Sep 12 2007

Unleashing the True Power of Email

Unleashing the True Power of Email

A recent Behavioral Insider column had a truly tantalizing quote from iPost’s Steve Webster:

"There is the presumption that when someone receives an email message they then click on the email go to the Web site and either make a purchase or not and then they are done interacting with your email. This turned out to be wrong. We discovered very quickly that the power of an email impression lasts for weeks after the customer has actually received the message. The particular interaction they will have with you later really depends more on their personal preferences than on your putting a new email in front of them."

The highlighted portion is a point we’ve been making here at Return Path for years now.  Emails are not perceived by recipients as distinct, one-off promotions.  But many marketers continue to view them that way and make both strategic and tactical errors because of that.  Here are a five things you need to start doing – right now – if you want to capitalize on the true power of email:

1. Stop analyzing each email in a vacuum.  The whole is worth more than the sum of the parts.  The deeper you can dive into your data and analyze the whole program and how recipients interact (or don’t) the better decisions you can make.  Be sure to read the entire Behavioral Insider column – some of the tests they describe around segmentation reveal how email does or doesn’t influence purchasing and how it can be used more effectively.

2. Sending ever more email isn’t the answer.  To the point above, more email seldom makes buyers buy more.  Marketers don’t quite believe this because every email blast they deploy results in revenue.  But the point this column makes is that you have to look at what is happening at the individual level.  It soon becomes clear that sending targeted, segmented email – less email per person – is more effective.

3. Look past the click. As a corollary to #1, many marketers believe if a subscriber doesn’t click, they haven’t interacted.  This clearly isn’t the case.  The smartest marketers segment their non-clickers into buckets.  For example, a retailer might look at non-clickers who are openers, online purchasers, site browsers or in-store purchasers.  If you have an email recipient who browses your website every other week and then purchases in store once per quarter, it is nutty to assume that the email isn’t influencing that just because they don’t click through.

4. Reliance on CPA is going to bite youYesterday my colleague Craig Swerdloff wrote about CPA versus CPM in list rental on the Return Path corporate blog.  Marketers believe that CPA is the best deal for them because they only pay for performance.  The problem is that CPA often requires a very high degree of volume to achieve success for both publisher and marketer.  All those extra emails don’t just self-destruct and wipe the memory of the recipient who doesn’t take your "action."  They’ve still made an impression – positive or negative.  Both CPA and CPM can be effective, but you need to work with an expert who understands that email is about more than clicks.

5. Permission + value = ROI. Steve Webster’s quote goes on to point out that "We thought the quality of the … creative made all the difference. It turns out that it does – but not nearly as much as the fact that [the email] made an impression on a customer who actually was interested in receiving an email from you."  Sending email without permission, as defined by the customer not by you, is a non-starter.  The first step is getting that person to proactively sign up, and then making sure they recognize your emails as desired.  Then the value piece kicks in.  Do you send what you promised?  Do your emails exceed their expectations?  Do you delight them?  The more yeses you rack up there, the more revenue your email will generate.