Last week myself and a number of people across the UK marketing community launched our second installment of 'No BS Email Marketing'
Born out of the frustration of self-promotion obsessed sales guys dominating the stage we set out to diversify who was starting these conversations.
We started with in-house email marketers to offer their insights + opinion on a range of topics and I think The Drum readers will find these really interesting too.
As a taster of the email guide, we're exclusively sharing an article by Dan Stone, Email Marketing Manager @ the 'sexual happiness' e-commerce site, Lovehoney.
My background and experience
I first heard the term 'email marketing' in the winter of 2008 when I was working at a publishing company and they wanted someone to take on a new role sending out emails. For a moment, I imagined personally emailing each customer - how wrong I was!
During the time I spent at the publishing company, I worked on many interesting projects; automating daily emails using feeds, massive dynamic campaigns where every part of the email changes for each customer and of course supporting many different marketing campaigns. I think my record was 72 campaigns in one week (it was Christmas!). I studied for awards in Email Marketing and Data Management from the Institute of Direct Marketing and tried to absorb business, marketing, and project management tools and techniques. I have also used an array of Email Service Provider platforms - seven at the last count from Sendgrid to Adestra.
Eight years later, I've moved on from the publishing company; I am now an in-house Email Marketing Manager, directing and planning email campaigns for a rather unique product type (sex toys!).
Where I think E-mail fits with Marketing
Email is the most cost effective channel in marketing, it’s also one of the quickest to see tangible results; you can assess the impact of a campaign in a matter of hours, not the weeks or months it takes to assess the impact via other channels. It is also one of the easiest channels to get wrong, so a quality management approach is vital. I always try and stick to the email mantra: 'the right message to the right person at the right time'.
When done correctly, email marketing can do great things for a company and its products - particularly its personalisation abilities. Sending customers related or dynamic content can be powerful. They feel that you know them as a person and remember what they like. But too much personalisation can scare a customer into unsubscribing (they think you're stalking them – 1984 Big Brother style). I recently received an email from a national supermarket chain. The email was asking me to review their store, because it was my first visit. The email started with “You visited our Chippenham store at 10pm on Tuesday........”
Talk about creepy! It put me off reviewing my visit. I felt that they were holding too much data on my shopping habits.
My approach to integrating email into the marketing process
I always try to understand the context of the email or project I am working on. I use a project management mnemonic BOSCARD (to check my knowledge and produce a briefing note for myself).
Background - why we are doing this now.
Objectives - for the marketing campaign and specific objectives for the email element – linked to the metrics which will evaluate and measure success.
Scope – what should be in the email – and anything which should definitely not be in the email being sent?
Constraints - of time, budget, legal or business issues.
Assumptions – those things that we are relying on to be true and which would create a high risk of failure if they are absent.
R – check for Risks, special Resources required, specific Role and Responsibilities
Deliverable – the exact detail of the email which I will be sending out.
My approach has always been (sorry for another acronym) WWCS, or 'What Would the Customer Say.’ I want to see everything from the customer's viewpoint. With every email I have ever sent, every piece of personalisation I have implemented, I imagine myself as the customer receiving it and try to feel how they will react and interact.
“Does the journey from the email through the landing page to the end point make sense and flow smoothly”.
“Do I understand why I'm getting this email, what do they want me to do”.
Too many times in the past I have received emails that have nothing to do with my previous interactions with the company/brand. Or I have been going through the process of interacting and finding myself getting infuriated with the journey. It’s either becoming too complicated or too intrusive without giving me sufficient value in return for my efforts.
For me a brand and its offer is a 'promise' – my interaction with an email should be based on a clear and honest promise about what I will receive in return.
Problems I have encountered
Despite being focused on quality control and avoiding risks, problems do inevitably arise. Technical issues, being blacklisted, delivery problems etc., or human error (sending the wrong email to the wrong customers or failing to correctly hyperlink). The trick is to spot the mistake as early as possible and not to panic. Then to try and resolve the problem quickly, without introducing further problems or irritation for the recipient.
When it comes to solving blacklisting or delivery problems, you should talk to your ESP. They normally have good relationships with the blacklist authorities and ISPs and should be able to help. With human error - first try to understand how it happened. Then decide whether to send an apology or correction. But be careful! Too many times I have seen an apology or correction email that also contained a mistake because it had been rushed.
I once received an email from a company in which none of the links worked. Then I got a correction email and the links still didn’t work. I finally got a third email, all the links worked but the personalisation wasn't correct and they greeted me as 'Suzanne', a nice name but not mine! With some small human errors, it may not be worth sending a correction email (sometimes customers won’t even notice a small error or will be prepared to ignore it).
Lessons I have learned
I have learnt many lessons over the years - but the one that has always stuck with me is KISS, 'Keep It Simple, Stupid'. It is too easy when starting projects to get overwhelmed by the complexity of the undertaking. For each project I start by writing out the project brief I mentioned earlier, using BOSCARD and focusing on the 'Deliverable'. Keeping the deliverable in the forefront of my mind helps me to focus on what is important to completing the project and what are just issues to be resolved. Next I plan, breaking each project down into a series of tasks which are bite-sized and which I can complete and cross off my task list. This stops the project from feeling too daunting and also make progress visible – and allows the identification of what is still left to be completed for estimation and scheduling purposes. Having a plan of the email tasks integrated with the remainder of the marketing campaign tasks, with dependencies identified, helps to keep the whole project under control. Failing to plan equals planning to fail