‘Too Much’ Is a Relative Term for Promotional Marketing

If a marketer sends you 20 promotional emails in a month, is that too much? You may say “yes” without even thinking about it. Then why did you not opt out of Amazon email programs when they send far more promotional stuff to you every month?

If a marketer sends you 20 promotional emails in a month, is that too much? You may say “yes” without even thinking about it. Then why did you not opt out of Amazon email programs when they send far more promotional stuff to you every month? Just because it’s a huge brand? I bet it’s because “some” of its promotions are indeed relevant to your needs.

Marketers are often obsessed with KPIs, such as email delivery, open, and clickthrough rates. Some companies reward their employees based on the sheer number of successful email campaign deployments and deliveries. Inevitably, such a practice leads to “over-promotions.” But does every recipient see it that way?

If a customer responds (opens, clicks, or converts, where the conversion is king) multiple times to those 20 emails, maybe that particular customer is NOT over-promoted. Maybe it is okay for you to send more promotional stuff to that customer, granted that the offers are relevant and beneficial to her. But not if she doesn’t open a single email for some time, that’s the very definition of “over-promotion,” leading to an opt-out.

As you can see, the sheer number of emails (or any other channel promotion) to a person should not be the sole barometer. Every customer is different, and recognition of such differences is the first step toward proper personalization. In other words, before worrying about customizing offers and products for a target individual, figure out her personal threshold for over-promotion. How much is too much for everyone?

Figuring out the magic number for each customer is a daunting task, so start with three basic tiers:

  1. Over-promoted,
  2. Adequately promoted, and
  3. Under-promoted.

To get to that, you must merge promotional history data (not just for emails, but for every channel) and response history data (which includes open, clickthrough, browse, and conversion data) on an individual level.

Sounds simple? But marketing organizations rarely get into such practices. Most attributions are done on a channel level, and many do not even have all required data in the same pool. Worse, many don’t have any proper match keys and rules that govern necessary matching steps (i.e., individual-level attribution).

The issue is further compounded by inconsistent rules and data availability among channels (e.g., totally different practices for online and offline channels). So much for the coveted “360-Degree Customer View.” Most organizations fail at “hello” when it comes to marrying promotion and response history data, even for the most recent month.

But is it really that difficult of an operation? After all, any respectful direct marketers are accustomed to good old “match-back” routines, complete with resolutions for fractional allocations. For instance, if the target received multiple promotions in the given study period, which one should be attributed to the conversion? The last one? The first one? Or some credit distribution, based on allocation rules? This is where the rule book comes in.

Now, all online marketers are familiar with reporting tools provided by reputable players, like Google or Adobe. Yes, it is relatively simple to navigate through them. But if the goal is to determine who is over-promoted or adequately promoted, how would you go about it? The best way, of course, is to do the match-back on an individual level, like the old days of direct marketing. But thanks to the sheer volume of online activity data and complexity of match-back, due to the frequent nature of online promotions, you’d be lucky if you could just get past basic “last-click” attribution on an individual level for merely the last quarter.

I sympathize with all of the dilemmas associated with individual-level attributions, so allow me to introduce a simpler way (i.e., a cheat) to get to the individual-level statistics of over- and under-promotion.

Step 1: Count the Basic Elements

Set up the study period of one or two years, and make sure to include full calendar years (such as rolling 12 months, 24 months, etc.). You don’t want to skew the figures by introducing the seasonality factor. Then add up all of the conversions (or transactions) for each individual. While at it, count the opens and clicks, if you have extracted data from toolsets. On the promotional side, count the number of emails and direct mails to each individual. You only have to worry about the outbound channels, as the goal is to curb promotional frequency in the end.

Step 2: Once You Have These Basic Figures, Divide ‘Number of Conversions’ by ‘Number of Promotions’

Perform separate calculations for each channel. For now, don’t worry about the overlaps among channels (i.e., double credit of conversions among channels). We are only looking for directional guidelines for each individual, not comprehensive channel attribution, at this point. For example, email responsiveness would be expressed as “Number of Conversions” divided by “Number of Email Promotions” for each individual in the given study period.

Step 3: Now That You Have Basic ‘Response Rates’

These response rates are for each channel and you must group them into good, bad, and ugly categories.

Examine the distribution curve of response rates, and break them into three segments of one.

  1. Under-promoted (the top part, in terms of response rate),
  2. Adequately Promoted (middle part of the curve),
  3. Over-promote (the bottom part, in terms of response rate).

Consult with a statistician, but when in hurry, start with one standard deviation (or one Z-score) from the top and the bottom. If the distribution is in a classic bell-curve shape (in many cases, it may not be), that will give roughly 17% each for over- and under-promoted segments, and conservatively leave about 2/3 of the target population in the middle. But of course, you can be more aggressive with cutoff lines, and one size will not fit all cases.

