Last month we explored how to begin mailing a list of email addresses gathered both with and without explicit permission. You can read about how to handle the “never-been-emailed” list here. While many email marketers have the best of intentions when it comes to obtaining the clear permission of people they want to email, their inexperience with or reluctance to getting a program started can cause both permission and data to age. But there’s a more serious degree of this problem in which permission is not simply lax or questionable, it is ignored altogether. Hence our conundrum for this month.
You’ve probably heard the familiar saying “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission”. All too often I hear from many marketers and business owners who find themselves in this unfortunate position when either just starting their email marketing programs or trying to build their lists. This month’s email marketing conundrum explores the problem of how to begin sending to a “never-been-emailed” list, especially if it contains email addresses that may have been obtained without clear permission or were gathered offline such as from business cards, membership lists you have access to, contest entry forms, prize drawings at events, LinkedIn, etc.
Over the next several posts I’ll be addressing a series of email marketing conundrums. A “conundrum” is defined as a puzzling question or problem, and in email there are a few persistent ones I have been asked about on a regular basis since the channel’s earliest days. In fact, these challenges seem to keep so many people up at night that I believe they’re always worthy of discussion and a fresh perspective. So let’s begin with a classic: How do I prevent or minimize unsubscribes from my email list? First, make no mistake about it: over the course of their life cycle with you a certain percentage of subscribers will choose to leave your email list despite your best attempts to keep them and believe it or not, this is good. It’s the nature of any permission-marketing channel for the ultimate choice and control over receiving messages to rest in the hands of subscribers. Plus, we know from the channel’s nearly 15 years in existence that commercial email works best when it is deeply rooted in permission. So, your first step is to
Today it’s not enough to know how an individual email campaign performed on a one-time basis. To learn whether or not your company is deriving true value from email marketing, you need the both broader and deeper perspectives offered by program- and list-level analyses. While standard email campaign performance metrics like delivery, open and click-through rates have their place, without looking beyond them the true impact of your email marketing – and opportunities for continuous improvement - will go undetected.
There’s an ongoing debate over the role of permission in sending marketing email to customers you have a pre-existing business relationship with. Although in recent years opt-in list building practices have clearly been on the rise, there is still no clear legal mandate for opt-in as a standard email marketing practice in the US and many countries.
There’s a heated debate in email marketing over what to do with inactive subscribers and whether or not they can seriously harm a sender’s reputation, deliverability and response enough to justify no longer emailing them. The passion on both sides of this issue – the potential harmful downside of continuing to mail “inactives” juxtaposed with the potential helpful upside of keeping them on your list – makes this argument one worth taking a closer look at.
Given that all things Internet seem to move at the speed of light and come or go overnight, it’s fairly impressive to see commercial email marketing approaching its fifteenth birthday. I remember first becoming involved in email in 1999 and being impressed then with what was creatively and technically possible – even though dial-up Internet connections still outnumbered broadband! Although anti-spam software and abuse-prevention delivery rules have often thwarted the channel’s technical capabilities (even since its early years - video in email was possible in 2000), there is no excuse to still be mailing like it’s 1999.
The U.S. Census Bureau releases the results of its 2010 census this summer and marketers are advised to prepare for some major demographic shifts. In a recent interview I read of Peter Francese, consultant to advertising megalith Ogilvy & Mather and author of the research report 2010 America, I was surprised to learn: