Tag Archives: Email marketing

Marketing, Not Annoying

As the weather warms up (despite a blizzard rearing its ugly head), I start to get ready for the upcoming golf season. For me, that means ordering a supply of balls. I’m too cheap to pay full retail price for the high-end balls that I prefer so I usually order from one or more sites that feature “recycled” golf balls. These are often “one-hit wonders” that some hacker dumped in a pond or the woods and have been reclaimed for sale. High-quality, low-cost = great value, especially for someone like me, who is only going to donate them back to the golf gods in short order.

English: Golf balls.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I placed an order last week for 100 balls. It was an easy transaction with good email communication throughout. It’s what happened over the next few days that is our topic today. You see, I’ve received an email from the site every couple of days, informing me about sales, coupons and other inducements to place an order. The issue in my mind is that I just did buy from them, and even I can’t go through 100 balls in a couple of days. This is symptomatic of a big problem for many brands. We try to use the very effective email channel to communicate and instead we use it to annoy.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with trying to sell via email. Like other channels of communication, however, we can’t use it exclusively for that purpose. If customers are going to enjoy hearing from you, it can’t all be about “ME ME ME!” Providing information that’s helpful from the customer’s point of view is not announcing a sale on items the customer just bought a week ago. That is annoying.

What happened here is that one system – the sales system – wasn’t taking to another system – the marketing system. That might have been acceptable several years ago but today it isn’t. Even Amazon, whose systems are about as cutting edge as anyone’s, will show you remarketing ads for products you just bought. For example, I bought my daughter a snow blower in December through Amazon and yet I was seeing ads from Amazon for the same one I bought on Facebook. That’s not marketing – it’s annoying.

Put yourself in the customer’s position. You hate spam and you probably don’t like a constant barrage of “BUY THIS” emails either. Provide content of value – useful information that helps the customer. Doing so gives you permission to do the hard sell every so often. Don’t silo the various departments – make them communicate and integrate. And for goodness sakes, don’t be annoying!

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Filed under Consulting, Huh?

A Thought About Budgeting

Where are you in your annual planning cycle?  The end of March always seemed to be a time when I would have to begin looking at marketing budgets for the upcoming fiscal, so I had a thought you might want to keep in the back of your mind if you’re entering the process now.  It will be worth thinking about if you plan later on as well.

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of us spend a lot of time looking at the plethora of marketing channels available to us.  Mass media such as TV, more personalized media such as social, and very specific, time-based media such as search tend to dominate our thinking.  That’s the pattern I see with many of my clients at least, and it might be where you are as well.  It’s probably misguided thinking, however.  The reality is that how our customers want us to communicate with them is via email:

MarketingSherpa commissioned an online survey that was fielded August 20-24, 2015 with a nationally representative sample of U.S. consumers. We asked consumers, “In which of the following ways, if any, would you prefer to receive regular updates and promotions from companies that you are interested in doing business with? Please select all that apply.”

After summing up the numbers of consumers who prefer email at a frequency chosen by themselves and email at a frequency set by brand, email emerges as the most preferred way to receive updates and promotions (60%). Notably, subscribing to receive emails at a frequency consumers choose is twice as popular (49%) as subscribing to receive email at a company’s pre-determined frequency (24%).  Email is perhaps unexpectedly followed by snail mail (49%), leaving visiting the company’s website in third place (38%).

In other words, we need to stop thinking in terms of what’s new or what’s sexy and focus on our customers’ wishes.  While you’re spending your time trying to get them to follow you on social media (where the algorithms of the services will probably hide your message anyway), your customers are reading something meaningful.  You should be spending your time – and resources – on re-engaging your email database, building up open and response rates, not blasting out messages that fall on deaf ears.

Something to think about?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media, Helpful Hints

A Gift For Whom?

I received an email yesterday from a golf-related company with which I’ve done business as a consumer. I’m not going to name names, but I’ll bet you’ve had a similar experience as the one I’m about to describe, and you can feel free to hit up the comments, ratting out similar offenders. The note came with the subject line A Genius Gift For You. The body of the mail left me wondering exactly for whom the gift was intended.

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enclosed in the mail was the following offer:

Tell us how (name of their product) helped to make your 2015 golf season great and be entered to win a $200 Amazon Gift Card.

So you’d like me to write you a love letter (which I assume will also require me to give you use of whatever I write in promotional materials) praising your product in return for a chance – and only a chance – to win something? How is that a gift, exactly? When your Aunt Sally comes in with a holiday gift, she doesn’t say “Hey, stroke me out a recommendation for promotion I can give to my boss and just maybe you can be entered in a lottery with all your cousins to win a nice sweater,” does she?

