First, let’s take stock of what else is happening in a typical digital department.
See, you got the social people, who get all the kudos for crafting a witty tweet, or getting some Likes on Insta.
Then, you got the PPC/SEO people, who enter into an unhealthy relationship with their beau Google, subservient to its whims, but deeply in love with an algorithm.
And of course, let’s not forget the UI/UX people, who built awesome websites, and who often believe they deserve a Nobel prize for doing so.
But email peeps, they’re a humble people. They never shout about what they do.
And yet they do what they do, week in and week out, often without recognition or praise, because, and let’s not forget this point, email is dead, so whatever (THAT WAS SARCASM).
Now of course, the preceding sarcasm illustrates a point. While email is an oft maligned marketing channel, it remains a hugely effective channel… and the one for which you control your own destiny.
Social – Facebook, Insta, Twitter etc. – your data is owned by a large tech company that could shut you down tomorrow (or charge you for reach).
SEO/PPC – your reach is fundamentally controlled by a large tech company that could destroy your revenue lines tomorrow.
UI/UX – you’re dependent on people coming to your site, so without traffic drivers, well, you’re like a tree falling in the woods…
But email? Email is different.
Email is the one channel for which you own your own destiny. You’re not beholden to a third party to reach out to your audience.
You’re not forced into paying for reach that you’ve earned. You’re not subservient to anyone (well, just your CRM database, but anyway).
See, anyone can collect and send out emails. And that’s why, over and over, email remains one of the strongest digital marketing performers. Or, as some may say, it’s won the internet.
Due to corporate under-investment in email (and perhaps over-investment in other channels), email marketing is often left to the status quo.
“Just send more email,” they say, not realising this is tautological advice.
So if you’re an email marketer, here’s some actual tips on how you can get the recognition you deserve:
1. Track email sales better than you do now
Attributing sales to email is hard. The human event of i) receive an email, ii) open said email, iii) click on a link, and iv) buy right away is quite rare.
Sure, it happens, but it doesn’t happen all the time.
It’s not like PPC, where often it leads to a direct sale straight away.
But does that mean that email isn’t an effective sales channel? NOPE.
Think about your own experience.
When’s the last time you received, opened, clicked and bought from a marketing email? You probably have once or twice, but it’s not an everyday occurrence.
What is more common is to receive emails, which triggers a need to buy, and then you either go to a brand’s site, or remind yourself to buy something from that brand.
So what you need is a more robust attribution model. As part of that, find the statistical answers to these questions:
- How many people who were sent my email bought something in the next X days?
- What about those who opened? And clicked? And even unsubscribed?
- Once someone signs up to my list, how much is their average spend overall in the next X months?
From here, you can work out what an incremental person on your list is worth. And, subsequently, what an incremental open is worth, and an incremental click, and so on.
Then you can show, with statistical mettle, how much money you’re actually making. And I bet it’s loads.
2. Don’t over-segment your audience
Marketing 101 class taught us to segment and target your audience. And yes, often this makes sense, but up to a point.
“What’s this? Are you refuting all the experts?” you ask? Well, in a way, yes, and here’s why.
It’s the law of diminishing marginal returns. Or, as you may know it, Pareto’s Law. Or, even simpler, the 80/20 rule.
What’s that, you ask? 80% of your results will come from 20% of the effort. Sounds good in principle, but what about practice?
See, one massive problem I’ve seen over and over and over is over-segmenting.
People will create a million segments on their list. Because, you know, 48-year-old females who bought shoes in the last six months and have a cat called “Bubbles” are a key demographic for your stiletto sales.
But as you create more segments, it creates more ongoing effort, and a huge opportunity cost.
More ongoing effort, because you’ll need to refactor the segments before every send, in case things have changed (which they will). And you’ll spend hours down the rabbit hole trying to find these minute segments.
Which means less time to ensure what you send out is good – thus a huge opportunity cost.
So you’ll be sending out perfectly targeted but crappy messages.
Instead, spend 20% of your effort on data segments, and you’ll get 80% of the benefit. The marginal gains from extra data work will be incremental at best. So instead, focus the remaining 80% of your effort on other stuff.
This way, you’ll get the majority of the benefit of segmenting, while not eschewing the other optimisable elements of a good email marketing programme.
3. Get a small budget for trying new stuff… then ask for more
Like Prop Joe in The Wire said, “Buy for a dollar, and sell for two,” before he was unceremoniously killed by Slim Charles and his own nephew Cheese.
Come on Cheese, that’s your uncle, what are you doing with your life? Oh wait, he got killed too. Comeuppance!
There’s so much cool stuff you can do in email marketing, but it requires budget, both in terms of money and time.
And, considering email marketing is under-invested in the first place, asking for £1m off the hop is going to get turned down.
Instead, be smart about how you try out new stuff.
Ask for a testing budget, an amount that will allow you to fully try new things, but not break the bank.
Then, let your boss know it’s a testing budget. Here’s a boilerplate argument:
“So I’ve shown that our previous strategy of over-segmentation had an unsustainable opportunity cost.
“Now that we’ve determined the optimal effort required for segmentation effectiveness, it’s time for me to refocus on in-segment optimisation.
“However, of course, I can’t predict the future. So what I suggest is switching a small amount of our planned budget for to email marketing, so I can further improve our campaigns.
“What this will mean is either 1) we keep making money from email; or 2) we make more money from email by testing out new stuff.”
Boom. No brainer, right?
4. Use better subject lines
Okay, so of course I’m going to talk about using better subject lines, right? But, it’s important, and here’s why.
Effective segments are an important part of the email battle. The next step, obviously, is to get your main messaging seen by more people.
How do you do that?
- Send out more email. But this is a brute-force approach, and obviously you don’t want to over-send, or people will hate you.
- Send out better email. A better strategy, because your average revenue per email will go up, thus generating your department more ROI. And it will make you look ace.
The obvious starting point is to produce better subject lines.
Segmentation, often, is a data-driven process. It’s not you sat at your desk going, “You know what I think would work?” It’s based upon numbers, upon stats, upon cold hard facts.
Subject lines should be too.
In optimising your subject lines per segment, you will:
- Get more opens and clicks, which you already proved are tied to revenue in #1 above.
- Justify spending less time fighting with non-causal segments, and just make money, as pointed out in #2 above.
- Take test money, make money from it, and get more investment in your department, as suggested in #3 above.
- Have awesome subject lines, as indicated in #4, this point, which is sweet.
Email marketers, it’s time for you to get noticed… because you’re awesome.
No longer should email marketing be forgotten, like a lowly serf ploughing fields for the social/PPC/UI landlords.
Instead, you should be the Queen, or at least be sitting upstairs with the Crawleys, not stuck downstairs while everyone else eats caviar.
Let your ROI do the talking, because at the end of the day, that’s what your boss, your boss’ boss, and their boss, ultimately cares about.
Find out more at the Festival of Marketing…
The Phrasee team will be at the Festival of Marketing in a few weeks’ time. Come say hi. It’ll be awesome.