The Top 10 Land Mines in E-mail Marketing
By David Smith
The Internet has changed many things, but the classic marketing challenge remains unaltered: how to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time to influence perception and behavior.
The 'Net as a channel affords greater marketing impact at a lower cost than any other media channel. Of all the interactive tools available today, permission-based e-mail marketing remains the most powerful way to reach millions of prospects in a targeted, cost-effective way. It's also the best way to continue a dialogue with customers, begin a conversation with prospects, and it can measure and analyze results.
Following are the land mines to avoid when beginning an e-mail campaign.
1. Spam. Everyone gets it, and no one likes it. Ask the following hard questions of your e-mail vendor: "Can you prove that your lists are legitimately opt-in? And can the original point of opt-in be sourced?" Don't use a vendor that can't give straight answers.
2. The opt-out as the opt-in game. In most cases, when you get an unwanted advertising offer from an unknown source you can opt-out from receiving future offers. Sounds easy. Unfortunately, sometimes opt-out only confirms to the sender that your e-mail address is live, and you're retained in the sender's database of names. Marketers must respect opt-out requests and immediately remove these addresses.
3. Oversending/undersending. Oversending until the desired client results are achieved, or stopping the send once results are achieved, is the bait-and-switch of the e-mail industry. Fraudulent metrics on initial test campaigns are used to entice advertisers to move forward on bigger projects that often perform poorly. Oversending/undersending makes fair and accurate campaign analysis impossible. Your only protection is the integrity of your vendor. Ask for a written statement of the vendor's sending practices.
4. Inventive tracking. Tracking can be reported in static reports or through live links to actual campaign statistics where e-mail campaign activity can be seen click by click.
Which tracking format would you trust more: an Excel spreadsheet or a server-based live view? What's the definition employed by your e-mail vendor for calculating open rates and click-through rates? Are the definitions consistent with the new Interactive Advertising Bureau standards, or has your vendor invented its own measurement? Only use vendors that provide live tracking links based on industry definitions.
5. Breeding. Breeding is the measure of the rate of e-mail propagation. It can be measured two ways: the volume of e-mail sent to a freshly registered e-mail address per unit of time, or the frequency with which a new e-mail address is resold to other marketers. Protect yourself by using only vendors who manage the weekly volume of e-mail offers sent to any one address and whose lists are not bought and sold on "online street corners."
6. False clicks. Certain e-mail vendors use robots or spider software to create false open and click-through rates. The result: What you think are legitimate interests in your offer, as measured by open rates and click-through rates, are just mechanical hits used to drive up the reported results. The ability to observe tracking data online, hour by hour, is perhaps your best defense against this practice.
7. Misrepresented capabilities. Vendors often misrepresent their capabilities, especially their ability to deliver difficult selects (geography) or specialty services (affinity-based targeting). Ask your vendor: "How will you target to reach my desired audiences?" Ask for several references of campaigns with similar targeting objectives, and call them for feedback.
8. False lists. Many e-mail vendors sell only what you need. The problem is they often don't have what you need, but will claim they do to get your business. They either don't have the list or the right selects. In one real-world example, a chocolate company was told by its e-mail vendor: "Yes, we have a list of thousands of females ages 16 to 35 who love chocolate and live in New Jersey." Even the best lists have limited information. If the list sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
9. No customer support. Will the person who sold you the business be available to answer your questions? Who will host the post-campaign review to help improve your next campaign? Without direct-voice customer support, the value of your e-mail campaign is diminished.
10. No vendor accountability. Advertisers often are too easy on their vendors and don't hold them to ethical standards. Remember, if your campaign involves consumer abuse of any measure, it's the advertiser that's pilloried, not the e-mail firm that sent it. Can you trust your e-mail vendor to protect and maintain your brand and your reputation?
The industry is undergoing a shakeout, and vendors who aren't credible won't survive. Three things must happen to elevate the industry:
1. It must establish and use standard measurements and definitions.
2. Media buyers must purchase
services based on vendor capabilities rather than price.
3. Advertisers must demand that vendors and campaigns be certified.
David Smith is co-founder, director and chief strategist of Targit Interactive, an interactive marketing services provider based in Portsmouth, NH. He can be reached at (603) 766-8300 or via e-mail: email@example.com.