Choose the Right Time to Send E-mail

Do you agree that over the past decade, when and how to use e-mail as a marketing vehicle has changed? Would you go so far as to say the most successful messaging strategies have moved away from interruptive, introductory e-mail toward more dialogue-based messages with relevant content?

If you answered yes to either question, how would you answer this one: do you believe your organization understands this change and has begun to implement e-mail according to when the channel is most effective?

I did a quick, nonscientific survey of about 85 people in direct, e-mail, and interactive marketing. Here are the questions and results:

Question “Yes” responses (%)
Has the way you use e-mail marketing changed? 79
Are the most successful e-mails dialogue-based, with a focus on relevancy? 91
Does your organization use e-mail at the right time in the marketing cycle? 11

These results are pretty interesting. Everyone seems to understand e-mail, but putting understanding into practice is more challenging. With these results in mind, I went back to the same group with a follow-up question: if you answered “no” to your organization using e-mail at the right time, why do you think there’s a disconnect?

The top three answers I received are:

  1. Our organizational structure doesn’t support an integrated approach. This will take a while to change.

  2. We need to do more education about when and how to use e-mail inside our organization; it’s doable, though.
  3. It’s a resource issue right now, but it’s planned for next year.

While I can’t provide much advice on how to conquer items one and three, I can did come across a great idea from Andy Goldman, e-mail marketing director at my company, on how to position e-mail within the marketing lifecycle.

“E-mail is not recommended at every stage of the advertising and marketing relationship,” says Goldman. “There are certain times to use it when results will be extremely strong. Other times, e-mail won’t help your efforts. The key is to decided which type of e-mail is best served, based on where you are within your product marketing cycle.

“Top-line recommendations include:

  • “During product ideation: Monitor creative of top competitive brands to drive insight into the volume, frequency, and general content variations of competitive e-mail campaigns. Rate and reflect on competitive efforts for opt-in e-mail subscription processes (opt-in planning).

  • During product pre-launch: Consider demographic and psychographic overlays to more strategically identify and evaluate consumer target segments. Guide media planning focus and strategies with data-driven profile reviews that can suggest e-mail pilot releases (surveys, polls, in-store drive).
  • At product launch: Coordinate opt-in programs with media placement. Use heat-mapping to identify key layout and positioning.
  • Post launch: Develop and execute subscription-based programs (newsletters, etc.) to capture personally relevant information from consumers and grow profiles. Consider implementing channel response metrics and qualitative surveys to keep the conversation going and close deals faster.”

Goldman adds the results and lessons from these efforts must be integrated into future planning efforts. Be cautious, though. These e-mail usage efforts work best for established brands.

These are great thoughts that can be put to use today in any organization. And perhaps they’ll move us toward even more effective e-mail tomorrow.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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