Waking the Email Dead

This week’s title owes thanks to a client who used the phrase last week during a strategy meeting. He was referring to that pesky segment of a house file that continues to receive — yet rarely, if ever, opens or responds to — promotional emails. You know the kind.

The term really does fit this group, because it seems no matter what you do, you simply can’t revive them. Yet, for whatever reason, they keep hanging on.

So what’s an email marketer to do?

Sure, incentives are fine for the short term, but what will truly inspire action? Let’s not be shortsighted and think that because they’ve opted in, this audience is necessarily a captive one.

A lot of it boils down to what folks have signed up for… or at least what they thought they had signed up for.

Plenty of true content seekers are still out there, so when they see “sign up for our newsletter,” it’s perfectly reasonable that they might assume that they’re getting a real newsletter. As we all know, there are tons of so-called newsletters out there that aren’t about “news” at all — they’re about sales.

If this could be the issue with your offering, think about pulling off those people and — if the quantity is high enough to justify it — creating a regularly scheduled, content-rich message just for them. You’ll want to somehow weave little plugs of some sort into the text (natch!), but the emphasis should be on what they have opted in for.

Take this a step further, and think about what you know about your house list based on the information you collected at the point of sign-up. In other words, start using some of that precious data!

Recently, a loyal ClickZ reader wrote me about this very issue. Over the last year, she said, she had signed up for many an offer — content, sweepstakes promotions, etc. More often than not, the promoting site would ask for her birth date as part of the sign-up/registration/purchasing process. We’ve all had to do that at some point or another.

Well, what do you know? She recently celebrated her birthday, and she awoke that day with a marketer’s natural curiosity. She was actually looking forward to seeing what these companies and sites would do or say for the event.

You’ve probably already guessed it. Not a single birthday greeting did she receive. Not one. And we wonder why there are segments of our audiences that never seem to “tune in.”

The kind of high-value communication that will thrive in the future is what I’m talking about. Yes, showcasing your products in HTML can be great. Driving home your benefits can help. Substantiating those benefits with real live features can be grand. But what will really get your list to respond requires using some of the technology this venue is famous for.

It doesn’t have to be wizardry or rocket science, it just has to be well thought out. In other words, create your strategy based on what you know about your audience and on how you surmise they’ll respond to certain offers.

For example, let’s take a look at hypothetical FamousRetailer.com. It sends out to its house list of customers a regularly scheduled emailed “postcard” showcasing its top five “products of the week.”

Based on its technology, which allows the company to flag members based on how they responded, FamousRetailer.com has a concrete plan of action for each and every mailing:

  • For customers who click and buy on an offer, FamousRetailer sends out immediately an autoresponse message thanking them for their purchase… along with a cross-sell or up-sell message.

  • For customers who click but don’t buy, FamousRetailer sends out a message that will hopefully entice them further. Perhaps it’s a “Buy now, and get an additional 25 percent off your NEXT order…”
  • And, finally, for customers who don’t even open the original postcard, a revised, but similar, postcard is sent based on an altogether different set of appeals.

Too complex? Think again. For those of you who have zero technology in-house, here is a list of solution providers that can at least help you get started: e2 Communications, MessageMedia, FloNetwork, Responsys.com, and Accucast — just to name a few.

Remember: The combination of knowledge and creative interaction equals value and relevance for your subscribers. And if that doesn’t wake the dead, I don’t know what will.

(Note from author: In last week’s article, “Calculating the Carrot,” there was an error. I started writing about bringing in $25 for 10 leads, and somehow ended the article by writing about that same amount of money for just one lead, so the numbers didn’t match up. I made some adjustments, and it’s correct now. Anyway — sorry, gang! And thanks to the kind reader who pointed this out.)

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