Reach and Engagement: Email Marketing’s Big Challenges this Year

Theoretically, a marketing department should constantly be testing, reviewing their budget, and moving money to the best performing initiatives.  Unlike other forms of media, which can prove influence, but are challenged to prove profitability, direct marketing has an advantage in that it can produce exact ROIs.

In my marketing practice, I find myself continually striving to get more and more from email. I add new campaigns, improve existing ones, add triggers, automation, and workflows and I do positively move the needle, but I can’t seem to get a really big impact. Why?  A story in numbers proves it out:

  • The most recent ROI statistics published by the DMA gave these outstanding numbers:  Email returned $43.62 for every $1 invested. (1)
  • But of the people on your email list, 30% will not get your email because of ISP blocks. (2)
  • 85% of people will stop reading your emails after the third message (2)

It’s pretty easy to see why 65% of marketers indicate they will be spending more on email in 2011. (4)  Email marketing produces a phenomenal ROI.  The problem is that improvements in targeting and timing don’t solve the problems of “reach” and “engagement.”

How Far Can Email Marketing (Alone) Take Us?

Email investments should be maximized until you run out of reach. How do you know when you have “reach” and “engagement” issues with current customers and prospects?

  • You don’t have an email address in the database and have not been successful in appending one
  • The email address hard bounced
  • There is no engagement after “x” number of email attempts (I leave this as “x” because it varies widely based on the sales cycle and product or service you are selling.)

Now, what do you do?  You test a new approach to increase the reach and engagement with your target audience.  For large audiences, that can be social media, online advertising, print, television, or radio.  For targeted audiences, direct mail is a highly viable option.  Although email returns $43 for every dollar invested and direct mail looks small in comparison at just $11 for every dollar invested, I bet most CFO’s will take $11 for every $1 invested all the time. Furthermore, direct mail can be automated to behave in the same way as triggered email, so there is no need to pull lists manually of opt-outs, hard bounces or the unengaged.

Reaching the Non-Re@chable and Diseng@ged

Finally, you may ask, “So why would I send them a direct mail piece?”  Allow me to connect the dots:

  • Use a Personalized URL (PURL)to get an updated email address
  • Determine if the unengaged via email respond to the same offers in direct mail
  • Ask for channel preference, so you better know how to communicate (Only 37% of marketers know what channels their customers prefer to use) (3)
  • If a high-value customer is unengaged, isn’t it worth trying to engage them through a different medium?

Testing new ways to expand the reach and engagement of email marketing will be the biggest challenge for direct and online marketers in 2011.  Want more information?  Here’s a great article from Gourmet Marketing: “5 Ways to Boost Customer Engagement With Email Marketing.”

Stat Sources:

(1) Direct Marketing Association 2009
(2) Email Experience Council
(3) Forrester/ExactTarget, 2009
(4) StrongMail 2011 Marketing Trends Survey

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