Does Your Email Pass the Relevance Test?

July 9, 2008

Email marketing as a tactic has been around for many years now and as marketers we have to be careful not to take it for granted. Initially marketers were very careful with the types of emails that were sent to their database, however as email has become more common place I believe it is worthwhile reminding ourselves that we must keep our subscriber’s trust.

Email differs from other online tactics in that subscribers provide their email opt in to a company with the expectation that they will receive information requested that is especially meaningful and relevant to them or their preferences. This trust does not come lightly and can be revoked very quickly if those expectations are not met.

Email is a one to one medium that has the ability to be personalised and made highly relevant. Like all marketing tactics, email is more appropriate at some times, and not so appropriate at others.

I believe it is a marketer’s responsibility to make sure their email content meets the following checklist for every broadcast:

  • Is the email specifically relevant to the person receiving it?
  • Have I done everything possible to make sure the communication is in line with “one to one” communications principles?
  • Does this email fit within the opt in permission that I have received from the subscriber?
  • Does this email fulfill a value proposition to the recipient (this could be a unique opportunity or offer, relevant information, service information etc)?
  • Is there a relevant call to action or next step for the recipient to follow?

If your email communication does not meet this checklist, then perhaps email is not the most effective way to communication your message.

I received an email recently and it questioned my expectation of what is appropriate corporate email communication. Let me tell you about it…

Some of you may have seen the current Qantas Frequent Flyer ads where Qantas communicate changes to their Frequent Flyer program. Today I received an email from Velocity Rewards which comments on the Qantas program and compares the difference to their own. You can view the email here.

To me, this email is a rebuttal from Velocity on the Qantas campaign and whilst they are entitled to comment on it, I question their use of email as a means of delivering this message. You see I am already a Velocity member which means I am already familiar with Velocity program (already a convert?). I am not completely against Velocity making a point about comparing their rewards program to a competitor, however I do have an issue with a whole dedicated email being sent to me on this topic. When I look at the above checklist, it doesn’t pass as a relevant and meaningful communication to me and I feel it would have been better communicated as a secondary message in one of their regular emails, or through other mediums such as banners online, or TVC/print etc offline.

Email is a tactic that is not typically used for branding and awareness, nor should it be used for non relevant communications. I don’t want to get involved in a company’s sparing match and email isn’t in my view, a suitable way to communicate this message. If however the message was presented in a different, less personal medium, rather than resenting the interruption I might have instead had a chuckle over their point.

Calculating Email Marketing ROI

July 7, 2008

If you are planning an email marketing campaign, you may be interested in estimating your potential results and ROI. This will allow you to identify if the proposed activity is likely to meet your targets and objectives whilst also allowing you to calculate the impact on your website traffic, product sales or broader campaign.

Firstly, email marketing is a fairly broad term so let me be more specific with my terminology. I call emails which are sent to your own database “House Emails” and emails that are sent to a third party or rented database an “eDM campaign” (Email Direct Marketing campaign). Both of these allow some response estimation based on industry standards.

When looking at email marketing, there are freely available reports online which will give you some indication about industry standards. I recommend looking for a report in your geographical area and industry and make sure you note what type of organisation has published the report. For the purpose of this article Im referring to Vision 6’s “Australian Email Marketing Metrics Report“. This has been written by Vision 6 who is a provider of email broadcasting and management tools. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that this report will largely consist of data and reporting on House Email broadcasts….

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Free Reports from Marketing Sherpa

February 26, 2008

Marketing Sherpa is a great resource for tips, stats and case studies – if you haven’t checked them out before, I strongly recommend that you visit their website and also look at their newsletter subscriptions available.

Today I downloaded a great free report on email marketing. It is called “2008 Dirty Dozen Email Newsletter Mistakes”. The report covers a range of elements including opt in, frequency and segmentation and is worth a read, even if just for a refresh. You can access Marketing Sherpa’s free reports here.

Email linking to PDF – what are B&T thinking?

February 19, 2008

In the world of online we are used to seeing companies progress with their websites and communication as more advanced technology become available and as companies become more confident in utilising them. However unfortunately one of my favourite daily email newsletters has just taken what I consider to be a big backwards step.

I have been receiving the B&T print magazine and daily email for a few years now as it provides a good overview of what is happening in the world of advertising and marketing and usually includes a good mix of online related stories too. In the past the B&T daily email newsletter was sent as an HTML email that linked through to individual articles on the B&T website (good practice!). However this year, B&T have decided that rather than link to their website, they will link to a PDF of the stories online.

There are several negatives associated with this:

  • Poor email experience – B&T have kept their email looking fairly similar to how it did previously where it shows summaries of news articles and a “more…” link to read the full article. The key problem with this is that each link in the email goes through to the same page – being the PDF. There is actually no benefit to the end user in finding the article they want to read and clicking on the more link as once they open the PDF they will have to scroll again to find the same full article.
  • Poor user experience – it’s most unusual for a news article in an email to link through to a PDF so not only is the user not expecting it, however it also typically will take longer to load the PDF than it would for a html website page.
  • Poor readability – it is well accepted that PDF documents were typically made for print related purposes and therefore it is not as easy to read these on screen. It is even more so if columns are used as the user is forced to scroll up and down just to read one column (instead of reading horizontally as websites are designed).
  • Lack of tracking – one of the key benefits in sending HTML emails is being able to track clicks on links so that a company can see what readers are interested in reading and thus tailor future content to this demand. When linking from an email to a PDF (and particularly when all links go to the same place) B&T will lose this valuable reader information about their preferences. Not only that but their website statistics will similarly become less valuable as some of the granularity is removed.

