Does this sound a little farfetched? Well it isn’t – it happened. In 1978 Gary Thuerk, a Marketing Manager at DEC (Digital Equipment Corp), sent the first email marketing campaign to 400 Arpanet users, resulting in $13 million in sales for DEC.
Until the mid-1990’s most direct marketing was accomplished utilizing direct mail or telemarketing. In 1991, with the introduction of the Internet, everything changed, at least for early adopters. When Hotmail launched the first free web based email service, they unwittingly opened the door to a new direct marketing alternative, email marketing.
By 1995, the Internet and email was still seen as a novelty, primarily used by businesses and universities and the majority of consumers saw no need for email.
Enter America Online (AOL) – Even though AOL went public in 1992, at an initial public offering price of $11.50, things didn’t start to heat up until AOL starting sending out disks – CD’s. These CD mailings were an ingenious idea and put AOL on the map.
Here’s how it worked: You would receive a CD in the mail, put it into your computer’s CD-ROM drive and you could setup an AOL account and be connected to AOL and the Internet, via dial-up, within minutes. For any consumer who was clueless about the Internet and wanted to get online, this made it easy and simplest way to get started. By 2003 AOL had reached its peak of roughly 27 million users paying $19.95 per month. Surprisingly enough, in 2014, AOL still has 2.1 million dial-up subscribers who generated in excess of $500 million in annual revenue for the company.
Online marketers have a variety of options to choose from when it comes to marketing their products or services online. For the past 10 years, US online marketers found email marketing to be the most cost effective option for customer retention, new customer acquisition, consumer awareness and customer conversion.
A survey of online marketers revealed that email marketing was still the top rated marketing channel and produced the greatest ROI (return on investment), ahead of social media marketing, content marketing, referral marketing and SEO (search engine optimization).
Why is email marketing such an effective tool for the online marketer? Could it be related to the ease of sending email? Could it be that most online users have an email account? I think you need to look further into what makes email marketing easy – which is dependent on the sophistication of the implementation and strategy. Riding a bike is easy – riding a bike in the Tour de France is not.
The Obvious Question
If email marketing returns the highest ROI and generates the best results for online marketers, why aren’t most marketers utilizing email marketing more effectively? Creating an efficient and profitable email marketing strategy isn’t difficult, if you know what you’re doing. From the basics of ensuring your email list is clean and valid to testing a variety of email creatives and landing pages, it simply boils down to using common sense when planning your strategy. Sometimes it’s more effective to hire an Email Marketing Agency, who has the experience and expertise to remove the guess work, ensuring your email marketing initiative is implemented correctly and professionally executed.
With the ever changing landscape of how people access the Internet and email, ensuring a complete mobile strategy from your email creatives to your landing pages, is a fundamental change that must be implemented to compete. If you think you can simply disregard mobile users, plan on cutting out two-thirds of your entire perspective customer universe – considering that 66% of emails are opened on mobile devices and of that, 38% are opened on an iPhone.
Nearly two out of every three marketers don’t think much of their own email marketing campaigns, according to a recent industry census that asked both agencies and company marketing staff to rate themselves. Over 60% rated their campaigns “poor” or “average”; just under 5% rated themselves “excellent.” For the sake of your self-esteem (and more importantly, your marketing campaign’s success) here are a few stupid — and avoidable — mistakes that can doom your email marketing campaigns. It only takes one small, avoidable mistake to kill the performance of any email campaign.
Tripping the filters. It’s tempting to salt-and-pepper your marketing message with links you believe are relevant — particularly links that you think will deliver the reader to your front door, wallet in hand. Resist the urge to over-season the soup; multiple links in the body of your message could set off the spam filters at your recipient’s ISP. What’s more, even if it gets through, it looks like spam to even the least savvy decision-maker — and that’ll sour them on receiving future messages from you or your company and give them a reason to unsubscribe.
Offering zero value. At the end of the day every message needs to engage its reader; that means there must be something of value in the message, whether it’s interesting news, keys to mastering a skill, or ways to improve some process or other. Good email marketing isn’t all about blowing horns to promote your company, it’s about building a relationship by bringing readers useful information; once your recipients get the picture that there’s value in reading your messages, your open rate will grow — and your click-through rate will follow. It’s Time to Start Dating Your Customers.
Overdoing your frequency. It’s called too much of a good thing, and almost every marketer has probably done it at some point: over-saturating your recipients with your messages. Even a brilliantly-targeted and meticulously vetted email list can be rendered useless if you burn out your recipients; and no matter how much value your readers find in your message, there comes a point when they’ve had enough. A good rule of thumb is no more than once per week, but check your open, click-through and opt-out rates for signs of trouble and adjust accordingly.