This isn’t bad advertising.  It’s not the equivalent of those horrible Michael Bolton in the snow ads from a couple of years back that never seemed to go away nor some of the random Santa appearances you see in an attempt to holiday up an otherwise bad campaign.  No, this  more Scrooge-like.  Do you want to give me a golf related holiday gift?  Maybe find 10 fantastic game improvement golf videos on Youtube, build a branded playlist, and send me the link?  Improve your game this Christmas!  Don’t like that?  How about a real sweepstakes then, one that doesn’t require me to spend even a second conjuring up what just might be  false praise? Enter me automatically and maybe even offer multiple prizes?

A gift or a present is an item given to someone without the expectation of payment, according to the dictionary.  This isn’t a gift.  Me sending along this free consulting advice to the marketing contact in the email – that’s a gift!  You want in?


Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints, Huh?

Not Sexy (But Effective)

There is a big debate going on about whether advertising is dead. It may be, to a certain extent (that’s a much longer post) but I’m also certain that marketing lives on, albeit in a very different form than it was a decade ago. No matter where you come out on the aforementioned question, you’re probably in the business of reaching out to your customers or potential customers to increase sales. Today’s topic is an unsexy but highly effective way to do just that.  

I hope you or your marketing folks spend a lot of time on email, but I’m doubtful that’s true. It’s “old” technology, and I think we all sort of gravitate to more recent stuff. It’s not as much fun as video or social media nor as interesting as paid search. It just works.  This from the folks at Retention Science:

Although flashier channels like social media and mobile marketing routinely steal headlines, email is still the core of every effective digital marketing strategy…Email marketing generated the highest ROI for eCommerce in 2014, and consistently outperforms other channels in engagement and conversion. Even tech-savvy Millennials prefer to communicate with brands through email; 47 percent of respondents chose email as the preferred channel, while only 6 percent selected social media.

Integral to that statement is the notion of control.  People like that they can see what they want to see and unsubscribe if you’re not helpful (how’s THAT for good feedback!).  Email is much easier to personalize, and the offers can be fine-tuned.  Are you really going to make 100 different videos to reflect the nuances of your customers?  Probably not.

Email is one of those things in business that reminds us that the new, shiny object might not be the best use of our time or resources.  Building a mailing list is hard, and just using content (fill this out for a free whitepaper or report) won’t do it alone.  Great content combined with innovative thinking and smart socialization can help.  So can working with another brand that complements yours.  The reward, however, is well worth the effort.

A personalized ad, delivered which is requested by the customer, delivered when the customer wants it, and which is highly actionable and measurable sounds like email in a nutshell.  It also sounds like a pretty good thing to me.  You?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media

Staying In Second Gear

Imagine you’ve purchased a brand new Ferrari 488GTB.  You are now the proud owner of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission which is in a vehicle said to be capable of 205 mph.  I don’t know about you but I would for damn sure want to find a place where I could get it out of second gear and let the machine perform to its abilities.  It would be a waste to leave it in second gear all the time.

English: Ferrari 458 Italia, pictured in London

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought about that as I read about the Relevancy Group’s 2015 version of the email service provider study.  What struck me was how many of those companies that rely on email marketing are underutilizing the wealth of data they have. Instead they relied on less advanced customer data attributes to segment audiences for email marketing campaigns.  As the eMarketer summary stated:

General demographic and geographic data were the most common metrics used for segmentation, and the only ones used by more than 35% of respondents. Meanwhile, other easily measured data points such as email clicks and open rates were used less frequently—especially the latter—and most marketers were unable to leverage metrics beyond the email realm such as past purchases and spending habits.

How very 2001, although I’m not surprised.  The sad reality is that many companies have no plan, no system, no KPI’s, and no ability to mine and utilize the bulk of the data they already have.  Just over a quarter of marketers have some sort of ability to create a single customer view across channels.  I suspect those of you who aren’t marketers have some of the same issues.  Data can live in silos or be fragmented across reporting lines.  A big problem which gets bigger every day.

How can we get the rest of the email marketing world out of second gear? Part of it is understanding.  It’s nice that many of the marketers surveyed planned to focus more on segmentation and targeting, ranking it the top email marketing priority for 2015.  But unless there is a better understanding of what’s being collected and a commitment to a single repository from which all stakeholders can draw, I don’t see them reaching  top speed in their marketing.  You?

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Calling Customers Stupid Is…

I love it when some company makes my life a little easier and provides the fodder for a post here on the screed. This time it was a car dealer here in town that provided that for us today.

You callin' me stupid?

You callin’ me stupid?

