Challenges to Email Marketing – and What to do About Them
Tuesday, 13 September 2016 by Bill Baskin
Everyone these days is constantly checking their email box – so why is email marketing so hard? Let’s take a look at the challenges. For one, it is important to understand that email marketing is a very legitimate form of advertising. This is not the 90’s where SPAMMERS were pervasive. The FTC regulated the industry with the CAN-SPAM act of 2003, and a number of state laws that are more restrictive must guide your commercial emailing efforts. A deep understanding of email compliance requirements has to be your first step. Email compliance requires transparency, ethical messaging, and providing a consumer the ability to opt-out of receiving more emails. It also requires monitoring Publishers for compliance. Every legitimate mailer follows these compliance requirements, but knowing how to avoid publishers who try and game the system and who can get you in trouble takes years of learning. It is also important to have the technological tools to monitor your campaigns to avoid problems or bad actors.
Reputational risk is another concern companies have with commercial emailing. They perceive that consumers do not like to be emailed, and while true with a tiny percentage of people, most of us understand what the delete button is for. Frankly, if you are emailing compliantly and honoring consumer opt-outs, consumer complaints really are not much of a concern. Many people appreciate being introduced to new products and services, or the response rates would not be what they are. After deploying several hundred million emails a month for a variety of Brand advertisers, the complaints we receive annually are minimal. Let’s call it 2-3 a year, with half of those being from professional litigants who opt-in everywhere, and then use the lesser known state laws to try and extort a few dollars. Not having a firm hand on compliance however can yield much worse problems. The benefits and ability to scale your business however, far outweigh the perceived risks which are minimal and easily addressed. Again, experience counts here, because an understanding of how to navigate through these problems is critical for both peace of mind and cost savings.
Choosing the right Publishers, understanding the demographic make-up of their lists, their ability to inbox, and their willingness to work with you are also critically important. Compliant mailers who can inbox are not only rare, but are also in very high demand and difficult to find. You won’t find them at any of the booths at digital industry trade shows, where all the “Networks” reside. Quality mailers have more offers than they can possibly handle, so they are very particular about what offers they will deploy. Your messaging, subject lines, web forms, payout, payment terms, and so on, are all drivers that determine if your offer will be picked up. Fraudulent providers who can’t inbox are pervasive, so working with an agency that knows the landscape is important. There is nothing worse than paying for a CPM deployment that never made it to the inbox. At the end of the day, the only loyalty a mailer has it to their EPC’s, so your offer better hit the ground converting for them or your offer won’t be deployed again. Creative for email marketing needs to be different than for other mediums like Social, TV, or display, and having a firm understanding of how to create a value proposition for the consumer with your creative will be a key to your success working with mailers. Dialing your creative in will require a lot of A/B testing using small CPM email buys, until you know how your offer will back-out and be attractive to larger mailers.
Another area often overlooked is your Domain Registrar. Some can shut down your company website with even one consumer “SPAM” complaint, merited or not, as their Terms of Service may be draconian and not consistent with applicable legal requirements to legally advertise through email. CAN-SPAM does not even require a consumer opt-in to receive a commercial email, as long as that email conforms to the regulatory requirements. That said, best practices will require a documentable opt-in as well as maintenance of suppression lists for each campaign. Developing proven strategies and practices around all aspects of your campaign is important, as these lesser known pitfalls can lead to headaches if not managed from day one.
Lastly, generating all these leads are great as long as you have an outbound sales team to effectively work them. Sales processes and accountability need to be implemented here as well. Contact time, effective voicemails and email follow-ups, CRM, and telephony all contribute to your ROI. It’s not just enough to generate a lead, knowing how to work them is every bit as important.
What is often forgotten in email advertising is that it is, first and foremost, advertising. Many marketers lose sight of the connection with the consumer amongst the clutter of compliance, finding the right publishers, and choosing the correct payout. The #1 reason we see for failure in performance email marketing is lack of effort in making the offer compelling to the target audience. Direct response marketing principals have been refined over many decades, and can be adapted to email marketing with the right approach. For example, is your offer exclusive, is there a guarantee, is there urgency, is it unique, what is your track record, have you established your credibility? The art of direct response email marketing is to incorporate these points without going off brand or making claims outside of what the core message of the company is. When done correctly the effect is immediate and powerful.
Despite these challenges, applying expertise can make email marketing a viable and scalable method of growing your business. It is important to partner with an agency that is a fiduciary in the campaign. In other words, do they have skin in the game and a commitment to work as your outsourced marketing team, who will manage your metrics and analytics to constantly optimize both the traffic and messaging? If they are only interested in selling you CPM email buys, don’t expect great results. Alternatively, the right team can grow your business from an obscure newcomer to an industry leader, as no other platform offers the level of consumer engagement and scalability email marketing can provide.