The Changing World of Email Marketing
Derek Fairfield, Leader, E-Marketing Solutions, MDR — Friday, May 18, 2012
When it first came to prominence, email marketing was a game changer. The ability to cost-effectively test and target messaging combined with the direct feedback of Opens and Click-Throughs helped this new channel become an indispensable part of the marketing mix for nine out of ten marketers, according to our research.
Email marketing is now a mature channel and that means the game has changed again. CAN-SPAM legislation has curbed “batch and blast” emailers, but in the universe of campaigns deployed by MDR or self-deployed by clients, volumes were way up last year--a staggering 67% increase over the prior school year. While Opt-Out rates remain low, Open and Click-Through rates are showing a slight drop, a signal to marketers that audiences are nearing a saturation point and only messages that resonate will continue to gain attention.
To get the most out of email marketing in this shifting environment, marketers are turning to best practices like relevance and personalization, better execution, reporting, follow-up triggers, and highly targeted lists.
Speak Their Language
The days of casting a wide net and hoping to catch a few interested readers are over. Our research shows that after knowing the sender, relevance is the second most important factor in whether an educator will open an email. Marketers are also creating relevance by using personalization and dynamic content insertion to tailor the message to the reader and create a direct connection.
One of email’s strengths is the ability to create highly targeted, relevant, and personalized messages based on data about the recipient. Leveraging the enormous depth of information available on educators, you can create subject lines and messaging that deliver value and touch on the unique drivers of any audience segment. Personalization, on average, lifts the response rate, while personalizing both the “From” and “To” lines can have a dramatic impact on response rates.
Less is becoming more. Average campaign sizes are decreasing, showing the impact of email subscriptions and smarter targeting. Smaller campaigns, with fewer than 1,000 addresses, have double the Open rate, proving the point that precise targeting and relevant messaging works.
Earn Their Trust
The implementation of the CAN-SPAM legislation in 2004 has helped to transform email into a better relationship marketing tool. The goal now is not only to get the Open, Click-Through, or lead but also to establish your brand as a trusted source of valuable and relevant information so the reader opens this and all future emails.
Educators identify knowing the sender as the primary reason they open an email. Getting your brand on an educator’s white list is a sign that you are delivering value and fostering a relationship that is more likely to lead to future sales.
In a world where your email etiquette can determine the future of your relationship with a prospect, attention to implementation is crucial. Follow best practices in relevance and targeting, be mindful of the frequency and timing of emails, honor unsubscribe requests promptly, and monitor your feedback loop so you can respond quickly to missteps.
Know Where You Stand and With Whom
Email marketing introduced a level of feedback and measurability that helps marketers continuously improve performance. Open rates and Click-Throughs are the bread and butter of reporting, but as information about educators expands, so do the reporting opportunities. Combining Open and Click-Through data with recipients’ online behavior can help you gain a deep understanding of the people you are reaching with campaign results across key individual, institution, and geographic demographics.
Testing and robust back-end reporting—using tools like MDR’s Campaign Analyzer or Email Test and Roll—give you diagnostic insight that can instantly improve the ROI of future campaigns in all channels. Identifying which segments do not require unique messaging is just as valuable an outcome as identifying the ones that do, and watching where the clicks come from can help you understand a person’s role in the purchasing process--as influencer, decision maker, or holder of the purse strings.
They Speak...We’re Listening
Like everyone today, educators live online, using the Internet for every aspect of their personal and professional lives. Each Open, Click-Through, response or non-response, and transaction is a data point that communicates their interests and priorities. Because MDR is the hub for hundreds of email campaigns to educators, we have the ability to aggregate online behavior data across millions of transactions. This allows us to offer a select for the customers most likely to Open, Click-Through, and/or convert based on our analysis of their past behavior.
MDR’s powerful database select, called Email Response Indicator (ERI), scores and ranks email recipients from high to low in terms of buying potential and likelihood of response. One customer recently ran a campaign using ERI selects that was deployed on a Friday morning based on information gained during a Digital Trends webinar. In that first morning, they attracted about 100 new registered users--a day-one 30% total click-to-registration conversion and likely a 50% unique recipient click-to-registration conversion. When combined with in-depth targeting and segmenting, ERI has the power to help you overcome the dampening effects of the maturing email market.
Strike While the Iron Is Hot
Besides spamming, the only real crime in email marketing is failing to follow up on a lead that you’ve worked hard to capture. The best systems acknowledge the recipient’s interest and set the stage for personal follow-up and also trigger a task to your campaign responders to reach out. Automation is key, and tools like our Email Campaign Follow-Up Triggers send an instant initial message to recipients who Open or Click-Through. With this program, you can even deploy up to three additional messages to individuals who have not opened or clicked your original email.
Although today’s email marketing landscape has shifted, there are still plenty of opportunities to connect with prospects using this channel. Personalization and precise targeting may take a bit more work on the front-end but ultimately result in more qualified leads at the conclusion of your campaign.
Derek Fairfield currently leads e-marketing product development at MDR. Previously, Derek managed MDR’s Sales Solution product line as well as its Analytics products. Derek also acts as a strategic consultant for MDR’s interactive marketing customers and directs MDR’s industry-leading e-marketing research and best practices efforts. Derek is a regular presenter on MDR educational marketing webinars.
Before joining MDR, Derek designed, developed, and deployed B2C and B2B marketing strategies and programs for start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. In 1997, Derek led an account team that won a DMA Echo Award for online lead generation and email acquisition campaigns. Derek is a strong advocate for e-marketing in the education industry and general marketing best practices. Derek can be reached at 203-225-4643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.