Are Your Emails Helping Your Company Grow or Maintaining the Status Quo?

It is 2013. Do you know where your emails are? Or, more importantly, do you know what they are doing? Take this mini quiz. If you don’t have the right answers, then you need to revise your email marketing program

It is 2013. Do you know where your emails are? Or, more importantly, do you know what they are doing? Take this mini quiz:

Our emails …
A. … motivate our customers to visit our store and/or site.
B. … provide timely information that our customers look forward to reading.
C. … desensitize our customers to our messages.
D. … create conversations on social networks.
E. … may or may not be doing the thing listed above. I just don’t know.

If your answer isn’t “A” and “B”, then you need to revise your email marketing program.

Companies Don’t Move Forward By Maintaining the Status Quo
Eighteen emails from multichannel companies arrived in my inbox before 9:30 this morning. Thirteen are from companies that I buy from on a regular basis. Five are from companies that I rarely shop. They all look strikingly similar.

Every one of the emails consists of a promotional offer with discounts ranging from 15 percent to 50 percent. Some include free shipping as an added bonus. If I were identifiable as a discount shopper, I would expect all of my emails to be sale driven. But, I’m not. I am a category seasonal shopper. My purchases are from specific categories for every company that sent me an email this morning.

So, why don’t they send me emails based on my buying patterns? It requires a new model and more work. I’m not suggesting that the marketing teams are lazy. Most of them work very hard. The problem is that they are working so hard, doing what they have always done, that there isn’t time to find better ways to market to their customers.

What Difference Does It Make?
Historically, a successful campaign delivered a 2 percent to 5 percent response rate. Today, these numbers are declining for most companies. Getting a 0.5 percent response is considered successful by some marketers. Technically, they are right. Email marketing is so economical that an extremely low response rate still generates a profit.

Diminishing rates continue their downward trend until something makes them change direction. External forces are working to accelerate the decline. Email volume for second quarter 2013 is up 17.9 percent over the same period in 2012. (Source: Experian Marketing Services “Q2 2013 Email Marketing Bechmark Study,” opens as a pdf.) The increase is projected to continue.

And then there is that pesky email fatigue issue. When people are bombarded with the same message from so many sources, they become desensitized to the offers. They don’t even bother to open the emails most of the time.

The only way to reverse the downhill slide is to change the email marketing model. It needs to shift from generic promotional messages to customized personal ones designed to appeal to specific individuals. The tools and tactics used by direct marketers to target catalog buyers are effective with a little tweaking. Get started by:

  • Re-evaluating the effectiveness of your email marketing program. Running on auto-pilot works for a while, but regular maintenance and updates are needed for improvements.
  • Identifying email subscribers by type. Are their purchases seasonal, category, discount or a combination of all three?
  • Creating and testing targeted emails. Be careful that you don’t overshare what you know about customers. Too much information is creepy.
  • Adding “how to” emails in to the marketing mix. A reputation for providing helpful information encourages people to open your emails.
  • Optimizing emails for individuals and search. Changes are happening in the search arena that make optimization necessary on all digital content.

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