It’s Time to Move On

Until now, you’ve been happy with your email-automation vendor, but lately you feel as though perhaps something is missing … Email automation is a wondrous thing and I’d be lost without it—as would all of my clients—but like most relationships, both parties must maintain dialogue, work together and compromise when necessary or you may find you’ll drift apart. What may have started out as your dream partner, over the months or years has become less ideal

Until now, you’ve been happy with your email-automation vendor, but lately you feel as though perhaps something is missing …

Email automation is a wondrous thing and I’d be lost without it—as would all of my clients—but like most relationships, both parties must maintain dialogue, work together and compromise when necessary or you may find you’ll drift apart.

What may have started out as your dream partner, over the months or years has become less ideal. And because you dread restarting the vendor search, you continue to work with a solution that no longer meets your needs and thus hinders your progress.

Customers and vendors should be fired when the relationship no longer brings the same value to the table it did when the engagement began. Not every company is a great fit for your business, be that one who buys from you or one who sells to you.

Many of us started out with the bare minimum—iContact, Constant Contact, or the like—but as our companies grow, so must our software. Sometimes the software company will continue to develop new features, but those are not released at the speed your demand develops, or the features they release are not in the direction you need. It’s okay to want for more, and when working with email automation, we all want more.

Spider Trainers recently outgrew our email-automation application. We had been with our vendor since they were a mere upstart, and we watched them grow to become a fine solution and start challenging the industry leaders, but they weren’t developing the features we needed. So, despite the gargantuan effort it would take to convert all of our lead-capture forms, update all of our inbound content, port our lists, and recreate our campaign workflows, in the end, we felt those efforts would be worth what we would gain in features that aligned more closely with our needs.

When I say gargantuan, it truly was—and a month in, we’re still nowhere near finished making the transition. What’s more, as an agency, it’s not just our content and assets, it’s also that of the clients we have moved with us.

Today, marketers have hundreds (yes, it really is hundreds) of vendors from whom to choose and features numbering in nothing less than thousands. It’s not likely you would be looking for a vendor having the most features, just the vendor offering the features on which you place the most importance. That’s why hundreds of options can exist; each of us has our own set of priorities. Companies aligned with your priorities narrow the field substantially, and companies aligned with your budget narrow it even more.

Our most important feature requirements might mean less to you, but we needed a solution providing more in-depth visibility pre-engagement, engagement depth (how were our prospects and leads using our website and content), and post-engagement. In order to get these things, we had to give up some things, and that’s the relationship compromise.

Although we vetted more than a dozen new vendors, we did finally make a choice and one that I’m happy with. I’ve had a few fearful moments, but the new software is—for the moment—what we need, and one with a roadmap aligned with our planned growth. I know there’s a good chance someday I may need to move on from this relationship too, but as in life, I’m going to get while the getting’s good.

Oh, and because I know you’re wondering, our new vendor is SharpSpring.

Extended Coverage: USPS – Will It Disappear?

When your editor makes a decision to defend you in the comments section below a feature article, then the article must have hit a nerve! I talked to several mailers, and association leaders who represent them, in a feature this month in the magazine … as I should: mailers have a lot to say about goings-on at the Postal Service

When your editor makes a decision to defend you in the comments section below a feature article, then the article must have hit a nerve!

I talked to several mailers, and association leaders who represent them, in a feature this month in the magazine … as I should: mailers have a lot to say about goings-on at the Postal Service (and not-goings-on in Congress) leading some mail marketers to re-evaluate the medium. I’d say it is a timely premise—particularly with the recent exigent postage hike on top of the inflation-indexed hike.

Far more was offered than I could include in the feature. However, “Marketing Sustainably” has a bit of room and—with my editor’s permission—allow me to share a few more observations.

Let me be clear, every mailer I talked to wants the Postal Service to succeed. The prescriptions may vary. What may be unclear is how it will succeed…

Always the Postologist, Charley Howard of Harte-Hanks had these points to share on a future path:

“If the Postal Service is allowed to manage its own healthcare, get the pre-retirement funding relief from Congress that it is due, and get Congress to back off on leaning in on operations, I believe that we would have a USPS that is both viable and competitive. We should close post offices that only see 1.5 people a day, limit some mail delivery to five days (keep the parcels moving) and have the USPS become more sensitive to pricing. These outcomes require enabling legislation—and that’s a big ‘if’ and certainly not likely in an election year, never mind by 2020 or 2025.”

“I believe the leadership of the USPS, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in particular, has made the right decisions to try and save the post office,” says Paul Ercolino of U.S. Monitor. “Cost cutting, Network Rationalization and five-day delivery are all controversial decisions, but they are essential if the Post Office is to survive in the coming years.”

