It’s easy to overlook traditional email when compared with interactive and higher cost channels like paid display and social. With the right level of attention and integration, however, this reliable and low-cost workhorse can be your secret weapon to improve acquisition and retention performance on all your campaigns.
Email is core to the customer relationship. It’s the first piece of customer information captured. Often used as the user ID and customer identifier, the email address is the most reliable two-way connection with a customer.
Email also delivers. According to a June report from OneSpot, U.S. marketing executives said was email attributed to 21 percent of the total revenues in Q2 2017, up 17 percent year over year. EMarketer’s 2017 email marketing Benchmark set the median email marketing ROI at 122 percent, four times higher than any other digital marketing channel.
There’s room to improve. As Demand Metrics/Return Path’s recent survey suggests, less than half of the respondents are seeing email performance improvements. eConsultancy’s 2018 email marketing census agrees, with its top finding that email continues to be the most effective marketing channel, though fewer marketers report stellar performance
So, why are so few capitalizing on it? Because comprehensive strategy is missing.
Many marketing teams allocate talent and focus in line with channel budget rather than channel impact. When this happens, there is a tendency to create brand and media strategies with email as an afterthought rather than a central component. These companies miss the chance for their email to connect the dots between channels and weave together a personal narrative with compelling call to actions to close the deal.
Here are four steps with specific actions you can take to improve your email marketing performance.
Master the numbers
Get to know the core KPIs: sent, bounced, received, opened, converted, unsubscribed, removed. Spend some time understanding where you are on each of these measures and the “leakage” from each stage to the next.
Include an email KPI dashboard in regular marketing meetings. Then determine targets and strategies to improve important areas, including simple tweaks like subject lines, timing and frequency.
Earn your access
Don’t mistake access for interest—excessive amounts of emails with low content value is a sure way to an unsubscribe. Beyond the active unsubscribes, email service providers (ESPs) like Gmail passively manage your access to their subscribers using a sender relationship score. A few negative scoring email bombs in a row can cause Gmail to throttle your sends by up to 90 percent, temporarily sidelining communications with close to 40 percent of your total subscribers.
Lean in to opting in. Embrace GDPR, canned spam, TCPA and other regulations as minimum standards to earning and keeping a subscriber’s interest.
Remember also that less is more. Try to remove 25 percent your current email campaigns by eliminating redundancies or reducing send frequency. Alternatively, set a max number of emails per day/week/month with an escalation process for exceptions.
Finally, you give to get. Revamp the remaining emails with a give to get strategy in the form of information, entertainment, access and discounts.
Integrate into the strategy
While most email campaigns focus on short-term objectives, there is a huge opportunity for companies to enhance long-term relationships through multi-step campaigns. For example, a for-profit university used an email survey to capture personal motivations for pursuing a degree from all their new inquiries. This one-two approach keeps the request for information (RFI) simple while capturing deeply personal insights on the value points in a prospect’s buying decision. These insights can then be used to prioritize the values to highlight in a personalized narrative that improves the messaging performance across all channels.
First, you’ll want to reframe success. Now that you’ve mastered and improved the basics of email KPIs, it’s time to reframe what a successful email campaign means. Select a few subscriber behaviors that matter to the business (RFI, download, speak with an agent, start /complete an application, purchase, repurchase). Now, link an entire campaign to the successful completion of that action on any channel.
Next, develop a long play. Look at your entire acquisition or retention lifecycle. Identify drop-offs in the narrative that would benefit from reinforcement or a deeper insight into the customer’s intent. Start building short sequences of cross-channel reinforcement narratives aligned to encouraging a measurable subscriber behavior. Expand once you get the hang of it to extend the reach and performance from paid and organic channels.
Capture, review, learn, repeat
Email is an ideal candidate for rigorous A/B and multi-variate testing to accelerate learnings and build a culture of continuous improvement.
First, test and learn. Build a campaign test governance process to track KPIs and defined subscriber behaviors over time. Set small improvement goals and encourage tinkering and discovery.
Then test less, then not at all. For non-essential campaigns, consider using short-term control groups that are excluded from email campaigns to better understand email’s true cross-channel contribution.
Despite its low cost, email delivers outsized results for marketers who know how to best integrate it into the overall engagement strategy. By learning how to best harness its power to recognize, reinforce and remind, brands can recognize significant improvements in conversion and retention efforts.