Home Advisor X Expect more from your email marketing

Expect more from your email marketing

By Dave Chase, Altus Alliance

“When you are finished changing, you’re finished.”
— Ben Franklin

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Judging by my unscientific sampling of a range of email I receive, there are some companies that run the risk of being “finished” by their customers. From retailers, financial service providers and travel companies to consumer publishers, B2B publishers and technology companies, there is staleness to many of the email newsletters. This doesn’t have to be the case.

It’s apparent many marketers are stuck using what I’d term as “first generation” email systems when they could be moving up to more advanced systems that enable greater customer centricity with an eye towards the bottom-line.

I’ll take you through some of the key differences between first-generation email systems vs. installable software solutions available in the market vs. modern, next-generation email solutions. Whether you are using email marketing by working with a publisher or for your own internal purposes, market leaders will take advantage of today’s modern systems. If you are using a publisher’s email solutions, ask them if their systems will enable what is outlined below. Without it, the effectiveness of your campaign is likely to be impaired.

I’ve outlined five capability areas to look at — content creation, reporting, viral marketing, best practices insight and management, and software management — with accompanying criteria to judge prospective service providers.

Content Creation

….
First Generation
Software Solution
Modern Email Services
Basic Content
Yes
Yes
Yes
Conditional Content
No
Limited
Yes
…..


Reporting

….
First Generation
Software Solution
Modern Email Services
Basic (#’s sent, opened, clicks)
Yes
Yes
Yes
Advanced (equity state reporting and optimization)
No
No
Yes
Ad hoc reporting available
No
Limited
Yes
…..

Without strong reporting, it’s very difficult to optimize your customer communications and campaigns. It’s not enough to know how many emails were opened and clicked. You need more information to take corrective action. Modern systems will not only provide deep reporting information, but will also enable you to optimize your campaigns on the fly. Even with this advanced reporting ability, each business has unique aspects that require ad hoc reporting. Ensure your provider can provide ad hoc reporting without charging you an arm and a leg or creating a long turnaround time. Examples abound of marketers who have increased their results 50 to 100 percent over the course of a campaign as a result of reporting and optimization.

Viral Marketing

….
First Generation
Software Solution
Modern Email Services
Viral Capabilities
No
Limited Referral Tracking
Yes

One of the reasons email marketing can be so cost effective is the ability to tap the word-of-mouth email enables (i.e., viral marketing). Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, introduced the notion of “connectors,” users who connect other users. A modern email service can help you identify and reward the connectors. Your email service should provide not only the ability to track who passed along an email, but also track pass-along multiple deep levels even if the customer used Outlook’s forward button rather than clicking the “Send to a Friend” link.

Service Level Agreement

….
First Generation
Software Solution
Modern Email Services
Service Level Agreement in Contract
Sometimes offered
Sometimes offered
Yes
Flexible Service Level Agreement
Throughput and availability –
Throughput and availability –
Throughput and availability –
…..

As anyone who has managed a vendor relationship can tell you, it’s often their service that drives your satisfaction. It’s critical not only to ensure a high level of service, but also to tailor that service to a business’ needs — not the vendor’s. For example, email providers will often dictate when emails can be sent and how many can be sent in particular windows. Email testing often uncovers opportunities in the day or week when your email is best received. Be sure you can act on that information.

Best Practice Insights and Management

….
First Generation
Software Solution
Modern Email Services
CAN-SPAM Compliance
Only with client involvement
Not offered, function of client staff
Yes
Email Marketing
Yes
Yes
Yes
Viral Marketing
No
No
Yes
ISP Relationship Management (whitelist, etc.)
No
No
Yes
…..

There is a lot to know to effectively manage an email campaign, both to avoid getting in hot water and to maximize the capabilities of the medium. Whether it is adhering to the requirements of the latest legislation coming from the government or the vagaries of ISPs’ whitelists, you should be able to count on your email service provider to wade through the maze. Furthermore, email service providers have seen lots of campaigns, so they should be willing to share their insights on the best practices associated with email and viral marketing. According to Forrester, marketers who turn to email service bureaus with specialized expertise achieve purchase rates four times higher than marketers who keep all their email operations in-house.

Software Management

….
First Generation
Software Solution
Modern Email Services
Deployment Flexibility (i.e., ASP, in datacenter, etc.)
No
No
Yes
Software Management and Maintenance Outsourced
Yes
No
Yes
Product Cycles
6-9 months
6-12 months
6 weeks
…..

Hopefully you are establishing a long-term relationship when you select a vendor.

Some other subtleties that you should be aware of are the software management side of the equation. Even if your IT department will manage the process, the flexibility they have will impact your marketing capabilities and ability to turn on a dime. For some companies, the right choice is a completely outsourced solution, while for other companies installing software in their own datacenter is the way to go. This may evolve as you make a deeper commitment to email communications so having flexibility is a benefit. Modern systems are architected in a way to allow shorter product cycles which enable a greater ability to put new strategies in place as your vendor’s systems evolve. As you gain experience with modern email capabilities, it’s likely your requirements will steadily increase. Be sure your vendor can keep up with you.

Email newsletters represent one of the most cost-effective means of communicating with your customers. Just as a relationship with a spouse will go stale if you don’t inject it with some spark, you have the opportunity with smart email marketing to improve the depth of your relationship with your customers. Unopened emails are telling you that your customers are tuning you out. Unsubscribes are a message that your customer is divorcing you. Either action puts your business at risk. The criteria listed in this article should help you mitigate that risk. [24×7]

Dave Chase is a partner with the Altus Alliance, a leading Strategic Growth Services firm in the Northwest, helping early stage businesses accelerate growth and maximize revenues through business planning, business development, corporate development, and strategic business planning.

Before joining Altus Alliance, Dave spent nearly 20 years in the industry with the last twelve years at Microsoft in various senior marketing and general management roles, including his role as MSN’s Managing Director for Industry Marketing & Relations.