So why would a company move to start linking to a PDF file in this day and age? I’m struggling to come up with a reason that can be justified. A new marketing manager perhaps?If you have any ideas, let me know. Check out the associated graphics below:

Current email newsletter:

PDF of articles which is linked to:


Do You Really Need a Newsletter?

January 29, 2008

Being in online marketing, I’m a big fan of companies leveraging technology to communicate better with their customers and prospects. Often regular online communication comes in the form of emails and of course this tactic can be very beneficial to a whole range of businesses.

But just because you have customers and want to utilise email, don’t assume that an email newsletter is the only option you have available. Let me give demonstrate through a scenario: I often drive into town and park in a particular car parking centre. I recently was invited to join up as a VIP and in accepting I received a little card which gives me certain discounts and rewards. The next thing I know, I received an email newsletter (which I assume I subscribed to as part of the fine print).

The thing is, I don’t really want to receive an email newsletter from a car park. Any car park. Why? Well a car park is not a product, it’s not something that frequently changes, it doesn’t naturally generate any content and it’s also not a destination. Rather it is a means to an end. I would never leave the house with the goal of visiting the car park, rather I need to use a car park in order to visit a client in town or to get to the shops.

So does this mean that I’m saying that a car park wanting to make a difference in their marketing shouldn’t use email? Not at all. I think email can be quite effective for this type of organisation, but it’s all about the context. Think about the types of information that people want to hear from your business. Rather than having a dedicated email newsletter about the car park, this type of business would be better off working with complimentary businesses. For example taking a regular spot in the shopping centre’s newsletter would not only provide you with contextually relevant email space but would most likely reach a bigger audience who have a need for your service. This company could also partner with the nearby movie theatre to offer a movie/parking deal. Or it could advertise on a nearby company’s intranet site to offer their staff a special parking offer.

Just remember, in order to keep an online audience reading your email newsletter, you need to have interesting and refreshing content that will compete with the hundreds of other emails that people receive. If you don’t have strong enough content by yourself, look around at who you can partner with for mutually beneficial results.

How to Select an Email System

June 29, 2007

EmailIf you’re one of the many companies going through the process of selecting a system to manage your outbound email communications, this article is written for you. There are several factors involved in selecting an email system – here are some of the key things to consider:

  • Do you want to use your internal resources to manage your email campaigns or do you want to have this managed for you?
  • If you are using your resources, who will be using the system (what skill sets do they have)?
  • What quantity of emails will you send?
  • What is the nature and frequency of the emails (eg newsletters, ad hoc emails, email campaigns etc)?
  • What future uses or applications may you have for email marketing?

I have met many companies who have looked at a number of email systems and are trying to make a decision on which to use. My recommendation is to bring it back to YOUR requirements. Start by defining what you need from the email system and then use this information to match the solutions you are considering back to your specific situation. There are many different systems on the market and they all have subtle differences in their setup, how they need to be used and what they can deliver for you. When considering your requirements, it’s useful to consider them in the following categories:

  1. Setup requirements (account access, interface, overall requirements)
  2. Database requirements (where does your data sit, integration requirements, managing bounces and unsubscribes, segmentation and targeting)
  3. Email setup requirements (creative requirements, email templates, subject lines, sender details, personalisation and features such as dynamic content, RSS feeds etc)
  4. Email Broadcasting (scheduling in advance, selecting databases to send to, approval processes etc)
  5. Reporting (What is included, how is the report presented, what can you do with this information)

After considering all of the elements in these 5 steps you should find yourself with a reasonably comprehensive list of requirements and you can even prioritise this list by selecting a mandatory or desired status. Once you have a strong framework and criteria in place it makes it a lot easier to select a suitable vendor and to be sure you are getting the best solution for you.

Of course if you don’t feel comfortable about making the right decisions to define your requirements, you can always bring on an objective consultant to document these for you (this is one of the things I often help companies with!)

Checkout some of my favourite email and communication management systems:
Campaign Master

More than an Unsubscribe

March 8, 2007

We all know how hard we work to get permission to contact users electronically, but how hard do we work to keep them? Today I’m not taking about large retention strategies, communication matrix or up-sells, I’m talking about basic “ease of use” for your subscriber database.

I recently had the need to change my primary email address on a number of my email subscriptions and I found it surprisingly hard. Now I receive regular emails on a whole range of topics from interactive marketing through to local information and I identified a problem that occurred in every category.

I didn’t want to unsubscribe from a communication, I simply wanted to change my email address that that email went to. But many of my newsletters didn’t give me a choice. Companies have adopted the mandatory ‘unsubscribe’ link very well, but not all have considered what other options used jointly might best serve the subscriber. With many of the newsletters I receive, I had to use the unsubscribe link, then go back to their main website, find the subscription link and re-subscribe using my new email address. Now I happen to be fairly fond of my newsletter subscriptions, but would your database work that hard to stay with you?

So what am I proposing? Well in most cases it’s pretty simple – give your subscribers the option to change their details as well to unsubscribe. And if your email solutions provider doesn’t make this easy, ask them why!


Email Marketing – Primarily Science over Art

February 23, 2007

The Email Experience Council recently held a poll asking “Is email marketing is an art or a science? The results are in today with 65% voting for science.

I was one of the 65% and chose this response because I believe that you can take the creative out of an email, but you can’t take away the science behind running the campaign.

Yes it’s possible to have a successful text based email campaign (at one extreme) but if you aren’t talking to the right people at the right time, then there is no point.

Of course, the ultimate answer is that for a successful email marketing campaign, you need the creative to be spot on and the database to be not only accurate, but ideally warmed up and ready to respond too.

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