This July Only: Save 30% on PRO with code SUMMER30 »

Real-World Education for Modern Marketers

Join Over 616,000 Marketing Professionals

Start here!
N E X T
Text:  A A

Email Like It's 2012, Not 1999

by   |    |  23,764 views

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Three areas of email marketing that have evolved
  • How to modernize your email marketing for success in 2012

Though all things Internet seem to move at the speed of light and come or go overnight, commercial email marketing is, impressively, approaching its 15th anniversary.

I remember becoming involved with email first in 1999 and being impressed by the creative and technical possibilities—even though dial-up Internet connections still outnumbered broadband!

Although anti-spam software and abuse-prevention delivery rules have often thwarted the channel's technical capabilities since its early years (video in email was possible in 2000), no excuse justifies emailing like it's still 1999.

After a decade of following so-called best-practices, we should examine the core components of our email programs to be sure we're applying contemporary thinking and capabilities rather than simply running what worked (or was assumed to work) in the past.

Many best-practices are far from evergreen, and if they are not examined continually they become the No. 1 reason an email program slowly degenerates into mediocrity and produces diminishing returns.


List-Building

1999

Opt-in permission was a much-supported standard of early email marketing, but it was not legally mandated in the US. The result? To develop email lists, marketers often disregarded permission, favoring quantity over quality and adding email addresses to their files via all possible means—co-reg deals, list swaps, compilation of data from directories or prospect files, etc.

Long story short, plenty of large email lists were amassed via less-than-opt-in means, and a huge percentage of people on those lists were disengaged and unresponsive.

2012

Examine your methods for gathering email addresses: Are they clearly permission-based? And do you offer a unique value proposition (UVP) that entices subscriber engagement?

Valuing quality (of list members) over quantity always results in better-qualified, more-engaged list members—which translates into better response performance and return on investment (ROI).

Keep in mind, too, that large percentages of inactive, disengaged subscribers can affect your deliverability and reputation because some of those inactives will include abandoned accounts that turned into spamtraps. And hitting spamtraps can land you on blacklists.

At least two major Internet service providers (ISPs) are now monitoring email-address-owner engagement and using that information as a determining factor for inbox placement. Keeping broad swaths of "zombies" on your list, therefore, will (over time) harm your ability to reach the people who really want your email because your messages will increasingly be relegated to the junk folder.

So, either re-engage your inactives with an orchestrated campaign, or suppress them, and conduct regular email list clean ups to identify and remove spamtraps.

Subject Lines

1999

The conventional wisdom on subject lines dictated that you "keep 'em short and sweet," "long subject lines will be truncated," and "don't use the word free." None of those practices are relevant today.

2012

Though it's true that long subject lines may still not be fully visible in many email client viewers, their content itself is rarely ever cut off or truncated. New research by Alchemy Worx, a London-based email service provider (ESP), found that long subject lines are powerful motivators of not only opens but also clicks. Long subject lines, then, are better relevancy indicators than short subject lines.

Long subject lines also allow for the inclusion of multiple (vs. single) topics when email messages contain multiple offers or benefits; such more descriptive subject lines better set and manage the recipient's expectation of the email's contents; accordingly, they correlate to higher email response rates vs. merely email opens.

And, yes, in the early days of email, when content filtering was king, the word "free" did sometimes trip spam filters and result in junked campaigns. Free, however, remains one of the most powerful words in direct response, and it rarely triggers content filters today. So whether you have a great free piece of content, free trial, or free gift, be sure people know it!

Measurement and Analysis

1999

Basic email marketing metrics measured the number of delivered messages, opens, clicks, conversions, and unsubscribes. Was there more revenue than cost at the end of the day? Great! Positive ROI!

2012

Though basic email process metrics and ROI remain staples of campaign analysis, they don't tell the whole story... so we can't stop there today. Contemporary, smart email marketers look beyond open/click/conversion rate (How many people took an action on campaign X?) and examine open/click/conversion reach (What percentage of people on a list has ever opened?; What's the frequency distribution?).

In addition, contribution metrics like average order value (AOV) and revenue per email address (RPE) paint a richer results picture than simple ROI and serve as meaningful metrics when comparing the results of one campaign with another, or when comparing head-to-head test groups.

How to Email Like It's 2012

In 2012, successful email marketing isn't simply about being in the red or the black at the end of a campaign or business cycle. Today, email marketing is about maximized potential and continual improvement—achieving optimal delivery, response, and financial contribution from the channel. Today, email is about getting the biggest "bang for our buck," achieving the maximum with the minimum, applying the most efficient use of resources, and most astutely implementing the most relevant strategies.

Times have changed, and, with them, the rules of email, which have evolved and will continue to evolve. Success in this channel is (and always will be) defined by flexibility, agility, and innovation.

Stay nimble, always question your assumptions, don't be afraid to experiment, and you'll be light years ahead of the pack who still email like it's 1999.


Join over 616,000 marketing professionals, and gain access to thousands of marketing resources! Don't worry ... it's FREE!

WANT TO READ MORE?
SIGN UP TODAY ... IT'S FREE!

We will never sell or rent your email address to anyone. We value your privacy. (We hate spam as much as you do.) See our privacy policy.

Sign in with one of your preferred accounts below:

Loading...

Karen Talavera heads Synchronicity Marketing and writes about how to successfully use email, social, and content marketing on the Enlightened Emarketing blog. You can also follow Karen on Twitter (@SyncMarketing) and Facebook for daily tips and links to emerging email and social media marketing trends, facts, and research.

Rate this  

Overall rating

  • This has a 4 star rating
  • This has a 4 star rating
  • This has a 4 star rating
  • This has a 4 star rating
  • This has a 4 star rating
3 rating(s)

Add a Comment

Comments

  • by Andy from Benchmark Email Mon Apr 9, 2012 via web

    Great article! Is it wrong that I was secretly hoping it'd turn into an email marketing like Prince article? I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I know it would include a lot of purple...and the communication tool formerly known as email. At the very least, I'm hoping I planted a seed (cough cough hint hint).

  • by Kathy Mon Apr 9, 2012 via web

    Great article. Thanks, Karen. I work for cinemas and we have over 10,000 subscribers on our weekly e-newsletter list. However, unrelated to the unsubscribers, only about 1,500 - 1,800 ever open the email. Do you know what the average "open" rate is?

  • by Amber King Mon Apr 9, 2012 via web

    Email marketing should evolve as well. What works in 1999 will most likely not work today.

    Thanks for pointing this out Karen. Great article.

  • by Stephanie Tue Apr 10, 2012 via web

    Thanks for posting Karen. Love the comparisons between what works now and what worked in 1999. This truly is the time of taking chances and surprising your target population with the new and unexpected.

  • by Kelly McIvor Wed Apr 11, 2012 via web

    Good article but it misses out on another huge change in the way email is consumed - via mobile device.
    With so many people using their mobile devices for reading email as well as scanning to weed out the less important email marketers need to adjust many things about their techniques including:
    - Keep subject lines short. They won't get truncated but they also may not show completely. The effect is the same.
    - Limit images. Many Android phones don't display images as a default. If your messages is embedded in an image it will be lost.
    - Create mobile-friendly email designs. These are flexible designs that allow the email client to shrink or expand the email depending on the screen size of the device.
    For more on a mobile email strategy go here: http://atomicmobile.com/d/?p=49

MarketingProfs uses single
sign-on with Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to make subscribing and signing in easier for you. That's it, and nothing more! Rest assured that MarketingProfs: Your data is secure with MarketingProfs SocialSafe!