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THE DO'S AND DON'TS OF EMAIL MARKETING

BY BEN BRIGGS, PLANNING & BRAND PARTNERSHIP DIRECTOR.

E-mail marketing is a low cost way of sending a commercial message, typically to a group of people with the aim of acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately. 

However, the real magic happens when you scratch beneath the surface.  E-mail has great flexibility depending on your campaign objective, from broad targeting build a brand to pinpointing those with more refined purchasing habits, all with immediate feedback on results. 

This channel is often the test bed before rolling out to printed media as you can test multiple creative variants, offers, personalisation, targeting selections feedback at a low cost. With this in mind, the main reason that most invest in email marketing is the fantastic return on investment. In 2011, the Direct Marketing Association estimated that email marketing typically returns £40 for every £1 invested.

Do:

1. Set a clear objective.  The temptation with email is often to make the most of the unlimited format length and include pages and pages of content covering everything your brand has to offer.  Research has shown that most consumer emails are read for a maximum of 15-20 seconds, depending on the content (in many cases, it’s much less).  Focus on the one thing you want your email to achieve (e.g. drive a purchase on your e-commerce site), present the recipient with a clear call-to-action and a compelling reason to click on it.

2. Think mobile-first.  More than half of all emails are now opened on a mobile device.  Make sure that your creative is designed with this in mind and is coded in such a way as to convey your message in the most impactful way possible across every email client.

3. Make the most of your data.  More so than with any other channel, email presents you with the opportunity to deliver a message which is unique and relevant to each recipient.  If your message has a regional element (e.g. you want to encourage visits to a local store), consider using imagery relevant to the nearest site to the recipient, or even tell them how long it’ll take to get there.  If you have demographic information available, use dynamic headline copy and imagery which you know works well for each audience segment; the primary “hook” will likely be very different for older males vs younger females, or families vs singles for example.

4. Invest in your creative(s).  When budgets are tight it can be tempting to repurpose existing email assets to use for new campaigns.  More often than not, this turns out to be a false economy; the money saved in development will not be outweighed by the shortfall in return.  A relatively small outlay upfront on bespoke creative development will ensure that your campaign has the best possible chance of delivering a successful return on investment.

5. Test.  Before you deploy the bulk of your email campaign volume, make sure you test a number of variants to a smaller but still statistically robust audience.  The key elements to focus on here are your subject line and creative.  Try sending two creative variants each with 2 different subject lines (one more direct-response focused, the other more lifestyle / experiential), waiting 24-72 hours and then assessing the results to determine which combination you should rollout with in order to deliver the strongest results.

Don’t:

1. Think in silos.  As with all media channels, email works most effectively when it is aligned with your other campaigns.  On a broad level, this means making sure that the email lands in recipient’s inboxes once they’ve already been recently exposed to your brand through the likes of TV or Press advertising.  More specifically, you have the opportunity to tie the emails closely to other data driven activity such as Direct Mail or Programmatic Display, delivering a unified message across all channels and amplifying the halo effect.

2. Forget about timing.  It’s no good sending a great email if it doesn’t reach the recipient at a time when they’re unlikely to engage with it.  Robust testing is the only way to discover the day-of-week and time-of-day which will work best for your message, but as a starting point common sense will take you a long way; for example, if your audience contains large numbers of white collar employed individuals, avoid Mondays or sending overnight (putting you right in the firing line for commuters’ morning “email triage”).

3. Broadcast only once.   It’s common knowledge that it typically takes 3+ exposures to a brand in order to provoke an action from prospective customers.  This logic applies across the wider media mix, but is also worth bearing in mind at a channel-level.  Email is a low unit-cost medium and more likely than not, you will see a significant uplift to return on investment from sending 2 or 3 emails with a similar message to the same recipients.  At Response One, we frequently see 50% to 100% uplift in response from follow-up emails sent 5-10 days after the initial broadcast.  Try testing different delay periods between emails as well as varying day-of-week / time-of-day and messaging to zero in on your optimum combination.

4. Underestimate the importance of compliance.   Whether it’s your own customer data or a 3rd party prospect universe, you must be sure that the correct permissions are in place before any emails are broadcast. If you’re not sure, speak to a professional data-compliance consultant for advice, or contact the ICO.

If you’d like to discuss anything we’ve raised here feel free to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.