Confessions of an E-Mail Marketer – E-Mail Thursday

TOPICSEmail Marketing


My first confession is that I stole the title of my video today from an Email Insider column a few weeks ago. It definitely caught my eye, and I hope it caught yours. But my confessions are entirely different from those in the article. My confessions are really things I want business owners to understand when planning their email programs.

Okay, now time for real confession number 1.

People often request that I send a campaign simply because it’s a holiday, and my confession is that I know that it’s not necessarily in their best interest to do so. Easter is right around the corner – does that mean you should send out an Easter promotion? Unless you sell products related to Easter, I would advise against it. It’s not that your campaign will fall flat on its face, but it’s not likely to do as well as more smartly timed promotion.

Now, if you look at other holidays like Memorial Day or 4th of July, that’s a slightly different story. Many retailers take advantage of the fact that most consumers have long weekends which translates into extra days to shop. So consumers not only have additional time to take advantage of promotions, by now they have grown to expect it.

And then there are certainly the holidays that are all about gift-giving – father’s day, mother’s day, Christmas. By all means, I would recommend a promotion especially if your products are good to give as gifts.

My second confession relates to the size of your subscriber list. A lot of people that run email marketing programs are responsible and judged according to 2 things: the amount of revenue or traffic generated by your campaigns, and growing the email database. My confession is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of just focusing on growing your list size.

Of course, the larger your list, the more people you can mail to, the more possibilities there are for sales – right? Not necessarily so.

Yes, you should definitely grow your list. But don’t do it at the expense of ruining your brand, running the risk of being blocked by ISP’s, and getting terrible results. Make sure your list is 100% opt-in, meaning everyone has given you express permission for you to send them promotional marketing campaigns. And don’t fall into the temptation of list rental – in general, it’s expensive and the quality of that list is not likely very good over the long-term.

Go even one step further. Monitor your list over time. If you notice a segment of your list that has remained inactive and unresponsive to your email programs over the course of many months, send a re-activation campaign to those people to try to win them back. If at that point they remain unengaged, save yourself some money and stop mailing to them.

My third confession is that no matter how much experience one might have in email marketing, we don’t have all the answers right off the bat. We start with our knowledge gathered from years of experience and from industry best practices. This alone does in fact provide a lot of concrete answers and advice.

However, the only way to really know what works best for your business and your customers is through testing. Just because something seems to work for one of your competitors, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. You’ve probably seen a few Daily Concept Videos that highlight the importance and benefits of testing, and it’s definitely applicable in email marketing.

Every time you send a campaign, you have an opportunity to learn something – so don’t let that opportunity slip by you. Structure your campaigns to learn something from a test which you can then use to make your next campaign perform even better.

Here I’ve outlined a very simplified version of the scientific method, which we follow at Exclusive Concepts for our email marketing program:

  1. Define the Question – what is it that you are trying to learn? Maybe it could be what kind of discount or offer is the most compelling to your audience.
  2. Formulate your Hypothesis – perhaps you think free shipping works better than a $5 off coupon.
  3. Test your Hypothesis – conduct an A/B split test with one version that offers free shipping and another that offers the coupon.
  4. Gather and Analyze the Data – be sure to look at the right metrics, in this case it would be sales and revenue.
  5. Draw your Conclusion – now that you’ve gathered the data, how did your hypothesis fare? Be sure that there is enough data to produce a significant conclusion. If there isn’t, you might want to run the test again. And most importantly, use that knowledge gleaned from the test to improve future campaigns.

Well I feel better now that I’ve gotten a few things off my chest, but I also hope you found this useful. Tune in next week to learn more about getting the most out of your email marketing program!