1. One-size-fits-all, or one-message-fits-all, messaging is boring the heck out of consumers
Most marketers who do email marketing use a simple “blast” strategy. Actually, calling it a “strategy” is overstating things, because the blast approach is anything but strategic. It’s all about expedience: doing the minimum amount of work needed to just get an email message out to all customers (or potential customers) on a schedule (daily, weekly, whatever).
Unfortunately, in our age of hyper-personalized media, consumers quickly tune out one-message-fits-all email blasts. A lot of times consumers can’t even be bothered to unsubscribe; they’ll simply trash your email messages without opening them.
2. The rising cost of direct mail is causing the “free” email channel to get overstuffed
Given the rising cost of direct mail (snail mail), recession-conscious marketers just keep on cranking out more and more email campaigns. Email’s seen as a “free” or cheap approach to messaging, so everybody’s doing it. Consumers — who feel more inundated than ever by email — have even more reason to tune out.
It’s often easy to overlook dwindling consumer interest in your email blasts because your email database might be growing quickly enough to offset declining performance per email. But over time, just about every marketer that uses the one-message-fits-all approach is going to see open rates rates drop — sometimes dramatically.
3. Social media is causing certain segments of the market to migrate away from email in general
According to the measurement firm comScore, in 2010 email usage actually gained 22% in the 55-64-year-old demographic, and 28% in the 65+ demo, “most likely because of continued Internet adoption by these age segments.” Younger consumers, though, are more likely to be increasing messaging through social-media channels while cutting back on email. Email usage, says comScore, “declined marginally” among 18-24 year-olds, 18% among among 25-34 year-olds, 8% among 35-44 year olds, and 12% among 45-54 year olds. [See comScore’s U.S. Digital Year in Review]
One-size-fits-all email marketing has been a big part of this trend: We’ve been training consumers to think that, unlike social media, email marketing doesn’t “speak to them.”
4. Your email campaign may be reliant upon the wrong definition of ‘optimization’
Email vendors also continually tout “optimization,” by which they typically mean A/B testing or multi-variate testing, with “personalization” based on underlying customer database fields. These approaches can provide lift, but ignore the underlying problem. Emails that are relevant and timely to a specific individual customer are still not being created! (For more about this topic, see a recent post on Real Time Optimization)
The solution? Analytically-driven, Individually Focused email
Marketers experienced with old-school direct mail marketing spent years building powerful models to increase response rates. Ironically, a lot of them then threw those teachings away because of the perception that email is “free” and doing modeling isn’t worth the effort.
Today, the smartest marketers are basically relearning some of the fundamentals of direct marketing but applying them to email campaigns. In other words, they’re evolving their one-message-fits-all “blast” approach into a bona fide email strategy.
By marrying off-the-shelf tools such as content management systems and offer catalogs, you can simply and systematically vary email content — text and visuals — to engage consumers based on their interests, past transactions, their social-site activity and more.
The key is to think of an email as a canvas upon which you can paint highly customized content blocks to drive consumer engagement.
Now, how do you get those emails opened in the first place? Vary the subject line by developing and targeting personas that occur naturally within your consumer base. If you engage by interest, you have a real chance of standing out in a crowded inbox.