Email Marketing is dead – Long live email selling!

Death_to_stock_BMX1_9_600A recent LinkedIn discussion on the merits of email marketing showed the massive polarity of responses.  On one side was heard:

  • I hate spam. I never read any email from anyone I don’t know
  • It doesn’t work – I’ve tried and failed
  • Email is dead anyway, numbers using email are declining. Social Media is the way forward
  • No one read our marketing emails that we’ve spent a fortune having designed

And on the other hand comments like these appeared:

  • Email is a great channel to find new customers
  • We mainly use email to retain clients
  • Our email strategy gives the highest ROI of any of our marketing

So what’s going on?  How can a relatively homogenous group have such different views on the effectiveness of email as a promotions and sales channel?

I believe the difference is between those that see email as a broadcast medium and those that seek to engage contacts by sharing knowledge and advice.  To differentiate the two, I have coined the phrase email selling to describe this second activity.

The difference is stark:

Email Marketing Email Selling
Designed emails with lots of HTML and pictures Plain emails, often short with limited or no design
Content talks about the sender “we’re great”, “we’ve got lots of clients”, “look at our services”, etc… The content is focussed on the recipient:  Useful knowledge; valuable advice and relevant stories
Everyone gets the same message Recipients are segmented and receive different messages and customised content intended to be directly relevant to them.
Messages often originate from the marketing department Messages are usually created with the involvement of sales department or other line of business users
Focus is on propagating brand and being “on message” Focus is on giving great value to the recipients
Fire & forget Regular engagement with further email or telephone follow up around the topic the recipient engaged with
Campaigns don’t evolve based on user behaviour New messages are created and targeted based on engagement with past content
ROI difficult to measure Known ROI based on a regular stream of new leads and closed sales

So next time you are thinking about your email strategy think email selling over email marketing.

The perfect email

It’s not often that I get the perfect email – one that beautifully illustrates all of the various different points we go on (and on) about in designing effective emails that sell.  But I got one this morning!  And here it is.

So let’s look at this from the top…

  1. SpigenSubject line.  Arguably the most important part of the email, the subject line should entice the recipient to engage with the message and, if you are not viewing the content in your preview pane, to open the message. Fail.
  2. Sender name.  Different commentators argue that the sender name is now more important than the subject line in getting engagement.  At least this sender has included an alias but just the company name???  Surely something a bit more personal…  And take a look at the email address.  I don’t know about you, but that does not look to me like someone I know or would want to trust.
  3. Sent to.  I’ve not got the first clue who =?utf-8?Q??= is, but I don’t know how to pronounce it and I certainly don’t answer to it.  Is this personalisation gone wrong?  Who knows.  big fail.
  4. Content.  Finally!  Lets have a look at the message… Oh well.

Great “apology” email

I love clear, easy to read emails that catch my eye.  This one is a great example that I’ve just received:

What’s so good about this email then?  Well, the key points for me are:

  1. Strong message.  Gives the impression of a busy company working hard.
  2. Good customer service.  They know that customers have been having problems contacting them and are not scared to own up and apologise.  And they’ve given you a gift in “compensation”.
  3. It has the side (or main) benefit for anyone not inconvenienced of reminding them about the company and gives them an incentive to order during December.

I don’t know how many people have been unable to contact them or if this is a blatent ploy, but whatever the case, it’s a good message and if I were looking for ink cartridges right now I’d have taken them up on their offer…

“I” disease

I received a strange email today.  I liked it and didn’t like it at the same time!  Here it is, what do you think?

I like this email because it’s plain and simple.  No silly images to distract from the message.  However I don’t like this message because:

  • It’s “all about us”.  Look at the times it says “I, us, we, our” compared to you & your.  This is the email equivalent of shouting at someone from 6 inches away!
  • Variable size fonts.  I’m sure this is not deliberate, but look at the size of the font through the email.
  • Typos & language.  Didn’t read well – in fact I had to read it 3 times to understand it.
  • There was no fluency of message.  It does not take me, the reader on a journey from problem to solution so I’ve no idea what issue is being solved for me.

Anyway, hope you find this useful.  And if you want me to take a look over your emails before you send, just let me know – no charge!!

Beware the perils of mailmerge!

We’ve just received a very well written and nicely laid out email from London Launch promoting their trade exhibition in London.  Here is the email they sent out:

Email from LondonLaunch

but for the mailmerge that has gone wrong!  Sadly LondonLaunch’s attempt to personalise on the senders company name has given them the lovely line of  “All of London’s best venues and suppliers will be there – will Londonlaunch?”. Oh dear!

It’s easy to see they have merged their own company name in place of the recipient’s.  So, beware mailmerge and get someone else to read your marketing emails before they get sent out!

Have a great weekend…

Email marketing just got harder… or easier!

When we talk with clients initially one of the key points they bring up is to ensure that their brand is fully “implemented” into their email marketing programme.  This often involves including multiple images, background colours, etc.

Our view is that this is a waste of time.  Email is designed to communicate a message from individual to individual and the most successful campaigns are those that emulate this personal one to one style.  Branding the email immediately marks it as “promotional” and something to be treated with suspicion.

So, when I received the message below from CommuniGator, I saw it as good news and a vindication of our viewpoint.

From CommuniGator:

When Outlook 2007 was released by Microsoft one of the most significant changes was the switch to using Word as the email authoring tool over IE. In Outlook 2010 Microsoft has affirmed its stance that the users ease of composing professional looking text based emails outweighs the rendering of received email, created using alternative email clients, specifically those written in HTML and containing CSS. Microsoft has stated that it currently plans to continue using Word to render HTML emails and it seems, on initial inspection, that HTML support in the current Word engine has not been improved in any way.

So, what does this mean for the email marketer? The below summarises HTML/CSS functions that are no longer supported;

– Animated Gifs

– Flash or Other Plugins
– CSS Floats/Positioning
– Use of images as bullets in unordered lists
– Background images
– Forms
– Background colours
– Alt tags

In short, you can expect the rendering of all HTML email communications to suffer significantly as a result of the changes.

You may be thinking this is nothing new, as Outlook 2007 has been around for a while, but well over half of MS Office users are still using the 2003 or even earlier versions. It is also worth nothing that over 8.6 million users have tested the beta version of Office 2010, more than 3 times the number of any previous version, suggesting a much faster adoption rate and a large number who are planning on making a jump from 2003, straight to 2010, probably at the same time as upgrading to the new Windows 7 operating system.

Thanks Microsoft 🙂