Email Marketing – “The war of the worlds”

On 12 Jul., 2010

E-mail marketing – “War of the Worlds” is the first chapter in a series of posts i will write regarding email marketing.

Email Marketing – “The war of the worlds”

In continuation to my last post, I believe that the medium called e-mail marketing is a very important channel in our marketing mix and needs to be explored in depth.

Today we all understand that it becomes really hard to reach our customers, the competition is fierce and its becoming more and more difficult to “touch” or get the customer’s attention. conventional marketing methods becomes less effective each day that goes by and marketing mangers look for more creative ways of  interacting with current and potential customers, bring to the table a more personal dimension, a dimension that is connected to the individual and the customer’s needs and wishes and this is for the sole purpose of selling a product.

The great thing about the internet is that it has given us the opportunity to locate, identify, contact and – “touch” varied audiences, direct marketing methods (such as e-mail marketing) enable us to reach the consumer on a personal level,not when he or she had looked for us or searched for us, in recent years direct marketing methods are the most significant medium in the internet, more than search & display (for example banners)…if you think about it search engines are a contextual tool that is based on the simple principle of “Anyone who is looking for me can also find me” it’s not a proactive marketing channel per say, I guess it’s a more a reactive way of getting people to notice you, in opposed to other marketing methods that are more proactive (such as display adverting , PR etc.). One of the proactive marketing channels is called direct marketing  “There are two main definitional characteristics which distinguish direct marketing from other types of marketing. The first is that it sends its message directly to consumers, without the use of intervening commercial communication media. The second characteristic is the core principle of successful Advertising driving a specific “call-for-action.” This aspect of direct marketing involves an emphasis on “track-able”, measurable, positive responses from consumers (known simply as “response ratio” in the industry)…

One of the oldest methods of direct marketing is direct mailing (being done both online and offline) mail (not e-mail) is the pioneer of course, long before the Internet was born, therefor I am sure you would agree that e-mail is one of the most important pillars (what would we do without the post office?) and I will explain why in a min.

it began in the 60’s, the concept of a Time sharing platform which many users can remotely connect to,connecting to a computer stationary and encourage users to share information in a new way, and much like any other evolutionary process, over time it formed a broad network “sitting” on the infrastructure backbone which today allows us to share textual and visual information, it is one of the largest if not the largest personal information exchange channels (yes…more then facebok and more than instant messaging…even Google and facebook realize that email is the number one channel of communication) the effect was so addictive … admit you are addicted … I find  it hard to imagine life without email and without checking my blackberry every second, it is most definitely the most addictive thing on earth.

So… where are we today?

a few years back email allows us to write simple messages and communicate it to our friends/colleagues or customers in a simple “non emotional” way, years went by and we were introduced to HTML-mailers…HTML emails allows us to do what that text-based e-mails could not do before, it allows us to communicate and express ourselves better, by includes images or using templates that captures ones attention, the ability to track users response (did people read my mail or just deleted it?) it allows us to count clicks and referrals, analyze in real-time and add many features that will allow the marketing messages go directly to the customer, a high quality and complex message. This communication method enabled us to communicate with
potential and existing customers, a “pipeline” that can deliver our customer base new information updates and news, it can be a personal greeting when they join our company’s mailing list, even a “happy birthday” greeting mailer to congratulate them…It has become a MUST have in any company, a significant customer acquisition and retention medium/tool that has no match, it’s focused, has rich texture and deliver branded content, it is relatively very cheap than any other marketing channel and I have few more pros in mind… so tell me…what more could you ask?

HTML-mailers are very different than textual e-mails, it has smart capabilities and it allows more… allot more, all emails sent to us basically contain both textual elements and visual/graphic elements, We allow our customers the ability to actually decide how they want to get our message, you are right….many of us don’t like receiving  HTML emails, some even setup their mail client so it won’t show any pictures or graphics at all, some email clients do it automatically (outlook and Gmail for example) it will usually demand the user to add a rule that allows pictures to be seen (usually from a certain sender or domain) some send those emails straight to the junk mail folder, but I can tell you that there are many who want it and ask for it – like me. it’s very important for me to see the creative and not just the copy, the number of people asking pictures and graphics to be displayed is growing by the day, there is no doubt at all HTML-mailers delivers a clearer message clearly, an emotional dimension (an important and necessary element in marketing and advertising), it allows transfer of graphic messages to strengthen the feelings towards the brand (they say “a picture is worth a thousand words” ..) These messages allow us to move and create full and genuine interaction.

That being said it’s a paradox …think about it….on one hand you would like to communicate those rich, emotional messages to your audience (this is what a marketing manager wants) we would like to communicate a more creative colorful message with the “brand’s colors” (“look & feel”) and on the other hand the email clients / mailer service providers and ISP’s are preventing you from doing so, hotmail/live, Yahoo, Gmail, outlook and your Internet provider…all of them are blocking this rich format… In a world full of spam (see my earlier post “Spam – a phenomena or way of life?” ) the task becomes very difficult and almost impossible, nearly all HTML-mailers do not reach the inbox, although there are many methods of doing so, still it seems that there are two opposing vectors, absurd isn’t it….?

According to a new study by Lyris Email Advisor although many think that the content of emails is not the most significant component of deliverability problems, in the U.S. It seems that the big Internet providers have a high percentage of problems in delivering emails to inboxes precisely because of content issues! So I ask you what do you think is the important highlights for not being delivered? It is important to understand that because of the amount of spam (4 of 5 mails sent are SPAM) many large ISP’s (what can you do … they control the “flow”) implement aggressive filtering methods, emails that look” problematic are blocked and “exterminated” (really reminds me of a scene from the film “War of the Worlds “) here are a few reasons for this “extermination”

1. ’Heavy’ emails – you are using a “heavy”creative design (I witnessed emails that weights over 1MB…
2. The use of pictures (many problems are due to the format, gif’s, jpeg’s, bmp’s etc.)
3. “From name” manipulations – textual elements that are “suspicious” (such as XXX)
4. Sender’s History – the domain you send your email from, there are cases were your domain/ip is blacklisted (reasons may vary…sending many emails a day, user complaints and more)
5. Popularity issues – your sending domain might be unpopular  (it is a very important factor, I will discuss it in later posts)

6. Number of links used – if you use many links in your emails it mostly goes to spam or junk folder

7. Keywords – the use of “problematic” keywords such as “sex” “casino” and even signs such as “!”, “?” etc.

There are many more parameters to why an email is filtered or blocked. The list is long.

The same study argued that we choose to blame the various filters although there are many reasons for running non successful campaigns – hint: Maybe that’s what we wrote!? Perhaps the advertising message does not clarify what the hell we want? maybe it is partly a reaction of customers we sent it to (maybe they have complained about us?) … maybe the email wasn’t designed properly? The study also argues that 10 U.S. Isp ’s deliverability percentage is 83.8% on average, the European ISP’s had the highest deliverability followed by Australia, Canada.

Without any doubt… increasing competition requires us to be more creative and more sophisticated, we must be familiar with this electronic space, in my next post I promise to try and “plunge” a bit deeper, tell a bit how to do it and how to create a better e-mail campaign and what will enable us to “touch” more customers. This is a very important process and a significant channel of your marketing mix and you should master it! It will save you time and money believe me. stay tuned…..