Do You Follow E-mail Marketing Profit Practices?

In a recent tweet, EmailMarketingReports.com’s Mark Brownlow stated: “Wondering if ‘best practices’ were called ‘profit practices’ whether we’d be more likely to follow them. Words have power.”

He’s definitely on to something with that thought (among others). For many, the term “best practices” means old rules, processes, and methods to avoid if you are a risk taker or progressive thinker. Some let best practices restrict what they try to do (or even allow us to think further). And others use best practices to stay grounded and guide their e-mail marketing decisions. I have heard some C-level execs say they aren’t interested in best practices, and I don’t blame them – at least some of the time.

So let’s throw out the best practices rule book and look at seven “profit practices” any e-mail marketer should follow.

1. Transactional e-mails rule. Transactional e-mails are the easiest way to meet your customers where they are. If they’ve just abandoned their shopping cart or completed a form to receive additional information, they’re obviously interested in what you have to offer – why not immediately send them an e-mail to keep them coming back to your site or close the deal? According to “The Transactional Email Report” from Experian, transactional e-mails brought in revenues between about three and six times higher than bulk mailings from the same clients. If you’re not sending transactional e-mails, you’re missing a key profit opportunity.

2. Respect permission based on lifetime value of subscribers. If you know that an e-mail subscriber on your list will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars with your company based on e-mails they receive, respect the permission they gave you. Do not bombard them with e-mail or send irrelevant messages or you will risk losing that subscriber – and revenue stream he or she brings – forever. For the record, one recent study from Epsilon pegged the lifetime value of each e-mail address at $23.

3. Social media should be used as a profit generator not a “gadget.” By using social media to obtain new e-mail subscribers, you’re giving your company a potential new revenue stream. According to ExactTarget’s Facebook X-Factors study, 70 percent of customers who became a fan of a brand on Facebook did not feel they had given the company permission to market to them. Find a way to convert these fans to e-mail subscribers that do give you permission – whether it’s adding a link to your sign-up page on Facebook or building a new tab on your page. Don’t just use social media to communicate to your fans, make it easy for them to become paying customers.

4. For every e-mail acquired properly, you have a better chance of making your numbers every quarter. E-mail subscribers who have given you their explicit permission are worth more than those acquired through buying lists or other means – it’s just that simple. Current and potential customers that want to hear from your company and are interested in your products are easier to convert than those who haven’t given you permission. Why waste your time and resources sending e-mails to people who don’t know about your company and don’t care?

5. The more you mail, the less your subscriber is worth. Frequency is one of the biggest reasons that people don’t read e-mails and unsubscribe from marketing lists. Hammering your list with offer after offer or deal after deal makes your recipients tired of hearing from you and less likely to purchase. Think of it like a teenager on a school break getting calls from his mom reminding him to get out of bed, clean his room, take out the trash, etc. – after the umpteenth call of the morning, he will stop answering the phone, go back to bed, and likely do nothing that Mom asked.

From September 29 until October 5, Restoration Hardware sent me the exact same e-mail seven (!) days in a row, slightly altering the subject line:

  1. A $100 Gift Certificate to Shop Our Fall Collection
  2. Save $100 on Every $500 You Spend. Limited Time.
  3. Save $100 on Every $500 You Spend. Includes Sale.
  4. Save $100 on Every $500. In Stores and Online.
  5. Save $100 on Every $500 You Spend. Only 2 Days Left.
  6. Last Day to Save $100 on Every $500 You Spend
  7. Extended 1 Day Only: Save $100 on Every $500 You Spend

Guess what – I unsubscribed from the list due to the intense frequency (I cannot imagine what Restoration Hardware’s e-mail schedule will look like from late November until Christmas). You had me at “Save $100” but lost me when you told me that seven times in a row.

6. Invest in e-mail marketing as profit center, not marketing expense. The ROI of e-mail is widely touted as being the highest among any other marketing channel. Shouldn’t you start treating your e-mail program like the profit center that it is? Instead of thinking of e-mail as a line item in the marketing budget, treat it as a revenue stream that should be carefully planned and nurtured. This means hiring the right team, investing in the right partner (which means not just has technology with bells and whistles but one that can and will elevate your program), and begin measuring beyond an expense line item.

7. Content and value should guide your program, not marketing objectives. This is the hardest of the seven to put into practice. Compelling content that provides value to your subscribers is the best way to ensure they stay engaged with your e-mail program. It sounds simple enough, but finding a way to satisfy the marketing objectives while ensuring your e-mails provide value can be a huge challenge. Pay attention to and learn from your metrics – what are subscribers clicking on? What content prompts them to take action? Use that data to give subscribers what they want, and the ROI will undoubtedly follow.

What “profit practices” do you use to get the most from your e-mail programs?

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