Key factors for successful email marketing
Email marketing has long been a favourite tool among marketers because it is cost effective and usually provides a good return on investment. Rob Smith, digital director for Blueleaf, explains here why so many campaigns go wrong, and what drives email marketing success.
The problem with email campaigns that fail, according to Smith, is often that the very act of sending an email is considered "success". But nothing could be further from the truth. In a world where consumers are bombarded with messaging - whether by email, phone, SMS, Facebook or other channels - a solitary marketing email has to fight hard for a chance to stand out from the crowd.
"The three words you need to remember to help you stand out are segmentation, personalisation, and testing," said Smith. "Any good email marketing campaign delivers on all three of these."
- Segmentation Segmentation is effectively the 'who' of email marketing. Who are you sending your message to? It's not often that everyone in the customer database should get the same message because they have different characteristics, buying patterns, and personalities.
As a result there is a definite need to segment the customer list into smaller chunks of like-minded individuals. With a well targeted list of customers you can tailor your message to that audience much better than if you try to reach a larger audience with a more general (and therefore less personally relevant) message. And when the message is personally tailored, people are more receptive to it.
There are plenty of possibilities for ways of segmenting a customer database, depending on your sector or marketplace. For example, segmentation is often conducted on these factors:· Purchase history· Product preferences· Age· Gender· Geographical location· Recency, frequency, and spending
As a rule, the more specific your segmentation, the greater the message's relevance will be, and the better the result will be. This may seem like it's making more work for the marketing and creative teams, but it proves its worth in terms of higher response rates, conversion rates, and return on investment.
- Personalisation The idea of automated personalisation has been around for many years now - and for almost as many years it has been abused, poorly implemented (think about letters that begin 'Dear Valued Customer') and usually not taken far enough.
Imagine you're in a crowded room and there are lots of conversations going on at once, and you're currently engaged in just one of them. What happens when your name crops up in a different conversation nearby? You hear it, and you take an interest in the new conversation. When you personalise marketing messages properly, you have an immediate advantage over competitors that don't. And your competitors can have the same advantage over you if you're not personalising properly.
Personalisation goes beyond using the customer's name. It's actually a process that involves the constant tailoring of your already well-targeted message. Use any and all information you have about the recipient that could potentially add to the message you're sending.
For example, it is not difficult to know when a person first did business with you, and make reference to that history in your email marketing. It is also not difficult to check which products or services they have purchased from you in the past, so you can offer relevant extras and services by segmenting the database by product or category purchases.
Personalisation, like segmentation, is more work for the marketing team, but it also makes for a better and more successful email marketing campaign.
- Testing Perhaps it is an obvious step, but you must always test your messaging. Which messages get a better open rate and/or click-through rate? Which ones have landed you with more sales? Which result in a lower unsubscribe rate? If you don't know the answers to these questions, it is time to start tracking and analysing. Only by testing and measuring results can every email marketing campaign bring you closer to achieving a better return on investment.
For example, you might decide to 'split test' an email campaign. Assign one subject line to one message, and a different subject line to the other. Send the same content in both. Then you measure which subject line (if any) got the better response. In this way you can set about learning what motivates your recipients.
Every time you send a campaign, decide on something to test, whether it's the subject line, the email content, the web site landing page, the main image in the email, or anything else that can sensibly be varied or segmented. Some tests will show a big difference while some will show no difference at all. But you will always learn something you can use in a future campaign.
"Successful email marketing is the art of recognising that good marketing comes down to well targeted, engaging messages," conlcuded Smith. "The only way to target properly is to segment your database. And while a great way to engage is to personalise, the only way to be more targeted and more engaging is by testing."