May 25 2005

Email Articles This Week

Email Articles This Week

I know, not a real inspired headline.  There are two interesting articles floating around about email marketing this week.  I have a few thoughts on both.

First, David Daniels from Jupiter writes in ClickZ about Assigning a Value to Email Addresses.  David’s numbers show that 71% of marketers don’t put a value on their email addresses.  I think that may be an understatement, but it’s a telling figure nonetheless.  David’s article is right on and gives marketers some good direction on how to think about valuing email addresses.  The one thing he doesn’t address explicitly, though, is how to think about the value of an email address in the context of a multi-channel customer relationship.  Customer Lifetime Value is all good and well, but the more sophisticated marketers take the next step and try to understand by customer (or segment) how valuable email is relative to other channels.

Second, David Baker writes in Mediapost’s Email Insider about Finding New Customers Via Email.  The column is a nice discussion of how important email is to retaining customers.  We at Return Path completely agree.  However, the question Baker posed at the beginning is not well addressed — “Should I use email to find new customers?”

My company works with hundreds of smart marketers every week who say, “Yes!  Because it’s effective, cost efficient and is the only way to combine the relevancy of search with the power of online advertising.”

I applaud Baker’s note of caution to marketers planning to acquire customers via email.  It’s always a good idea to plan the campaign with the same diligence you plan any marketing outreach — making sure the targeting, message, design and offer are all optimized for the prospect interest and the medium.

However, I take great issue with his conclusion that email acquisition marketing “does more harm than good.”  Our clients disprove this claim every day.  Email prospecting done well includes a synergy of organic, viral and paid techniques.  Consumers and business professionals still want to receive relevant and informative offers via email.  More than 50,000 of them sign up every DAY for email offers from Return Path alone.

Poeple who have failed list rental tests (and there are lots of them) need to ask some hard questions of their campaign strategy, their creative, their list rental partner, and their agency.  Did you try to send the same message and design to a list of prospects as you do to your house file?  No wonder no one got the message, they don’t even know you.  Was your list double opt-in?   Did you segment the list by interest category or demographics?  Perhaps your message was mis-targeted.  Did your landing page make it easy to take advantage of the offer?  Did you test on a small portion of the list before blasting the entire file?  Did you optimize your subject line to ensure higher open rates?  Did you try to do too much?  The golden rule of email list rental is “one email, one message.”

The success of many marketers using list rental today can not be ignored.  Done well, email acquisition is extremely powerful.  And, the addition of new lead generation, co-registration and offer aggregation opportunities create even more custom and targeted opportunities to connect with prospects.

It’s too easy to dismiss something that didn’t work two years ago by blaming the medium.  Instead, recognize that old experience for what it was.  A well-intentioned effort to test out a new medium, that didn’t work because many tried to apply practices from other media to it.  Times have changed, and email acquisition has proven its value.

Stick with Daniels’ article, figure out how valuable an email address can be for you, then go out and collect as many of them as you can from customers and prospects who will be all-too-willing to give them to you in exchange for content, offers, and other points of value.