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5 Steps to Cook the 'Bacn'

  |  April 20, 2011   |  Comments

When you start sending spam's legitimate cousin, bacon emails, you're out of the fire and into the frying pan.

You have worked hard to meet CAN-SPAM regulations, but sending bacon to your recipients could be just as damaging as spam to your email program.

Mashable defines bacon (usually spelled "bacn" to distinguish it from the real thing) as spam's legitimate cousin. Unlike spam, a bacon email is one the recipient actually requested at one time, such as Facebook and Twitter notifications, Google News updates, and Groupon daily deals.

Now that spam filters block about 99 percent of all spam messages, recipients are finding bacon to be the next scourge in the inbox. As the economy soured over the past few years, marketers discovered that they could send 2,000 emails for the cost of one direct mail piece, with huge results.

Email generated $43.52 for every dollar spent in 2009. As a result, many marketers upped their volume from an average 85 emails per recipient annually in 2007 to 151 in 2010. That means every person with an active email address receives an average of 7,300 bacon messages per year.

Granted, your recipient did sign up once to receive your email. However, sending irrelevant messages on a more frequent cadence can make bacon as annoying as spam. Industry research shows 61 percent of subscribers delete these messages, and another 14 percent report the message as spam. If your email program reflects those numbers, that certainly isn't a great response for your marketing messages.

Avoid Sending Home the Bacon

The problem with sending bacon is that you are focusing on quantity versus quality. Upping the frequency might work in the short term, but it can have serious long-term consequences.

Many email providers now give their users tools to sift out the messages they want from everything else. For example, Gmail and Hotmail use machine learning to sort email based on user interactions with messages from various senders. Gmail also added another layer of sorting and labeling that can move bulk messages out of the inbox into folders.

Also, ISPs are beginning to factor in user interaction into their placement algorithms. Messages that recipients never act on might be routed to the bulk folder more often.

Consider the following tips as you plan your email marketing efforts to avoid sending bacon by delivering relevant, value-filled messages.

  1. Don't email without permission. Assuming permission is a common practice among B2B marketers. However, many recipients consider receiving an email newsletter that they didn't specifically ask for an invasion of privacy.

    This can start you off on the wrong foot. It trains your recipient to delete your unwanted messages rather than to look for value in them.
  2. Do write effective subject lines. The subject line is the first tool recipients use to determine whether your message is valuable or just another piece of bacon. It is unlikely that your message will be opened if the subject line is vague, boring, or imprecise.

    The subject line should answer the recipient's question "What's in it for me?" quickly and easily using short, clear copy that appeals to the recipient's interests. Subject lines that begin with: "3 steps to…"; "Order by midnight tonight…"; or "Last chance…" set the recipient's expectations quickly. If you target your messages correctly for the subject line, you increase your chances of having your messages opened.
  3. Don't blast irrelevant content. The main ingredient in bacon is a "one size fits all" message. To deliver value, job one is to make sure that your emails are relevant to your audience. This requires you to identify and understand your key segments and develop content that will appeal to them.

    Messages sent to enterprise clients with information about solutions for small-business problems are not only likely to be deleted as bacon, but might also damage the relationship with your company. They can make your customers or prospects begin to doubt that you understand and serve their needs.
  4. Have a purpose for the email. Amazingly, many marketers still decide that they must send an email because the schedule calls for one without first establishing their true goals or what's in it for the subscriber.

    Have a clear goal in mind for your message, and be sure your recipient shares this goal. Decide whether your email's purpose is to educate, inform, start a conversation, or drive a sale before you start writing. The goal will help you stay on track and deliver value to your recipients.
  5. Analyze and optimize your email campaigns. Analyze your email campaigns, and use the results to improve the recipient's value from the messages. Not knowing your results increases the likelihood that your email will become bacon.

    Compare the trends for opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, and spam complaints to industry benchmarks after each send. Look for patterns that need improvement. Test and adjust your creative and segmentation to improve your results.

    For example, low open rates can point to unclear copy in the subject line, offers that do not resonate with the recipient, or an ineffective segmentation strategy.

The Last Word

Something becomes "the easy way" for a reason. Typically, the results are short-lived. Sending more and more email to recipients who signed up to receive messages from you may be effective in the short term. But if you don't focus on delivering value to your subscribers, your messages will quickly be considered bacon and deleted.

It takes some hard work, but effectively segmenting and understanding your subscriber base and then sending relevant value-oriented content will allow you to continually meet your program goals in the long term.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Hotz

Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.

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