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What a horrid, wet and cold bank holiday that was. It probably gave you the same problem I faced; what were we going to do?

Let’s face it; most of us plan something for our bank holidays. But when bad weather comes along, you have to find something else to do, indoors.

I was reading E-consultancy’s Email Marketing Census the other day and noticed an interesting fact: More than half of company email marketers (57%) said their organisations were using less than 50% of their email systems’ functionality. 

This surprised me. Most of the email marketers I have spoken to in the last month plan to use a number of advanced techniques to ensure their messages are as relevant as possible, yet through the survey it looks like some form of unpredictable ‘bad weather’ has come along and ruined these best laid plans.

Like other ESPs, we invest in our platform functionality as we work with our customers to produce tools to improve their marketing performance. At Adestra, our product road map is driven by our clients and market trends. Reacting to market needs means that every piece of functionality is developed to allow UK email marketers to be more effective. This consultation process ensures our messages are relevant and useful.

So why aren't they using the features?

Not everyone needs every bit of functionality out there. B2B companies with no forms/e-commerce capabilities do not need to integrate with their website.  Companies with no demographic information about their contacts cannot adopt demographic targeting as the basis of their segmentation model. Marketers sending irregular newsletters may not perform real time synchronisation and integration of their email marketing database with their CRM system.

However, according to the survey, the biggest barriers to effective email use (according to company email marketers) are as follows:

1. Lack of Skills & Training (42% viewed this as a problem)
2. Lack of Budget / Finances (39%)
3. Lack of Strategy (36%)
4. Lack of Segmentation (35%)
5. Quality of Email Database (35%)

Working in the industry for a great number of years, I believe the root cause of this problem is simply not having enough time, particularly when you're in a 4 day week after a bank holiday!

If you don't have time, then you find yourself rushing the email out instead of taking time to look at what you're doing, trying to use the features provided by your ESP, and understand how they can improve the results.

Something as simple as ensuring that all records are de-duped so that you can build a history of a contact’s behaviour over time means that targeting all those people that respond in a certain way is possible.

Setting up order tracking by including some tracking code on your web site to get an idea of ROI allows you to understand and build testing plans to improve your email marketing.

Spending some time to set up some small things mean that when you do have time, at least you have things set up to take your marketing to the next stage when you’re ready

What about getting some training?

With the majority of contacts believing that a skills deficit is a problem. There are a number of good courses out there including those offered by E-consultancy itself. 

There is nothing better for networking with your peers than attending a big industry conference. The DMA is organising a series of events on email marketing, the next one of which is “Sophisticated Email Marketing” on the 14th June.

My top tip though would be to ensure that any staff you do your best to retain any staff whom have with a genuine interest in email marketing.  It’s a thought echoed by this very site:

"If you have staff that specialise in email marketing, retain them! With 42% of people citing skill shortages as a barrier to effective email marketing, keeping the experts and training your other staff should be a priority for every marketing director." *

I think one thing that is often overlooked is the shared knowledge that the email marketing companies can provide. Speak to your email marketing partner and ask them what else you could be doing. Getting this two way dialogue will allow you to see the quick wins and allow you to understand how the advanced functionality can help you in your role.

A final thought would be for those people looking to appoint a new email marketing partner. Having the functionality that you can use today and tomorrow is often better than having every piece of functionality available. Conducting an in depth and internal review of your requirements will enable you to identify the best partner for your email marketing requirements.

Henry Hyder-Smith is the MD of Adestra .

* Source: E-consultancy Email Marketing Industry Census 2007. Produced in association with Adestra.

Henry Hyder-Smith

Published 31 May, 2007 by Henry Hyder-Smith

Henry Hyder Smith is MD at Adestra and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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