In any case, if you keep updating these figures at least once a month, they will automatically be adjusted, based on new data. In other words, if a customer stops responding to your promotions, she will consequently move toward the lower segments (in terms of responsiveness) without any manual intervention.

Putting It All Together

Now you have at least three basic segments grouped by their responsiveness to channel promotions. So, how would you use it?

Start with the “Over-promoted” group, and please decrease the promotional volume for them immediately. You are basically training them to ignore your messages by pushing them too far.

For the “Adequately Promoted” segment, start doing some personalization, in terms of products and offers, to increase response and value. Status quo doesn’t mean that you just repeat what you have been doing all along.

For “Under-promoted” customers, show some care. That does NOT mean you just increase the mail volume to them. They look under-promoted because they are repeat customers. Treat them with special offers and exclusive invitations. Do not ever take them for granted just because they tolerated bombardments of promotions from you. Figure out what “they” are about, and constantly pamper them.

Find Your Strategy

Why do I bother to share this much detail? Because as a consumer, I am so sick of mindless over-promotions. I wouldn’t even ask for sophisticated personalization from every marketer. Let’s start with doing away with carpet bombing to all. That begins with figuring out who is being over-promoted.

And by the way, if you are sending two emails a day to everyone, don’t bother with any of this data work. “Everyone” in your database is pretty much over-promoted. So please curb your enthusiasm, and give them a break.

Sometimes less is more.

How an E.P.I.C. Cover Letter Lands You More Interviews

Do cover letters even get read any more? When you write an E.P.I.C. cover letter — Employer-focused, Promotional, Interesting and includes a Call to Action — your phone will be ringing with calls for interviews. Let’s do a deep dive into each of these components.

Cover LetterDoes your cover letter even get read any more? Is that what you’re thinking? If so, you’re not alone. I’m happy to tell you that yes, they do get read and they matter. According to Jobvite’s 2015 Recruiter Nation Survey, 37 percent of recruiters say cover letters matter.

In a survey by my colleague Thomas Powner at Career Thinker Inc. 49 percent of recruiters stated they read the cover letter after the resume and 53 percent said it did impact their decision on requesting a phone interview. Best of all, 59 percent said a great cover letter can boost a marginal resume.

When you write an E.P.I.C. cover letterEmployer-focused, Promotional, Interesting and includes a Call to Action — your phone will be ringing with calls for interviews. Let’s do a deep dive into each of these components.

Employer-Focused

In job search it’s not what the employer can do for you, but what you can do for the employer. The first step in writing an E.P.I.C. cover letter is to capture the reader’s attention by focusing on them.

One way to do this is to write an introduction that focuses on the employer’s needs.

Take the reader to their ideal world

Imagine if you could have a Director of Marketing on your team who brings integrated marketing campaigns to life and knows how to leverage various media platforms to obtain the best results. What if that person also understands how to use data to make strategic decisions and create actionable marketing plans? Now take a look at the enclosed resume to see that person is applying for the Director of Marketing position at Acme Technology.

Show your shared vision or mission

Like Acme’s unrelenting focus on client service, I take a tenacious approach in leading companies through turnaround and growth strategies during periods of both declining revenues and rapid growth. Now, I would like to play a critical role in ensuring Acme’s values and culture are maintained during your next period of growth as Wealth Management Chief Administrative Officer.

You’ve probably heard advice like this before, but it’s really important to customize your letter for each organization you apply to. I am not just talking about swapping out a name of an organization. If the job posting asks certain questions, be sure you answer them in your letter. If there are specific attributes listed, demonstrate how you have those attributes.

Look at this snippet from a job description at Aha! for a Sr. Digital Marketing Manager: Has a “get it done” attitude and a background of delivering superb work again and again.

Here is how a letter could be customized for this description: When I was a Digital Marketing Manager at Acme, I was constantly assigned special projects. This was because my director knew she could count on me to problem solve and get things done.

Another avenue for customizing your letter is to state why you want to work for the company. Don’t be afraid to say how you’ve been a customer and your experience inspired you to apply. Think about companies with strong brands like Trader Joes or Apple. You better make sure your letter talks about how you look good in Hawaiian shirts or crave innovation if you’re applying to either of these companies.

Depending how badly you want to work for a certain organization, the more effort you put into your whole application, the better. Take a look at what Nina Mufleh did to land an interview at Airbnb.

Promotional

Besides being focused on your potential employer, it’s important to show why you’re a great fit for the position. This is where being promotional comes in.

What Donald Trump’s Win Means for Promotional Products

Donald Trump shocked the world last Tuesday when he won the 2016 presidential election. While political campaigns are usually won on the issues, there’s another element that I think is worth looking into: promotional products.

