Not Just a Shot in the Dark
By Dave Hendricks
Like many marketers today, you have probably heard that Web site banner ads are a dead marketing format.
The next big thing is e-mail marketing. "It's all about customer relationship management, or CRM," you're told: If you don't establish an online relationship with your customers—and fast—your competition will eat your lunch.
So now you're amassing the biggest e-mail list you can manage.
Your goal? You want to try to get visitors to sign up. What for? More information and offers.
Next? Monetize them, perhaps by acquiring individuals' permission to send the infamous "third-party offers from like-minded partners."
Profiting from the E-mail Marketing Revolution?
Now that you have their permission to receive offers from you and your partners, you're ready to start profiting from the e-mail marketing revolution! You've got everything you need to start renting out your names to other retailers who want to reach your audience and sell them things, right?
With visions of sugarplums and easy money, you call your local list broker and tell him or her all about your e-mail list.
But reality soon hits. You have accumulated names, names and more names, but you have no idea how many or why they signed up other than to get your newsletter or to enter your sweepstakes. You don't know what offers or messages they'll respond to, or whether they'll drop off or bounce.
In short, your e-mail customer list, without performance history, has lost its value in today's list-saturated world. But you did what you were supposed to: You created an e-mail list from your popular and relevant site.
So what was missing? Demographics, performance and a successful campaign or two.
If it's all about CRM, then indeed, e-mail marketing is the ideal tool for learning about the performance history of your online customers.
Unlike catalogs or print direct mail, which must rely on response codes to determine their success, e-mails can be tracked for their opens, clicks and even purchases. The two are as different as a rifle with a scope in broad daylight and a shotgun in the dark.
The Right List Puts You on Target
The problem with e-mail lists is targeting—or lack thereof.
An e-mail list that you rent, without results, is that proverbial shotgun in the dark. You don't know who or what you are buying.
On the other hand, a seasoned e-mail list can be segmented into categories such as "openers," "repeat openers," "clickers," "repeat clickers," "buyers" and "repeat buyers."
This capability, unique to e-mail marketing, is very valuable. Key information can be captured at the time of the e-mailing event and easily stored in a database for later retrieving and targeting.
By measuring the opens, clicks and purchases that your e-mail campaigns generate you can learn who is interested in your e-mail and who isn't. This is valuable for determining whom to send follow-up messages to, who doesn't care, and who absolutely doesn't want to hear from you ever again.
Applying this information correctly, you then can establish a true picture of your list for a prospective rental customer or sponsor.
You also can determine which products, articles or links they respond to and click on, providing you with a rough gauge of their interest categories, even if you didn't ask them when they signed up.
But performance is only part of it. Real targeting comes when you match this behavioral data with demographics that you collect at sign up. This is a simple process that yields great results.
Imagine your home-page form, but add one thing: a drop-down list for preferences, such as "music type" if yours is a music retail site. Your drop-down list could be populated with, say, rock, jazz, classical and blues.
Marry that demographic data with the behavioral data you have collected from mailing. Now you have a profile behind a name, say, "classical fans who are repeat clickers and one-time buyers."
Let's face it: The days when you could make $100, $50 or even $20 per thousand from a list of random
e-mail addresses with limited demographics and behavior history are over—a casualty of the dot-com frenzy that we all witnessed in the late 1990s.
The reality today is that these lists crowd the market, and there is fierce competition to market them to the remaining e-commerce companies and any other acquisition-minded prospects.
Does this make e-mail marketing less important and valuable than it was just a year or two ago? No. Rather, it just makes it more interesting.
How do you make your e-mail list more profitable for you and more attractive to renters? Following are some final tips:
As president of LiveIntent, Dave Hendricks devises corporate strategies and tries to simplify marketing language. Before growing LiveIntent, Dave was executive vice president (EVP) of operations at PulsePoint (then known as Datran Media), where he worked alongside LiveIntent chief executive (CEO) Matt Keiser and ran Datran's ESP StormPost (nka PostUp). A member of the founding executive team at ExperianCheetahMail, Dave began his email adventure at Pioneering ESP MessageMedia. Dave was named one of Business Insider's "Top 100 Technologists" in 2011 and Alley Watch claimed he was one of 15 people "changing advertising" in 2014. He plays electric guitar and you should follow him on Twitter @davehendricks.