Five Ways to Leverage E-mail in a Down Economy

  |  November 13, 2008   |  Comments

A customer analytics program for e-mail campaigns can unlock revenue.

Few companies have escaped the turmoil of the economic crisis. And marketing budgets are usually first to take the hit.

While marketing budgets shrink, a greater portion of marketing dollars are shifting to digital media -- and for good reason. When times are tough, marketers require the ability to measure, prove ROI (define), and focus on the most efficient means to reach customers. E-mail, in particular, allows marketers a cost-effective way to stay close to core customers, leveraging customer data and analytics to extract greater value from their existing base.

Are today's e-mail marketers rising to the challenge? It's one thing to talk about using customer analytics to drive business and quite another to actually do it.

Too often, e-mail marketers fail to leverage what they know about their customers to drive relevant offers and content to maximize conversions and transactions. Companies that build a large list of subscribers without a concurrent analytics strategy leave 90 percent of the list's value untapped. That's a shortcoming you can't afford.

Marketers seeking the most value from their customer contact strategy without spending additional funds should work on gaining an advanced understanding of their customers through their e-mail response data. This should enable marketers to develop more targeted, relevant offers, and messaging. If you aren't putting your analytics to work, now's the time to roll up your sleeves and get started.

Go Beyond Opens and Clicks

More than 40 percent of e-mail marketers say they use only basic metrics, such as open and click rates, according to a recent Forrester Research report. While that's better than forgoing analysis entirely, it's not enough. Marketers will find much better results and achieve greater, faster ROI when they implement an advanced behavioral analysis, taking into account what consumers do on a Web site once they click in the e-mail.

Track Web Site Behavior

The goal of nearly every e-mail is to drive traffic to a Web page; yet most tracking only focuses on the e-mail. Most analytics vendor tools integrate with e-mail providers quite easily, but few companies tie together e-mail and site analytics and then on the information.

Site behavior, such as Web site categories an e-mail recipient visits or shopping cart abandonment, can drive far more relevant e-mail campaigns. Analyzing Web site behavior should be the cornerstone of any advanced e-mail campaign because it will produce more relevant e-mails without additional costs.

Increase Order Sizes, Not List Size

Over the years, marketers faced with a looming revenue target have turned to e-mail marketing to make up a shortfall. The most frequent method for hitting that goal, however, has been to increase the volume of e-mails sent to the house list.

It's easy to lean on this method because it's inexpensive and can bring needed short-term results. During a widespread slowdown, too many marketers use this as their core strategy.

The result? Consumers watch their e-mail boxes fill with untargeted messages several times a week. Neither marketers nor consumers really benefit from this unfocused, easy-way-out strategy. Rather than solely increasing list size, look to increase average order sizes and overall revenue by creating a long-term testing program while improving segmentation and targeting to your house list.

Test, Test, Test

Only 23 percent of marketers say they have a comprehensive testing program, according to Forrester Research. Most marketers rely on total guesswork or occasionally test their messages prior to spending.

Because marketers are tasked with doing more while spending less, no strategy will make more of an immediate impact than introducing a comprehensive testing plan. After all, understanding the success and failure of a campaign's individual components can help achieve future triumphs more quickly. A/B tests (define) where companies test the better of two options of a single facet of their e-mail can quickly demonstrate the value locked away in e-mails.

Start with the subject line. Test value-based messages that mention discounts or coupons. E-mail marketers with statistically relevant response volumes should work with in-house analysts or with an agency to develop multivariate tests (define) that test multiple facets of each message (from subject line, to creative, to design) to determine the best combination of elements. Without a robust test plan, every element of your e-mail marketing program is simply guesswork.

Don't Neglect Non-responders

Even those marketers who have a sophisticated analytics program neglect a significant portion of their list: non-responders. Determining why a segment isn't responding can be extremely helpful in driving more revenue.

When budgets are tight, marketers must constantly learn and optimize based on knowledge gleaned about customers. Priority number one during the slowdown: use analytics to learn more about customer behaviors and develop a program to match relevant communications with the needs of each customer.

The key to developing the most relevant, targeted creative and messaging in your e-mail campaigns is to learn as much as possible about how your subscribers have responded to past e-mail campaigns. This can only occur after you have analyzed your customers with an eye toward the needs of each customer segment.

No company can speak to all of its customers with a single set of creative and offers. In an environment where marketers must make the most of what they have, a sophisticated customer analytics program for e-mail campaigns will unlock significant revenue.

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Al DiGuido

Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.

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