(Image via CNN)
(Image via CNN)

[Target Marketing’s take: This piece notes “branded merchandise sales can predict an election.” So, too, can core product sales be related to the success of associated goods. For instance, Nike sells shoes. And yet, sales of “Just Do It” shirts and co-founder Phil Knight’s book “Shoe Dog” also soar. So this Promo article has plenty of import for TM readers.]

Donald Trump shocked the world last Tuesday when he won the 2016 presidential election. While political campaigns are usually won on the issues, there’s another element that I think is worth looking into: promotional products.

It may be a leap, but I believe promotional products played a huge part in this presidential election. With that in mind, here are a few key takeaways you can apply to your next promotional campaign.

1. Promotional Products Matter – Big Time

We told you that Trump spent more on hats than polling, and it sure seems that budget allocation paid off for his campaign. The “Make America Great Again” hats became a symbol for his campaign, and effectively communicated his message throughout the election.

(Image via Trump's online store)
(Image via Trump’s online store)

For future promotional success, political leaders need to place more weight on one solidified campaign slogan that extends across all merchandise. While Hillary bet hard on her “I’m With Her” slogan, there were multiple official Hillary phrases that permeated the campaign. Instead, she might have found more success strengthening one campaign slogan.

2. The End-users Have Merchandising Power, Too

While each political nominee obviously released branded political merchandise, they were far from the only ones. Voters everywhere capitalized on election micro-moments and created their own merchandise based on viral memes. From the “Nasty Women” T-shirts to “Proud to be a Deplorable” apparel, the campaign was rampant with end-user impact.

(Image via PopSugar)
(Image via PopSugar)

For the future, political candidates can encourage their constituents to submit their own political designs, in order to give the people what they want. That way, when potential voters go to purchase this political merchandise, the political campaign will actually be getting the money, instead of places like CafePress and TeeSpring.

3. Branded Merchandise Sales Can Predict an Election

It’s a pretty bold statement, but one that proved the be true, according to Louisville Business First. CafePress has accurately predicted the presidential winner since 1999, and it correctly predicted Trump this year. But, how did the company get it right? Well, via the merchandise sales.

(Image via Bloomberg)
(Image via Bloomberg)

As of September, pro-Trump merchandise was outselling pro-Hillary merchandise by 20 percent. And, Philly.com pointed out that Trump sold more lawn signs.

Now that you know the weight of promotional apparel, you understand how important it is to dedicate time and resources to a great promotional campaign. The more people who see it on the streets, the more likely they are to keep a candidate top-of-mind.

Email Marketing Redefined: Driving Sales

Increasing sales is the primary objective for most email campaigns. Email marketing works so well for driving revenue that people forget it is a multifaceted tool. There is a tendency to create a template and then delegate its population to a lower level team member. Doing this provides consistent revenue generation without requiring allocating additional resources. Since it works so well, why invest in making it better. The argument against the status quo in email marketing is simple. Redefining your strategy increases sales, improves loyalty and reduces costs.

Increasing sales is the primary objective for most email campaigns. Email marketing works so well for driving revenue that people forget it is a multifaceted tool. There is a tendency to create a template and then delegate its population to a lower level team member. Doing this provides consistent revenue generation without requiring allocating additional resources. Since it works so well, why invest in making it better

The argument against the status quo in email marketing is simple. Redefining your strategy increases sales, improves loyalty and reduces costs. It is an investment that delivers a strong return. The best thing about changing your strategy is that it can be done without having a negative effect on revenue. There is no down time or culture shock if you implement the execution gradually. To do this, plan your new approach complete with expected responses from your customers and then start adding your new messages to the mix.

If you are uncomfortable about making changes because your email campaigns are working so well, select a segment of customers to test your new strategy. Comparing the results with your control will help you determine the best way to go forward. In addition to guiding you down the right path, the results provide analytical proof that making the changes benefits your company.

There are four types of emails that contribute to short-term sales and long-term growth—Promotional, Highlight, Trigger and Informational. There may be some crossover between the types, but each email should have one primary objective. Limiting the focus improves response and makes it easier to measure results. A singular message is less confusing to recipients. People respond better when they know exactly what you want them to do.

  • Promotional emails include special offers, discounts and events. They are time sensitive and predictable. With a little history, marketers can project the number of orders and amount of revenue generated from each planned email with a high level of accuracy. People respond well to promotional emails because of the time sensitivity and the opportunity to save money or participate in an event. This is the staple of your email strategy because of the effectiveness in delivering short-term revenue.
  • Highlight emails showcase products and services. They may be used to introduce new items or share additional information on established ones. These emails are most effective when sent to segmented lists of people who have shown an interest in the items by inquiry or purchase. They deliver a higher return on investment than promotional emails because the items are offered at full price.
  • Trigger emails put your marketing on autopilot. They are designed to automatically transmit when people perform specific actions. They can be used to welcome new subscribers, provide transactional information and convert abandoned carts. Best practices begin with the creation of the emails and follow with consistent review of the results to provide continuous improvement.
  • Informational emails educate your customers and prospects. They may include promotional information in the form of links, but their primary objective is to teach people how to use your products and services. It’s very easy to presume that the people that shop with your company know what they need and what you provide. This presumption costs you money because it is rarely true. Educated customers and prospects are more loyal and buy more often. Teaching people what they need to know provides long-term value.