Overdoing your HTML. Consider whether your reader’s interest is truly piqued by graphics and photos, compared to the useful, valuable message we mentioned above. Consider how many of your readers are receiving your message on a mobile device — and how the number of devices are multiplying almost daily, and whether you’re going to be able to make your HTML and email creative appear responsive and display properly on every one of them. And, finally, consider how many email providers and discerning recipients — simply disable images from appearing as the default, resulting in broken-looking messages from you. Keep it simple and balanced.
Overdoing your message. As we’ve discussed in this space before, your marketing emails aren’t there to close a deal, they’re there to start one. The place to elaborate on the finer points of your product or service is at your website, not in your email marketing message. Your recipients won’t even start reading an email that looks like it’s too long; emails should be short enough to read quickly, succinct enough to deliver value, and intriguing enough to prompt a click-through.
The opportunity is out there. Email Marketing isn’t brain surgery. Following the basic and simple steps I’ve outlined above will help you succeed in getting your email delivered. Now closing the deal is another story altogether, but at least you’re getting them to your website and interested in your offering.
On a daily basis, I speak with SMB (small and medium business) owners, VP and C-Level marketing and advertising execs about email marketing. They are from widely diverse industries, both B2C and B2B, and want to understand why their email marketing isn’t performing to their expectations and generating better results. Since I’ve been involved in the email marketing industry since 1998 and Email Answers provides consulting services, is a managed email marketing service provider and involved in pretty much every aspect associated with email marketing, we’re their first stop when things are not going well. By the time I usually receive that call, things are bad – really bad. I feel like Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction. If you’ve never seen the movie or don’t remember who he was, he was “The Cleaner”. He is the guy who was called as a last resort, when all else has failed, and they need someone to come in and clean up the mess with surgical precision. Winston is a guy who solves problems – usually with brilliant, lucid thinking under pressure and a stylish charisma for galvanizing other people into action.
Once they come to the realization that they are in big trouble and need some help, we get the call. Every call starts out the same. “I need assistance in turning around our email marketing program to make it successful and profitable. Can you help me?” The main cause of their pain is usually the same in every instance. The person running and managing their email marketing initiatives does not fully understand everything involved in making an email campaign successful. Email campaigns are not as one might imagine. Once the realization sets in of taking the email marketing task away from their receptionist, intern or web developer, they usually get the picture and allow us to help them build a successful email marketing channel that delivers a positive ROI. Where do we begin? We usually start by analyzing every aspect of their existing email marketing program and provide the customer with two options.
Option 1: Email Answers will develop, design and implement a new email marketing strategy and plan, then train their personnel to deliver and manage it. The entire process takes about 3-4 weeks from start to finish. We also provide ongoing support and guidance when needed.
Option 2: The customer would turn everything over to us and Email Answers would manage their entire email marketing program, strategy and deployments. Most companies don’t realize all of the moving parts and pieces involved in a successful email marketing strategy and what it takes to ensure a positive ROI.
Making the decision, of which option is the right choice, isn’t an easy task. Although, when you understand everything involved in designing, developing, managing and running an effective email marketing program, you might be surprised when you put a pencil to paper and do the math.
Let’s take a minute to run the numbers. I will base this simple example on a medium sized company, for simplicity purposes only.
Option 1: To hire an intelligent, experienced email marketing manager, who actually knows what he or she is doing, will cost you a minimum of $60k per year. Then you have to add in whatever your ESP charges you for a turnkey email marketing platform, which includes bandwidth and IP addresses. For this example, we use a monthly rate of $2500 or $30k annually. Now you will need a graphic design person who can properly code email creatives and has the ability to design and build email ads that don’t get flagged as spam and actually make it to the inbox. You can add another $30k per year, for this person, to the mix. Don’t forget, you’ll need to add in Email Answers consulting services as well. We’ll conservatively add an extra $10k, which includes basic ongoing support.
Option 2: Everything included above in option 1, but done more efficiently and on time by the expert staff at Email Answers.
Option 1 – Annual Expense: $130,000
Option 2 – Annual Expense: $60,000
Do I need to provide any additional information? Do I need to ask nicely or say “Pretty Please” or “Pretty Please with Sugar on Top”? I didn’t think so.
Is it time to get help? Are you ready for an outside perspective and expert opinion on why your current email marketing strategy is failing or not performing to your expectations? It’s as simple as picking up the phone and asking. We’ll be happy to review your entire program, free of charge, and let you know what we think.