What’s wrong with email marketing revenue? Nothing, except when it’s not optimized and could easily be 20 percent to 100 percent higher! Plus, how can a business sustain itself when it acts like “that sales guy” who sells you something but leaves you with such a bad taste in your mouth that you regret it and never engage or buy again?
This is what subscribers feel when they faithfully sign up for email marketing and instead get a lousy experience. Face it: All those people on your file who haven’t responded in a long time are likely thinking you’re “that sales guy.”
Email works really well. It’s the reason everyone internally wants to send email messages to every subscriber for each announcement and promotion. Email teams set up these messages despite your nagging fears. You know that too many messages — especially when untargeted and self-promotional — turn off subscribers, churn the file and risk high complaints (i.e., clicks on the “Report Spam” button), which depress inbox placement and response. You see the proof in your data: Some portion, perhaps even a majority, of the file hasn’t opened or clicked in a really long time.
Despite that empirical evidence, it sometimes seems like the magic fountain of email marketing revenue never abates. It’s difficult to make a case for doing the hard work of segmentation and creative testing if the channel still “works” without it.
The truth is, most email marketing programs leave significant revenue on the table. In my experience, even simple segmentation can boost campaign results by up to 150 percent. In 2009, Marketing Sherpa found that segmentation increased overall email campaign results an average of 22 percent.
It’s a clear choice: Either have churn, subscriber fatigue, missed results, lower lifetime values, or earn more sales and revenue, higher short-term and long-term response and value, stronger subscriber satisfaction, and improved word-of-mouth. Why not segment to create better experiences for subscribers?
In defense of marketers, I suspect that part of the reason they don’t segment is because they’re just overwhelmed. Email marketing isn’t “broken,” so it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Thinking this way is a strategic mistake with immense long-term impact. An email marketing file isn’t an all-you-can-eat buffet; it must be nurtured.
Plus, marketers are also ever hopeful. They hope that someone on the file who’s been nonresponsive will one day wake up and start clicking. Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy.
It’s not just permission anymore
The anti-spam community thinks marketers are lazy. Mailbox providers like Yahoo and Gmail — and blacklist owners like those at Spamhaus — blame marketers for sending too frequently to subscribers who aren’t engaging. The penalty is that senders will be blocked from reaching any subscribers on their networks. Marketers must maintain active files to prove their efforts are actually providing value to subscribers.
The problem may be more widespread than you think. Return Path’s Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, for example, found that 20 percent of legitimate commercial email never reaches the inbox in North America. Permission isn’t enough. Senders must track and improve key metrics that affect email deliverability, including complaints, unknown users and file responsiveness.
Subscribers aren’t afraid to call you on irrelevancy by using the delete, unsubscribe or “Report Spam” buttons. It only takes a small number of complaints to get a marketer or publisher blocked. Plus, subscribers who feel marketers abuse the permission they gave them will not only be disgusted with them, but they’ll tell their friends and followers. Social networks make it easy for one person to tell dozens or even hundreds of others that he or she got a stupid email message — even from a brand he or she knows, loves and buys from.
The penalties and blocking filters are getting harsher, but the opportunities are also brighter. Every email marketer can be earning higher response by sending fewer, more targeted messages.
In my April blog post, I’ll discuss ways segmentation can be used to lift response and revenue. Meanwhile, let me know what you think. Please share any ideas or comments below.