In this second episode on the future of email marketing I focus on email being relevant, and why it will be part of email’s future. If you missed the first one about mobile, check it out here.
Even though in the email marketing industry many analists and consultants have been hammering down on not doing email marketing the batch and blast way, it is still the way many marketers ‘do’ their email marketing. To understand why that is a bad thing I refer to a recent research called The Social Breakup by Exacttarget which was described and commented on in this Mashable post called ‘Top Reasons Why Consumers Unsubscribe Via E-Mail, Facebook & Twitter‘. The number 2 reason people unsubscribe, at 49% of the total response, is that content became repetitive or boring over time.
But number 4 is important as well in this case: 25% said the content was not relevant! Wait a minute, how could that be: surely a person has subscribed and has been able to choose which subjects interest them? Reasons number 1 and 3 had to do with frequency by the way, and this should and could be easily solved with a simple frequency settings in a person’s preferences center. If you’re interested in tips on email frequency, read more on that in a post of mine over at The Email Guide.
Back to being relevant in email. The trouble but also advantage with relevancy is that it is something you as a marketer have in your own hands. Letting people sign up with just their email address and some personal stuff is not enough: what if they don’t want 8 out of 10 articles in your newsletter? Do you still want to send out that email newsletter anyway? It’s like having a 10-song cd of an artist someone likes, but on the cd itself only 2 songs are really good enough to be played more than once. A longer while ago (September 2009) the people over at eMarketer posted the results of a survey where relevancy was the number 1 reason to unsubscribe from email by subscribers. Oh dear – especially since these kinds of reasons to unsubscribe can be prevented.
Having a look at what’s relevant and not, I’ve used an episode of one of my favourite webcomics XKCD, this one is titled ‘University Website’:
Even though the above is about web content and not email, it is very relevant to this post (hah!). The circle on the left represents what you provide in email communications, and the one to the right what your audience wants. The trick would be to have maximum possible overlap, maybe even one single circle for both sender and audience. Now if you are doing a great job already, have relevant content and are always able to please your subscribers then ignore this. But if not, read on: here comes the important part.
How can you be relevant? This can be done in a few ways actually, and it starts with the signing up part. When you put together the signup form for email communications, think long and hard about the content you are going to offer and in which categories it will fall. Make these categories available to the person who subscribes, even when it’s just 3 or 5 or 6 categories. This will help tremendously in being relevant with email later on when sending it out: you can segment your total database in the preferred categories and send out emails accordingly. Later on when you are more diversifying your content and email communications, have people update their preferences in a preference center: this will help keep up with changing prefs on the subscribers side, but also with new content options on your own side. Dylan Boyd has posted an excellent article on why you need a preference article on eROI here.
Besides these two ways of the signup form and the preference center there’s a third way too: constantly analyzing behaviour of your target groups. Because setting certain prefs is one thing, but actually behaving like it is another. If you are with an ESP that takes email marketing seriously, reporting and analysis should be in-depth and serious too: this will help in adjusting your sending times/days, frequency and relevant content. Imaging sending out a short newsletter containing just four articles. In this case two of the four generate huge amounts of clicks compared to the other two: this would mean great sales and conversion on your website in the end.
How can two articles be so much more successful than two others within the same newsletter? It could be the subject (even though you’re segmenting already), it could be the tone of voice or even the right angle. It depends on so many factors that it’s impossible to predict, but luckily you can learn from behaviour. Adjust the content accordingly to get maximum effect out of an already segmented email campaign: your subscribers will love you for it, and hopefully the number 1 reason for them to unsubscribe will not be irrelevant or boring content.
Subscribers are getting email smart and will be punishing marketers that do not send relevant content: this is why I think relevancy will play a very important part in the future of email marketing.
In the next episode I will take a look at interactivity.