Last week, one of the largest wireless phone service providers in the world (see screen shot below) sent us an email inviting us to visit one of their newly remodeled ‘brick and mortar’ retail stores. The email body was well-designed, on-brand, colorful, and streamlined…plus, a 25% in-store coupon! We almost clicked through out of sheer excitement when we stopped in our tracks.
The culprit: a completely irrelevant message. The email was intended to go to Angola, Indiana residents / local customers and its subject header and email body screamed “Angola.” Upside Business Consultants is over 650 miles away (11+ hours of driving), located on Long Island, in Hauppauge, NY. Other than the incorrect geo reference, we would have been happy to learn about their upgraded stores.
The experience reminded us of some of the less glamorous but important components to successful email marketing that can help avoid execution mistakes like this one:
1. Scrub Your Email Marketing List. Scrub well, scrub often (and don’t miss behind the ears). People move, people travel, mobile devices are used to check email, preferences change, names change etc. many data points in your database can become moving targets. Especially if you are going to make a geographic reference, you’ve got to have controls in place to assure yourself that you can reach them in the right location.
2. Think Through The Risks. Mitigate The Risks. Using this case as an example, proceed with caution when personalizing or geographically targeting your emails. Segmenting is a great strategy in targeted email marketing, but only when the execution is flawless. Are the costs of making yourself irrelevant by e.g. sending emails to the wrong zone or having an error in your customer profile greater than the benefits? Could a more general message sent to a larger email list achieve the same goals, such as “See how we’ve improved our stores for you. Is your store on this list?” You decide. You know best, it’s your business and your customers.
3. Test. Then, Test Again. Although email marketing service providers have really improved their testing capabilities, most email testing still focuses on email deliverability, whether all of your links work etc. Testing does not always find human errors made during communications, email coding or the mail merge process. If you are using an email service for blasts, make sure you really understand what they are and are not testing. Find a way to fill in the gaps with your own quality checks. Some reputable email companies recommend sending a minimum of 3-4 tests to yourself and setting up free test email accounts on different email provider’s sites (e.g. Gmail, Hotmail etc.). Testing your emails in different email programs will help reduce errors. Make sure your email is not sent to spam, that all images are showing up, that formatting is correct etc. Review content and anything mail merged from a database again too.
4. Use Email Analytics. Look At All Relevant Metrics. Tracking email marketing metrics to measure real events that took place and not just planned events is essential. Review performance metrics beyond open rates and click thru rates to help you identify any problems. For example, here, I would also look at the number/percentage of email unsubscribe requests and email “complaints” i.e. if people clicked “spam” or “junk.” It is very likely that these spiked compared to previous email campaigns and could be a red flag that something went wrong.
5. Ask Your Customer If The Email Is Relevant. All of us can agree that good marketers listen and react to their customers. We’ve seen email marketers integrate quick rating tools (e.g. a “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” button) into the body of their emails that link to more detailed surveys or contact information/preferences forms. With direct feedback, you can go beyond personalization and geo targeting and start segmenting by data points that will directly benefit the customer first, then you. e.g. types of products the customer is interested in, types of offers they want to receive, whether the customer has visited your website, shopping habits etc. Which is more important to your customer, seeing his/her name, for example, or receiving an email built around his/her actual shopping preferences? You decide.
What type of email marketing process does your company have in place to make sure you are executing well and adding value to your relationship with customers? Drop our marketing consultants a note. We would love to hear your stories.
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