Hamilton Davison of the American Catalog Mailers Association spoke about innovation—but still sees challenges because of the process of oversight:

“Innovation on the revenue side, or improvements to [the Postal Service’s] cost structure, will only occur if it is given the freedom to experiment free from regulatory or political concerns. While it is right and proper that the enormous market power of the Postal Service not be unchecked, it should be given greater freedom in advancing markets or improving its cost structure without undue concern about these regulatory and political pressures. Management today is handcuffed in too many areas. Barriers to experimentation on a modest scale must be removed so the USPS can demonstrate pathways for greater innovation that can then be rolled out system-wide under the review of a regulator. Getting the regulator involved in early stage exploration of potential innovation is much more cumbersome.”

And Joel Quadrucci of Quad-Graphics spoke to mail’s role in a multichannel, digital-savvy world:

“We live in a multichannel media world, and print is—and will continue to be—a critical marketing and communications channel,” he said. “Print is especially powerful when connected with other channels. Direct mail is a critical channel because of its ability to drive action to numerous other media channels. Direct mail and digital marketing channels will move forward hand in hand, with direct mail creating a compelling call to action and digital marketing channels giving consumers a way to act.”

“The entire world of logistics is evolving along with retail,” Quadrucci continued. “More and more consumers are opting for the convenience of shopping online. We already see it with Amazon building distribution centers all over the country with the goal of facilitating same-day delivery of its products. The USPS could play a pivotal role in this evolving world of logistics; it is has many strengths. But in order to be competitive with alternative delivery systems, it must address its current challenges head-on.”

Clearly marketers must stay engaged with the Postal Service—and with Congress—as we tackle these challenges together. The Postal Service clearly has my support, too. Now if I could only sate Denny Hatch.

An ABC Introduction to Data Mining for Dollars: Slicing and Dicing Your In-House List for Profit (Part 2 of 2)

In my last post, I introduced the RFM method, an effective direct response strategy to slice and dice your list for better conversion rates. The “R” represented recency—how long your customers have been with you. Today, I’m going to talk about the other components of frequency and monetary.

In my last post, I introduced the RFM method, an effective direct response strategy to slice and dice your list for better conversion rates.

The “R” represented recency—how long your customers have been with you.

Today, I’m going to talk about the other components of frequency and monetary:

Frequency
This segmentation tactic is another way to break down your house list: by how frequently customers have bought from you. So once you’ve divided your list based on recency, you look at it in terms of your customers’ purchase behavior. First, you identify your multi-buyers—customers who’ve purchased more than one product from you. You then split this list further, segmenting out two-time, three-time, four-time (and more) buyers. Those who have bought from you most often have proven their loyalty and obviously like the products and services they’ve been getting from you.

So if, for example, you’re considering launching a new product with a high price point, these would be your best prospects.

Monetary
Finally, you look at your list in terms of money. One way to do this is to divide your list by the amount of money each customer has spent with you. You might, for example, assign a benchmark dollar amount, such as $5,000, $10,000 or more. Customers at that level make up your “premium buyers.” This is the group that has the most favorable LTV for your company. These are your “VIPs.” Once you discover who your VIPs are, you can design products or offers specifically for them. Let’s say you have some kind of exclusive—and expensive—lifetime membership club. You would market this to multi-buyers who also fall into your “premium buyer” category.

If you offer payment options to your customers, another monetary way to divide your list is according to the payment options they have chosen: monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. This will help you determine the initial purchase tolerance of each group of customers and which ones may respond best to future price points. As you can see, by looking at your customers’ purchasing habits—recency, frequency and monetary—you can identify the best customers for certain products. And by offering a product to customers who are likely to want it, you can improve your conversion rates.

By using the proven RFM method and other data-mining techniques, I’ve seen conversion rates double and triple. I’ve also seen inactive subscribers’ open rates surge from 0 percent to more than 30 percent.

However, many companies that send emails don’t have the capacity for data mining.
Unfortunately, some smaller businesses or start-up companies typically cut robust email features and analytics for cost savings. Oftentimes, these companies save money using online email service providers that can certainly get the job done, but don’t offer segmentation tools that allow for list analysis, where you can dissect your database into subgroups or “buckets.”

So when you’re searching for an email service provider, try to project what your segmentation needs may be going forward and if data mining is a strategy that you’ll want to deploy.

Hot Tip! When looking at email marketing companies, make sure you ask if there’s a list segmentation or data mining feature that can easily be done through their email platform. Find out the level of segmentation capacity (how far the segmentation of data can be drilled down to); if certain segmentation features are a standard feature or an upgrade; and what those costs may be on a monthly basis. Sometimes it may be an additional fee, but will certainly pay for itself over time.