Tuesday, June 14, 2011

4 Challenges to Improving Email Response (and How to Overcome Them)

Mark Price

Email is so inexpensive (compared to direct mail) that many of my clients are moving toward making it their primary customer communication vehicle.  Yet these clients discover that these emails, while still profitable due to their low cost, do not drive meaningful revenue.  In response, they email and email, trying to make up for poor performance with increased frequency.  But all that does is annoy customers and make them more likely to delete their emails in the future.

Yet, these same companies, in all their email blasting, are missing a fundament strategy that can change their results in a moment – customers love personalization.  Multiple pieces of research have shown that response rates to e-mail increase by up to 50% based on the amount of personalization that can be added to that e-mail.

If this research is true, then the question to ask is: why do marketers not personalize their email?

There are four reasons why smart marketers end up sending generic, “blast” e-mails to their customers – technology, time, data and measurement.

  1. Don't have the right technology:  In many companies, the software that marketers use to send e-mail does not permit personalization without coding and HTML manipulation.  Most email software tools have the capability for personalization; however, those personalization modules are often available as a surcharge, which many marketing organizations have not chosen to take.
  2. No time:  Personalization email requires time and planning, and most digital marketers are significantly lacking in those two areas. It is NOT that they do not know how to plan; it is just a tiny bit slower in order to achieve dramatic short-term and long-term benefits.  Instead, enamored of the speed of digital marketing, management just keeps asking for more and more, faster and faster.  As a result, most digital marketers I know are in danger of spontaneous combustion!
  3. Can't get the data:  In order to personalize communications you must know something about your customers.  It is not that the company lacks the data about customer behavior; it is that the data has not been analyzed and then provided to the marketers in a form that can be used in the e-mail tool.  Without good data, email marketers end up falling back on the same old blast, blast, blast.
  4. No measurement:  As digital marketers sprint to fill ever increasing management requirements in less time with little data, there is rarely enough time to set up measurement strategies at the outset and then follow through, measure the results and incorporate the learning in subsequent marketing efforts. Even the basics like Measuring Marketing With Control Groups and Champion/Challenger approaches fall to the wayside. 

The result of these challenges is an ever-increasing barrage of undifferentiated emails, teaching customers that the company does not care about their needs and leading to lower response rates and higher commoditization.

So what’s a digital marketer to do in the face of such challenges?  Find another profession?

If you are stuck in this situation, then No Excuses Marketing is for you.  No Excuses Marketing is a series of 7 common-sense, low-budget approaches to improving marketing in your organization, now. 

Two in particular apply to digital marketers stuck on the treadmill.  They are:
·      Use partners to add resources
Email software companies frequently have teams that can implement personalized email for you, on a trial basis, to demonstrate the economic argument for adding the personalization module to their software.  Leverage their teams to add additional, experienced resources to show your management just how much you can improve results with personalized email.
·      Work spreadsheets hard to move fast
Rather than conducting a complex analysis to determine which customers should be purchasing what products or services, simple queries can provide you with lists of past customers of those products.  Take those lists and run cross-sell programs.  Make sure your sales and customer service teams are ready and then measure the campaigns compared to the same campaign to a regular, undifferentiated customer list. 

There are many other nuggets in No Excuses Marketing, but these two can get you started making the business case for a planning data-driven approach email personalization.

Mark Price is Managing Partner of M Squared Group, a consulting firm focused on understanding and building customer relationships, and the author of the blog “Cultivating Your Customers,” where he writes about practical approaches to improve customer retention and overall customer value.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good sound advice Mark. I find it amazing how many organizations fail to take the "Fatigue Factor" into consideration when implementing an email campaign. More is not more if you turn your audience off with too many emails.

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