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Been there, done that and it didn’t work

August 11, 2008

It’s for sure that for every company that’s been successful at email marketing there are many, many more for whom it has not worked well. As we dig deeper it’s fairly easy to see why. Perhaps they have pulled 1,000 names, placed the addresses in the bcc field in MS Outlook and sent the emails so the recipient figures they’ve been ‘spammed’ which is essentially what this amounts to.

These are large companies who have decided to try email marketing. Maybe their total marketing budget is in the £100,000 to £1,000,000 range and they’ve spent about £300 on their email marketing trial. As with any marketing activity for it to work the required resource has to be put behind the activity.

So if you tried it and it didn’t work, or you’re thinking of trying it and want it to work but want to know some of the pitfalls, then below we have outlined some of the reasons we have seen that have caused email campaigns not to work: 

In General

Did your email look like you cared about your relationship with the recipient? Chances are that if you sent it out using a bulk email method then it didn’t. Sure you got a few responses but the percentage will most probably have been in the 1% range and the unsubscribe requests high. A well-planned and executed campaign will deliver 20 times the response rate of that type of campaign. The time and energy you spend on planning the campaign will be rewarded by a high response rate and the ensuing business. 

Personalise

Was your message personal? Did you include any history in the communication? Did you present a compelling reason as to why you sent the email? If you started your message ‘Dear Customer, We are writing to …’ then your response will be a fraction of that if you’d said ‘Dear John, As you purchased a XYZ back in September last year from our ABC store I just thought I’d send you a note…’. It looks personal and human and as though you care.

The Message

Was the message written in a friendly manner amounting to not much more than a few paragraphs? Writing copy for an email campaign requires a different approach to that of a direct mail campaign. This is covered to a certain degree in this month’s article outlining the differences between traditional marketing and email marketing. Email is an informal method of communication, so make sure you use it that way.

The Action

Was the action ‘email friendly’? The only real calls to action that will generate a high response rate are requesting a click through to a website or a direct reply to the mail. We have talked to a number of companies where the call to action has been too complex and time consuming and hence the campaign has failed, yet fundamentally the offer was good.

The List

Did you buy in a list or market to an in-house list? There are numerous opt-in email lists available but was the quality what you were expecting?

If not it probably manifested itself in the response rate. Without doubt the best responses are obtained by working with your in-house list. Your customers know you and you will probably have some history of your relationship that you can include as a reason for writing to them. Maybe your energies would be better spent working on collecting email addresses for your in-house lists.

At extravision one of our busiest teams is the one involved in email acquisition that collects email addresses to build up email lists. (See our whitepaper on Building an email list). 

Unsubscribe

Did you offer an unsubscribe option? If not then maybe you got into some prolific email exchanges with customers that didn’t want to receive a mail. You absolutely have to offer an unsubscribe option and honour it. You also need to be able to process them quickly and effectively. The same is true for bounces. If you send out 5,000 emails and get 1,000 bounced mail and 300 unsubscribe requests then that takes some manual processing. Incoming email automation is the way forward.

So, in conclusion

Email marketing is somewhat different to traditional marketing as the costs of sending out an email can be low/free when compared to the amount of cost and effort required for a mail based campaign. Because of this, sometimes the temptation is to try it with no real commitment and when it fails, well it didn’t cost much so that’s OK. The problem with that is that a company working in a dynamic market with more than a few hundred customers is missing out on one of the greatest ways to build relationships and generate incremental business.

If you would like any further information, please email [email protected] or call 0161 817 2929

Posted by Paul Latham
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