Over the last 10 years, email marketing has become an incredibly effective and affordable component of an integrated marketing campaign. However, with the advent of more savvy consumers, SPAM legislation and better software to protect the consumer, marketers are increasingly looking for new ways to leverage email marketing and capitalize on its broad reach to a variety of consumer demographics.
There are several ways to leverage email as a marketing tool, but not quite like typical email campaigns of the past, which was a batch and blast theory where the more email you sent to a broad audience the better. The most effective campaigns have been utilized as a part of an overall integrated marketing campaign, where the email stands in support of the rich media advertising, print, direct mail, so the same messaging is seen in all aspects of consumer reach. For an online publisher, it would be the idea that the email supports the branding or messaging on the site, and whether it be from advertising or an editorial perspective, the email message is an extension of that messaging.
Rarely if ever now do you see an effective email campaign that acts as a standalone promotion. It is used as an overall messaging campaign, driving consumer, prospect, or client engagement with an overall marketing campaign. One of the most interesting concepts that is evolving, according to the Mobile Marketing Association, is utilizing email as a supplement to mobile campaigns to drive awareness and engagement from the consumer. The idea of using each medium as a support for the other rather than each channel having a specific message. The creative may not be the same, but the core messaging and the overall theme remain constant. SO if you are reading a newspaper, you can draw the correlation that you saw a Nike ad online as well.
There are several issues that a marketer must contend with when utilizing email marketing in the current marketplace. The key issues, however, really have not changed over the past 5-6 years; in fact, they are just getting more pronounced. The major issues facing marketers is deliverability, the ability to get into the end user’s inbox rather than the junk mail folder. This is a constant problem due to robust spam filtering by the ISP’s and individual email clients. A marketer has to be aware of not just the subject line and content of the message avoiding common spam phrases like Free, or Limited Time, but the From address of the message, the IP of machine sending the messages, and the manner in which the message is sent (is it a mass mailing list or is it the same message repeated mailed to individual recipients, the latter can be flagged as spam from the Senders own ISP!).
Other issues obviously are the viability and deliverability of an email address, Even if you are a bonded sender or on a “white” list from the ISP perspective, end users are becoming incredibly tech-savvy in their ability to navigate the utilization of their own filtering, something that has become more of an issue in the last 18-24 months. So even if the marketer has done everything right the end user could still be flagging them as spam because they are unaware of the fact that they have subscribed to the list, or that they are not receiving messages they should be simply due to the sheer volume of messages flowing in cyber space.
Because of this decreased deliverability, email marketing on the surface has lost its effectiveness because the consumer response has seemingly been declining. However, as you continue to look at the available data of a campaign, you will see that the response rates have really stayed the same if you get your email delivered. It is the fact that a large percentage of email is getting diverted outside of the consumer’s inbox so it appears as if your response rates are dropping. Because you do not get a hard or soft bounce (a technical message stating that the email address is invalid or that the mail has been delayed due to inbox limitations or slow response time) when your mail gets diverted to a spam folder, you have to assume that it was delivered to the desired recipient in the standard fashion and therefore your response seemingly goes down when in fact it has never been delivered. Once the email is opened it is still as effective (as long as the message has a strong compelling component) it is really your OPEN rate–the number of people who actually view the message–that has gone down.
The big challenge facing a marketer today is how to engage the consumer to actually open the message once it does get delivered. It is apparent that the marketers are becoming more aware of what the consumer wants to hear not just what the marketer has to say. The most effective marketing campaigns are the ones that have a clear purpose and are sent because they can add value to the recipient in some way, and the marketers that are only sending messages when that is the case are seeing the best responses. Community-based sites such as Gather and Spire.com have seen similar approaches increase their member engagement and the response rates of the emails they do send are in fact driving greater response.
The traditional marketing calendar of systematic touches to the consumer or mailing list are being set aside for a more relevant messaging strategy. If a marketer has been sending emails communication on a bi-weekly basis and realizes they would be sending the next message simply because it is on the calendar as needing to be sent, but there is no relevant or new information, they are better served by simply skipping that messaging cycle until they do have something of value to offer their recipient.
This strategy allows for the consumer not to feel bombarded with messaging for the sake of messaging. Also, a key component to an effective email marketing campaign now is to establish a level of trust with your membership rather than simply hawking the next best promotion or the next new thing. You establish a level of credibility by offering insight or insider access first and then in subsequent emails, you have the ability to offer services and goods in a way that seems as if you are offering advice rather than selling something.
Of course, you have heard the cries from traditional direct marketers saying the art of email is dying and offline direct mail is resurging. Well, the latter is true but the former is not accurate at all. Email marketing has by no means bottomed out; it is still one of the most cost effective and immediate ways to reach your target market, and the ability to segment and analyze the data is invaluable. The key to maximizing the effectiveness comes in your firm’s ability to message appropriately for your audience and the technology between them.
Publishers, as I said are going back to direct mail, but only as a component of an integrated marketing campaign. They are using various channels, rich media, direct mail, email, key word, print, radio for a consistent overall integrated message–rather than the previous approach, which was to use a more integrated approach across standard channels while using email as a separate marketing campaign.