E-Mail Marketing Has a Great ROI

Regardless of their business model — free content, paid subscription, or e-commerce — the speakers on my “Determining ROI Metrics” panel at ClickZ Specifics: E-Mail Conference agreed revenue is the most important e-mail metric. A recent Direct Marketing Association study found e-mail marketing has an ROI (define) of $57.25 for every dollar spent, over 150 percent greater than the ROI for non-e-mail online marketing. E-mail remains one of the best online marketing tools.

Since time-starved consumers constantly look for ways to empty their e-mail boxes, marketers must break through the clutter and maximize the points of engagement. Consumers concerned about spam and phishing are more likely to mark legitimately, opt-in e-mail as spam. To combat this, marketers must improve the effectiveness of their current mailings rather than increasing their frequency.

Extend Your Lists’ Profitability

Two of the best strategies to ensure ongoing e-mail list effectiveness are segmenting your lists and continually testing different aspects of your campaign. Segmenting your house file helps communications be more targeted. Divide customers by subscription age, online interaction frequency and recency, consumer interests, and revenue generated.

Develop promotions that extend consumer engagement at points when customers are focused on your company. Though most marketers send e-mail based on their promotional schedule and needs, few enhance automatically triggered e-mail messages, the ones to which consumers pay the most attention:

  • Welcome messages. These are often underutilized. Also, use your opt-in confirmation e-mail and your Web site’s post-registration screen messages. Extend this welcome message into a series to take advantage of strong customer interest during this early subscription phase. Paid content publisher Waterfront Media uses a series of engaging welcome messages to get readers to use its product.
  • Trigger e-mail. Trigger e-mail is initiated by a customer action or event. From a consumer perspective, these communications are often expected and opened since they’re focused on the customer’s priorities (not yours). Leverage the opportunity to extend your marketing:
    • Post-purchase e-mail. Take advantage of purchase confirmations, package tracking, and post-purchase thank-you e-mail to extend the relationship with your customer. Add relevant promotions to your transaction information.
    • Birthday e-mail. Appeal to readers by sending a birthday greeting with a special offer. Retailers have done this for years, and it’s still an effective promotion. This information can be requested at a later point or appended from a third-party data supplier.
    • Forward-to-a-friend referrals. Use this opportunity to market to both the sender and the recipient.
    • Abandoned shopping cart follow-up. Remind shoppers a few days after they’ve left products in their shopping carts. This can convert browsers into purchasers.
    • Wish lists. Since customers use wish lists to track products they want, periodically send customers updates to get them to purchase.
    • Customer service. Use both autoresponders and actual customer service response to engage customers. Remember to thank them for taking the time to communicate with you.
  • Unsubscribe. Take a fresh look at the unsubscribe process. These readers are doing you a favor by actively unsubscribing rather than letting your e-mail go to a junk folder or, worse, reporting you as spam. Test the following methods to improve your marketing:
    • Use your unsubscribe page to let users change e-mailings’ frequency and content.
    • Give other communication alternatives, such as RSS and offline, if you have traditional direct marketing capabilities.
    • Ask for user input to gather insights about readers.
    • Thank readers for taking the time to unsubscribe. Depending on your offering, consider giving them a coupon or free e-book.

All these approaches to e-mail marketing can prove effective. The trick is to find the combination of timing, frequency, and content that works best for you.

Monitor E-Mail Effectiveness

To maximize e-mail ROI, measure the important metrics and track them over time. If you find results don’t meet expectations, further analysis may be required.

Among the salient factors:

  • House-file size. Since the challenge is to grow a healthy e-mail list, track new opt-ins and segment them by source.
  • Churn. Monitor the percentage of readers who leave your list, as well as hard bounces. This can be another important indicator of your list’s health. Note the distribution of unsubscribers’ ages to determine ways to discourage any adverse trends.
  • Revenue per e-mail. This metric is key for both publishers who monetize page views with advertising and e-tailers who drive e-commerce sales.
  • Cost per e-mail. Campaign costs in terms of creative and deployment are relatively easy to assess. The opportunity cost of overmailing your list may be more difficult to measure.

Though e-mail remains a major strategy for engaging consumers for publishers and e-tailers, the challenge is building consumer confidence in your communications to ensure your messages are read. Unfortunately, deployment’s relatively low cost may lead to less than optimal e-mail effectiveness and mailing frequency. To maximize your e-mail marketing ROI, consider how you can use every mailing most effectively to deliver real value to your readers.

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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