To get started redefining your sales strategy:

  1. Review your existing campaigns. Make a list of what works, what doesn’t and what’s missing. Do you have an abandoned cart strategy? Are informational emails sent on a regular basis? When was the last time you changed your welcome email? Are products being introduced and highlighted?
  2. Outline your new strategy. Define and prioritize your corporate objectives for your email marketing. Using the review, identify opportunities to increase sales, reduce costs, improve loyalty and accomplish any other objectives. Rank the opportunities by how well they match corporate priorities. Document the results so you will have a path to follow.
  3. Test everything. Create an email or series of emails designed to fulfill a high priority objective. Select a segment of customers or prospects most likely to respond to your campaign. Define specific goals to be achieved before sending the first email. Send the emails, review the results and revise as needed. Repeat.

Expanding your email arsenal to include trigger, highlight and informational emails changes your strategy from one-off offers to integrated campaigns. It engages customers and prospects and makes them more responsive to all of your emails. Isn’t it time to do this for your business?

Introducing ‘The Integrated Email’ Blog by Debra Ellis

Why is email marketing so effective? Is it the one-to-one communication, ability to connect with customers and prospects on the go, or the provision of instant gratification with one-click shopping? The answer depends on the company and the customer relationship, but there is one universal truth: The combination of interactive communication with self-service solutions makes email the most versatile tool in a marketing workshop.

Why is email marketing so effective? Is it the one-to-one communication, ability to connect with customers and prospects on the go, or the provision of instant gratification with one-click shopping? The answer depends on the company and the customer relationship, but there is one universal truth: The combination of interactive communication with self-service solutions makes email the most versatile tool in a marketing workshop.

My experience with email marketing began shortly after Hotmail launched the first Web-based email service in 1996. A client had compiled approximately 11,000 customer email addresses and wondered what we could do with them. Our first test was a 25 percent discount on any order placed that day. A text-only message was sent using the mail merge functionality in Excel and Outlook. It took over two hours to send all the emails.

Those two hours were quite exciting. We had two computers in close proximity so we could watch the progress of the outgoing emails and monitor sales on the website. Within minutes of starting the email transmissions, orders started flowing in. By the end of the day, more than 1900 orders were received. A handful of people asked to be excluded from future mailings. Over 200 people responded with personal notes. Some were grateful for the discount. Others apologized for not placing an order and asked to receive more emails.

Things are much different today. The novelty of receiving a personalized message from a company is long gone. Spam filters make getting emails delivered a near impossible mission. And the competition for recipients’ attention is at an all-time high. Even so, email marketing remains one of most effective marketing and service vehicles available.

The emails that deliver the best return on investment are the ones that are integrated with the other marketing channels to provide information and service to the recipients. They create a connection between company and customer that motivates people to respond. A successful email marketing strategy builds loyalty while increasing sales.

Many email campaigns today are little more than a systematic generation of one promotional email after another. Discount emails are relatively easy to create and deliver sales with each send, making them a quick way to inject some life into lagging sales. The simplicity of sale marketing combined with solid response rates creates an environment where marketers are reluctant to move beyond the easy, low-hanging fruit.

In addition to generating sales, discount marketing also trains people to always look for the best price before buying the company’s products and services. It is not a sustainable strategy because there will always be another company that can offer lower prices and lure customers away. A better plan is to develop an integrated email marketing strategy that educates and encourages people to develop a relationship with the company. This requires more effort, but it delivers loyalty and long-term results.

Every email that a customer or prospect receives is an opportunity for the company to establish itself as the best service provider and solidify the relationship. Best practices include:

  • Using a valid return email address so the recipient can respond with one click.
  • Sending branded emails that identify your company at first glance.
  • Mixing educational emails that provide “how to” information for products and services with new product launches and promotional messages.
  • Transactional emails that communicate shipping information and challenges so customers aren’t left wondering, “Where is my order?”
  • Highly targeted and personalized emails designed to engage customers and prospects at every point in their lifespan.

Finding the right combination of educational, event and promotional emails requires testing and measuring results for incremental improvements. The resources invested improve relationships, increase sales and create a sustainable marketing strategy.

Note: Over the next few months, we’ll feature winning and losing email marketing strategies and campaigns on this blog. If you would like to share your company’s killer emails, send them to Debra at dellis@wilsonellisconsulting.com.