If you’ll look over at the graphic you’ll see what was in my email yesterday.  This was just the graphic part of the email – there was quite a bit of copy that dug the hole a little deeper.  It read:

Drop by our dealership any time during our regular service hours, even without an appointment, and we’ll adjust your vehicle’s clock for you — free of charge. While you’re here, make sure your vehicle weathered the winter and is ready for warm-weather excursions, with an optional multi-point inspection (please call for availability). Don’t waste any more time; visit our dealership and let us help you prepare for the days ahead. We look forward to serving you!

In other words, you’re too dumb to know how to change the clock on the car we sold you.  Let’s put aside the fact that the real purpose of bringing you in is that “multi-point inspection” which may or may not be free.  If you’re going to reach out to your customer base, shouldn’t the  basis of that offer be something of real value to the customer?  Maybe the email should have been instructions on how to change the clock over to daylight savings with an offer to do it for the customer if they’ll bring the car in?  That is providing value – this is an obvious ploy to get people to the service department.  Giving the instructions lets the customer solve the problem (to the extent there really is a problem) in a matter of a few minutes.  This way means the customer needs to take the time to go to the dealer and wait for a service person – a longer process.  The first solution helps the customer; the second is designed to help you.

If we’re going to be helpful to our customers, we should do so in a way that’s customer focused.  My immediate response here is that they think I’m stupid and calling customers stupid is…well…dumb!  Of course, these guys are pretty dumb themselves.  I sold the car they want me to bring in (back to them so they’re very aware) years ago.  They’ve obviously not updated their customer mailing list into “past” and “current” owners in quite some time (I sold the car seven years ago).  Who’s calling whom stupid now?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?

The Dishonor Unroll

If you are a typical email user your box probably gets a fair amount of mail each day that’s not exactly spam but also not of huge interest to you.

Image representing unroll.me as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

That mail may come from companies or services to which you’ve subscribed (probably when you signed up and didn’t uncheck the “send me news” box) but for which you don’t have any great need of immediate news. If you’re a power email user you’ve probably figured out how to set up filters in your email client to dump those mails into a folder you can check later. For the rest of us there’s Unroll.me.

Unroll.me is a service that does just that. As they put it, you can unsubscribe from unwanted email subscriptions, discover new ones and organize them all in one place. From that they create what they call a Rollup:

The Rollup is a digest that gives you an overview of all the subscriptions you receive each day. The Rollup will keep your inbox clean by organizing the subscriptions you receive into a daily digestible email.

The screed today isn’t a love note to the service although I do use it and find it useful.  As you might imagine, the company collects an awful lot of information about who is subscribed to what since it is granted permission to look at your email stream.  It also knows what percentage of people who subscribe to something either unsubscribe or send the mail to the Rollup and not to the inbox.  They stopped over 1 billion emails from reaching their users’ inboxes in 2013.  And from whom do those emails come?

Funny you should ask.  Unroll.me just published lists of the companies who get dumped and who get aggregated.  These are the companies from which users unsubscribe:

  1. 1800 Flowers — 52.50% unsubscribe rate
  2. Ticketweb — 47.50% unsubscribe rate
  3. Pro Flowers — 45.10% unsubscribe rate
  4. Expedia — 45.00% unsubscribe rate
  5. Active.com — 44.70% unsubscribe rate
  6. Eventful — 44.20% unsubscribe rate
  7. Oriental Trading — 43.60% unsubscribe rate
  8. Shopittome.com — 42.10% unsubscribe rate
  9. 1800 Contacts — 42.00% unsubscribe rate
  10. Party City — 41.60% unsubscribe rate

I’ve only listed the top 10 – the link will show you more.  Now if I’m on the above list I’d be asking myself why.  I can answer the question:  you’re not providing anything of value.  My guess is the mails tend to be about you and not about your customers.  Perhaps you’re opting people in for your mail as a default instead of allowing them to make the choice.  Compare that list with the Top 10 most rolled up companies:

  1. Hulu — 61.60% Rollup rate
  2. AmazonLocal Deals — 46.00% Rollup rate
  3. GoDaddy — 44.40% Rollup rate
  4. Codecademy — 40.50% Rollup rate
  5. Google Offers — 39.00% Rollup rate
  6. Evernote — 36.40% Rollup rate
  7. Microsoft — 34.90% Rollup rate
  8. About.me — 34.40% Rollup rate
  9. Groupon — 32.80% Rollup rate
  10. LivingSocial Deals — 32.40% Rollup rate

These guys are offering value although not enough so that users feel the need to see their news immediately.  Not awful, but if you’re in a time-based offer business like GroupOn or LivingSocial, this could be a problem.

If your business uses email for communication, think about what, how, and how often you’re using that list to communicate.  Time is a precious commodity and all of us have less of it than we’d like.  To get customers to give your mail some of that time you need to provide value – a return on that time investment.  Otherwise, unsubscribes result and you’re on the list next year.  Not a place I’d like to be.  You?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?, Reality checks