How Fit Is Your E-mail Program?
It’s official: Forrester Research recently announced that e-mail is a blink or two away from achieving universal penetration, with 97 percent of consumers and 94 percent of marketers using the channel. By and large, massive channel adoption by a marketplace is a good thing. But when it comes to best practices in e-mail marketing, experts caution marketers to adjust their thinking if they consider the full 97 percent of the consumer market fair game for their e-mail efforts.
“The size of your e-mail file is not as important a measure of the health of your program as the engagement level of the file,” states Austin Bliss, president of FreshAddress, an e-mail hygiene and deliverability solutions firm in Newton, Mass.
E-mail has developed as a more personal medium, one where people feel more ownership of their address (or addresses, as it might be) and thus exercise caution before sharing it with others. They also take extreme steps to protect the content of their inbox. A study from the Email Sender and Provider Coalition indicates that eight out of 10 respondents do not casually hit the “Report Spam” button in their e-mail clients; they understand the consequences for marketers and find it an acceptable way to force businesses to do a better job of meeting their needs.
“A customer who doesn’t like you can hurt you. You can’t push your agenda on them,” explains Morgan Stewart, director, strategic services at ExactTarget, an e-mail software solutions firm in Indianapolis. A high spam complaint rate can get your e-mails blocked by ISPs, and a high unsubscribe rate has a negative impact on your program ROI—and could even affect your activity across other channels.
That’s why meeting the regulations in the Can Spam Act is the “lowest threshold for best practices in e-mail,” advises Bliss. It’s also why of the 94 percent of marketers using e-mail, each company has to more tightly define best practices and benchmarks based on its particular marketing climate.