The Confirmation E-mail Conundrum

By now, most smart e-marketers recognize that confirmation e-mail is a tremendous vehicle for cross-selling and up-selling customers on new products.

So why aren’t more companies seizing this extraordinary opportunity?

Recently, I got a glimpse at the very real, complex issues inherent in transforming a confirmation e-mail into a marketing message. A large telecom asked me to head up a team of copywriters to revamp 400 transactional e-mail messages, ASAP.

First, there was the sheer message volume to consider. The client realized its advertising agency didn’t have the copywriting bandwidth to handle the volume, and likely wouldn’t want to, since confirmation e-mail doesn’t usually win creativity awards. The client didn’t have enough in-house copywriters with the senior-level online marketing experience to handle a project of this scale. That’s why it wanted to outsource. In trying to assemble a team of copywriters for the project, I found very few freelance copywriters were available to jump into this project full time for 6 to 10 weeks.

Then, there was the issue of managing complexity.

Each group of e-mail messages, such as online bill paying and payment confirmation, had an in-house owner who had to be individually contacted to provide a briefing on the nuances of the transaction and the most attractive promotional offer for the audience. From there, the e-mail would have to be versioned in a myriad of ways.

The real challenge? The lack of a centralized system for e-mail broadcasting, as well as no tracking capabilities.

When we discussed how to implement the messages once they were produced, we ran into another challenge. It turned out each transaction type ran through a different outbound messaging system. One was located in India, another ran through the IT department, still another went through an alternative provider. That created a project management nightmare, since we couldn’t simply hand off completed messages to one department to broadcast. Each e-mail broadcast system would undoubtedly have unique requirements, adding yet another layer of complexity.

Worst yet, there were no tracking capabilities for transactional e-mail. There would be no way of knowing if any of the new promotional messages worked or determining if additional revenue was generated.

Not being able to measure ROI (define) for this considerable creative and marketing investment essentially put the project on hold. We recommended the client migrate all systems to one trackable system before proceeding.

Truthfully, while I was flattered to be considered as a creative leader for this project, now I’m not sure an initiative of this magnitude should be outsourced to an ad hoc team of freelancers to implement. The client would be better served with an in-house team of writers and project managers. Or it should go with a specialized agency that has the resources and experience to handle the complexities involved.

What would that agency be? If you know an agency that’s successfully managed a large transactional e-mail initiative for a major client, I’d like to know.

Keep sending Karen your B2B case studies and samples for future columns.

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

Related reading