviting the reader to switch off.
We need to be more humble and respect consumers not because consumers can hit the spam button anytime and damage our IP reputation, but because respecting consumers is good ethics.