E-mail MarketingOf the, due to budget restraints, limited marketing tools I have had at my disposal over the last few years as a small entrepreneur, e-mail campaigns without a doubt possessed the largest ROI. This personal experience is vindicated by a Direct Marketing Association study, which calculated a $43,62 ROI for every $1 of marketing spend! Number 2 on the ROI-Hot 100 is SEM, which yields a $21,85 ROI – 50% lower! At the same time, it has to be said that the trend indicates that e-mail ROI will decrease over the next couple of years. The time of the massively, indiscriminately sent out e-mails seems to be coming to an end.

What follows are a few tips what you can to do counteract the trend (and which a lot of companies already are doing):

It’s in the news

Of course, traditional driving forces such as discounts, raffles and co. still pull their weight. I actually have had the most response when utilizing such offers. But it is often becoming more and more difficult to pique client’s interest with them. One solution may be to allude to current events. This way you offer your client not only a bonus, but also something to talk about during his lunch break.

Mission to Mars Special

Organize your own mini-event

What are the issues that interest your clients? Is it politics, sports and/or entertainment? Simply organize your own mini-event mirroring what is currently happening in the world. One example is the gourmet gift shop Harry & David, which staged their own elections parallel to the last US presidential elections in order to promote their various snack mixes. While the voting took place on Facebook, the main page of the site led back to an order page (although nowadays you could easily integrate an order app into your Facebook page).

Organize your own mini-event

Trust the weather

No matter where you find yourself at a particular moment, the weather is always a good conversation topic and, consequently, also one for an e-mail campaign. In light of a blizzard hitting New England, Barnes & Noble, for example, encouraged their readers to stay at home, keep warm and read a good e-book, which you could download onto the Barnes & Noble e-Book reader, iPhone, Android or your PC.

Trust the weather

Noone home?

One of the biggest issues of mail campaigns is the delivery of mails. Depending upon the study, 10-30% of the budget are lost because the mail does not reach the addressee and/or he doesn’t open it. One of the main reasons is that mail databases are not kept up to date. Keeping the address data current has to be an absolute priority.

The second major problem is your mail being identified as spam. Additionally, more and more mail providers categorize even normal mails according to the behavior of the user and classify incoming messages with different priorities placing them in the corresponding folders. This is making the relevance of your content ever more important.

But back to the fundamental spam problem. If you choose not to use a renowned mail/newsletter service provider, you should make sure that your IP is not black listed. Furthermore, your sender’s address should contain a name (“Christoph Kraemer [ck@xyz.com]” instead of only “ck@xyz.com”). As for your header, be careful not to use wording and keywords that are common to spams such as “free”, “big bonus”, capital letters, exclamation points etc. Outlook, for example, allows you to check your spam score by right clicking a mail and choosing message options. It is imperative that the x-spam status is below 5.0. My recommendation is to also personalize the header for each campaign. For sure an engrossing title will improve the mail’s chances of actually being opened and read as opposed to only seeing the company name in the RE field. Of course, the just mentioned spam tips for the header also apply to the actual body or content of the mail.

Last but not least, one should beware of sending too many mails at once to the same IP. There are mail providers, which will automatically value this as a spam attack. One way around this may be to stagger the mails’ dispatch.

Be social

The integration of social media in mail campaigns is becoming increasingly important. Sure, most include a Facebook and/or Twitter button in their mail. But why stop there? Even though many mail providers do not permit an updated rotation of social media messages in an e-mail, a snap shot is always possible. Worst case scenario, you can embed a picture of comments which links to your social media site. The advantage of integrating social media consists in giving a “live” demonstration of your interactivity, in highlighting your social media activities and showcasing user opinions, which are growing in significance when it comes to the purchase decision.

HP and Social Media in a Newsletter

Me, me, me!

One of the benefits digital marketing offers is to be able to segment your clientele more accurately and, as a result, to be able to send them a more personalized marketing message. Nevertheless many companies still fail to do so. Apart from the classic segmentation factors such as location, age etc. you should also develop a strategy for the typical lifecycle of your customer and prepare adequate mails. Here a couple of suggestions: prospect/first-time browser, welcome message, loyal client, mature client, defection and, of course, shopping cart abandonment. According to an Econsultancy study 84% of companies that followed up a shopping cart abandonment with a mail saw an improvement in their conversion rate.

Please don’t go!

The moment in which a customer unsubscribes is usually the last direct point of contact you will have with that user. Surprisingly this is rarely utilized as an opportunity. Sure, many companies ask you why you are leaving, but so far I’ve never experienced a company, which reminds use of their USPs or even makes a last minute offer in order not to lose the client. Groupon, on the other hand, has initiated a rather creative campaign.

Groupon Unsubscribe
Groupon Resubscribe

First of all, the Groupon employee gives the anonymous mails you’ve been receiving a human face. After the user has “punished” Derrick, the pity card is played. I will not debate whether this particular example is in fact effective, given that it doesn’t address the actual reasons for the abandonment (e.g. mail frequency, relevance etc.). It is, however, an example of a company fighting for their customer up to the last second.

Something to keep in mind…

According to different studies 15-30% of users in the US and UK use their smartphones to check their mail. Consequently it is becoming more important to optimize e-mails for reading on a cell phone. For this purpose it is important to use a grid system and 1 column design in the design process. Make sure to always check the rendering on both a desktop and a smartphone before sending anything.


This post is also available in: German