Are you emailing like its still 1999? You are, if you think sending a single message to a rented database of email addresses is going to get you the high returns email is famous for. Today, "batch and blast" email is out. Email users are long over the thrill of receiving commercial messages in their inboxes. They know what kinds of email they want to get, they know what they don't want, and they will do whatever it takes to keep unwanted email away. Here's what they don't want: email that comes from unfamiliar senders, that comes too often, looks suspicious or contains nothing that interests them. When you become a bother, you also become history. If you're lucky, they'll just unsubscribe. If they don't trust your unsubscribe or understand how to use it, they'll either ignore you or click the spam button in their email programs. Too many spam complaints, and the ISPs will either route your emails to junk-folder purgatory or block them completely. How can you avoid this fate? By understanding that email isn't about you and what you want to tell your subscribers. It's all about them and what they want to receive. That's why we say targeted, relevant email is the Holy Grail of email marketing. It means your recipients not only welcome you in their inboxes, but they anticipate you and they're more likely to open and act on them. So, if targeted email is so great, why isn't everyone doing it? Because it takes more time up front to structure. It's not as simple as loading a single message into your list software, matching it up with the right mailing list and punching "send." You need two things to create more targeted and relevant email messages: information about each of your subscribers (email preferences, interests, purchase history, how long they've been on your list and how active they are on it) and list-management software that lets you slice and dice your database into relevant segments that match that information. So, you might need to restructure your email program to accommodate this more precise messaging. But, the effort is worth it, because targeted, relevant messages outperform batch-and-blast emails. Here are just a few statistics to chew on:
- December 2006 JupiterResearch study found marketing campaigns built around targeted email messages had conversion rates that were two to four times greater than untargeted campaigns.
- Open rates are on average 20% higher on segmented campaigns, according to MarketingSherpa's "Email Marketing Benchmark Guide 2008."
- Click rates in segmented campaigns were 5 times higher the last 90 days of the year (also MarketingSherpa).
Now, how to create this higher-value email? I won't kid you: It takes more time upfront to create targeted messages and to divide your database into relevant segments. However, once you restructure your email program this way, you won't have to do it all over again each time. These strategies will help you reach the new Holy Grail of email marketing: targeted, relevant and timely emails: 1. Let subscribers decide what emails they want to receive from you. This is the beauty of opt-in email marketing and publishing. Your recipients have already told you they want to receive your emails. However, not everyone wants the same message. Give subscribers a preference page where they can customise their email experience on these factors:
- Content: Some want your regular newsletter. Others just want promotions, product information or company news. Some want everything you can send them. Others want news or offers only on certain products of yours. Give them a checklist and let them choose what they want to receive.
- Frequency: Too much email is the single biggest turn-off email users report every holiday shopping season. Give scheduling options (2-3 times weekly, once a week, bi-weekly) instead of mailing whenever you have something to push.
- Format: These days, almost every email reader displays HTML email (with colors, graphics and pictures, often linked to your Web pages) correctly. Still, you should offer a text version too, for people who don't like HTML email or who read email on mobile devices that don't render HTML well or at all.
Use this information to create mini mailing lists within your database. Then, send custom-designed, messages to these mini lists. These emails will resonate better than a mass message mailed to your entire database. Example: You sell pet products through weekly email newsletters and a Web site. Your preference page lets subscribers check off the kinds of pets they have and the information they want to receive. A basic list would include all the animals you cater to: dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, exotics, rodents, etc. If you really want to go wild and create the most personalised experience possible, ask the subscriber to give you the name, age, breed, etc. of each pet. 2. Send email messages that reflect your subscribers' relationship with you or their actions on your previous emails. This is related to the first strategy, but it goes beyond merely letting subscribers tell you what they want. Here, you send emails triggered by their actions (or even inactions). If someone buys a product from one of your emails, or from your Web site, treat that person differently from someone who doesn't even open your messages. Example: You email a message to all of your dog-owning subscribers, offering free shipping on a case of dog food. Subscribers who click on that message and then buy the product might be interested in other products in that line. Target those customers with related special offers or, because it's a product that will eventually run out, send reminders that it's time to buy again. Summing Up: Targeting Takes Time But Pays Off Targeted email campaigns do require more effort up front than "batch-and-blast" messages. But, they also bring in higher returns from a happier email audience, which makes the effort worthwhile.