No ‘Need for Speed’ in Short-Life-Cycle Campaigns

E-mail marketing isn’t like the movie “Top Gun.” Why? Because you don’t need speed, either in creating or deploying campaigns. When you rush out a campaign without testing it, or when you blast your entire list with the same message looking for immediate inbox attention, both your ROI (define) and your deliverability could crash and burn.

Sure, you don’t want to be napping in your bunk when your competitors all around you are scrambling jets. However, being able to launch a million messages at once isn’t going to give you the competitive advantage.

How High-Volume Batch-and-Blast Can Hurt You

A massive sortie could look like mail-bombing to the ISPs. Result: they defer your high-volume messaging. Your messages get delivered later, routed to the junk folder, or bounced back to you for retrying. All that goes into the reputation calculators that determine whether your messages get delivered to the inbox, routed to the junk folder, or blocked at entry.

Or, your recipients could have so little interest in your e-mail that they either delete it unopened or report it as spam because it’s irrelevant. Result: wasted messaging and another direct hit on your reputation and more filtering or blocking.

Three Strategies for Short-Life-Cycle Products

Being first off the flight deck won’t help you if bad campaign planning leaves you vulnerable to ISP blocking and filtering. Instead, be first with a well-planned campaign that uses segmentation and targeting to better match subscribers to content.

If you market products that have short lifecycles and fierce competition, such as DVD marketers who promote new releases, you’re the most vulnerable. But smarter deployment can bring both speed and results.

I know this scenario: every vendor in your market ships the same information at the same time every Tuesday. The first week after the e-mail deploys accounts for 50 percent to 75 percent of your sales for that product.

You might think your best tactic is to get your e-mail into your two million subscribers’ inboxes faster than the next guy’s. And yes, you need to launch fast in a hotly contested market. But throwing the same message at your entire list won’t do it.

Look at your open rates over the last five to 10 campaigns and plot them against your CTRs (define). I’d bet you’re seeing low response rates. Your messages either aren’t getting to your subscribers, or they aren’t interested in them, or both.

These three strategies can get you better results without trashing your sender reputation and, ultimately, your deliverability:

1. Segment Based on Buying History

Separate out the people who historically have clicked on or converted from your new-releases e-mail. These are your best customers and the ones you really need to reach that first day.

Add the people who opted in specifically for new releases, and those are the one you target that first day. Maybe it’s only a fifth of your mailing list, but if you aren’t getting much action from the other four-fifths, why annoy them and risk spam complaints in the bargain?

You aren’t ignoring that great mass, either. Create a second mailing and send it in smaller batches, later that day or week. Use this mailing both to promote the week’s new releases and to advance the next week’s list or future big dates.

No buying history to match against your address list? No problem. Segment according to opt-in date. Your newest customers are usually your most active, anyway.

2. Segment Based on Interests

Movie sales are a highly personal market. You should capture those interests at opt-in by allowing subscribers to choose which movies they want to get. Not everyone wants the hottest new releases in every category.

If you don’t already give subscribers preference options at opt-in, create a preference page now, then go back to your list during a slow time in your publishing cycle and invite subscribers to fill it out.

Not only is this your first step toward making your e-mails more relevant to subscribers, it will also show you how active (or inactive) your list really is.

3. Target Based on Interests

Sure, your subscribers want new releases. No problem. But they aren’t equally interested in all the new releases.

A classic-movie buff might jump at getting first crack at a new boxed set of Alfred Hitchcock’s early films but pass on the latest “Spider-Man” clone. Ditto for indie-movie fans who turn up their noses at any Hollywood-style film but stampede for the latest from Sundance.

If you have 10 or more interest categories, bunch then into logical groups and be sure the subject line reflects the categories.

With these strategies, you chop your list into segments and create messages that match interests, instead of forcing all-or-nothing messages on a diverse subscriber base. You send in lower volumes, which reduces your exposure to throttling or message deferral. And, your subscribers see the kinds of e-mail they really want.

By the Way, Your Competition Probably Does This Already

That’s the best reason I can think of for taking the time to strategize your campaign launches. Even if they share your 20th century viewpoint that speed beats planning and testing, you can use these strategies to get more messages in the inbox while they’re left watching the bounces pile up.

Goose and Maverick would applaud your initiative.

Until next time, keep on deliverin’!

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