Email overload is a common issue plaguing individuals and businesses alike, as all too often important messages and genuine opportunities are lost in the daily deluge of an overflowing inbox. Irrelevant newsletters and unwanted promotional emails only exacerbate the problem.
In a digital age, where information overload has become the new normal, do email campaigns still work?
As the CEO of Leadify – a cloud-based, fully automated sales fulfilment platform which has performed over 150 million email and SMS transactions for clients in the last quarter alone – I’ve learnt that not only is conducting a successful marketing campaign via email worth the effort, it can offer significant advantages for customers and companies alike too.
Email can be a win-win
When done right, not only do emails bring value to the end user, but they can simultaneously be turned into a powerful business tool. Our experience has shown that good targeting and clever exclusion handling has rendered over 90% profitability across the campaigns. For example, from 100 000 loan leads per month, a client generated around R30 million in consumer loans.
Consider an online etailer. It will regularly email relevant promotions to customers, based on their previous purchases on the site, along with a discount voucher if they make their purchase in a particular time frame. Both the etailer and the customer win – the former secures the favour of their customer and improves sales, while the latter is able to buy something they desire at a reduced price.
Additionally, by leveraging a user’s profile and their recent searches, email campaigns could offer them clothing or products, at a reduced rate, for items or services that they are currently seeking.
With some foresight, the value of targeted email campaigns could go further still. As digital assistants the likes of Siri, Alexa and Cortana becoming increasingly common, targeted email campaigns could become a rich source of data.
One’s digital assistant of choice would be able to automatically search an end user’s inbox for current promotions and alert them to ongoing offers, and even purchase the item in question, on their behalf, using just their voice.
Far from being a bane, email campaigns could then become an integral part of the future of shopping, with relevant information coming to users via their virtual personal assistants. This is provided, of course, that they remain subscribed to marketing campaigns so that this data can be mined in the first place.
For savvy marketing managers, the potential is just as far reaching. A targeted campaign that delivers 10 000 emails a month rather than 100 000, can receive the same percentage of responses, at a lower cost.
Leadify campaigns can also be tracked, and adjusted for, in real time allowing for course correcting while the campaign is running, rather than waiting for after the marketing budget has been spent for lessons to be learnt.
More importantly, it gives those running the campaign agility – the ability to respond to and take advantages of business opportunities and customer queries – as they arise. As today’s customers expect instant gratification, failing which they move on to the next supplier, being able to respond more quickly ensures competitive advantage.
Respecting and protecting the recipient
For those using email as a means to engage hundreds of thousands of relevant recipients, it is essential that the right email reaches the appropriate person to ensure that it is not arbitrarily discarded.
Failing to do so can not only cost companies needlessly, it can also irritate and alienate their target audience. Worse yet, it could earn the brand sending the message some deserved animosity and potentially highlight how little they know about the recipient.
Sending an individual who has existing life cover an email for a funeral plan makes as little sense as trying to market specials on dresses to men.
Lazy targeting can also result in the recipient removing themselves from the database entirely, which averts any future sales from being secured and makes it almost impossible to get them back again.
Also, the rise of ransomware, distributed by email phishing attempts, which have risen by 267% in the past year, according to Malwarebytes Lab, is also a genuine concern. This need not obscure the value that targeted emails can bring, but it does make it more important for brands to build the trust of their customers, and offer demonstrable benefits on an ongoing basis.
Related: Top 10 Email Marketing Resources
This makes it even more critical that a campaign is handled by those who understand the complexity in delivering an email, securely.
Ultimately, email is a double edged sword. However, to whatever extent it may be considered a bane, so too can it be utilised to become a boon to businesses for whom attracting new customers remains a prime directive.
How To Get The Most Value For Your Direct Marketing Money
Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.
It is a common, global problem in the digital age – how do you convert vast amounts of data into demonstrable business value? Marketers aren’t exempt from this conundrum, and the pressure is always on to justify the worth of running a marketing campaign in real world, practical terms.
So how can you glean the most profitability from a campaign? Start by addressing a core challenge: Separating the important data from the not so important.
More particularly, focus on demographic information that is easily accessible like age, gender, location. Then follow up by looking a bit deeper and adding data such as marital status and income. Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.
1. System essentials
Beyond this, while choosing the right data is key, it’s wise to use the best direct marketing system possible for your marketing needs. For starters, it should report on the data that is most important. It should also offer smart dashboards that displays comprehensive information. And it should accommodate users who want to put analytics and insights together manually.
Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing
Having all three in place – pulling together data, running analytics and translating those into presentable reports – is not just a nice to have. It’s increasingly essential, as direct marketing is fast becoming a saturated space. Figuring out ways to better personalise data, and target and curate the right audience for the right message at the right time has become mission critical.
2. Aid from the machines
The good news is that machine learning is set to take much of the onerous work out of personalising data. But the caveat is that its usage doesn’t exempt you from being involved, as machines still need to be taught what constitutes good data to begin with. You thus need to know and understand how to curate data properly from the outset.
For the foreseeable future, you still need to understand what you are feeding the machine learning algorithms with, and most importantly, testing assumptions. Avoid the tendency to assume that because the results came from a machine, they are correct. Rather, conclusions drawn need to be continually tested, verified and honed where appropriate.
3. Pitfalls and challenges
But, while you may have a basis from which to extract more value from your data, what is preventing you? Among key obstacles that many marketing companies do not realise, is the power of the tools that are available to them, especially those locally produced.
This is to their detriment, as the tools readily available in South Africa boast sophisticated, yet simple, insight dashboards and reporting metrics that could power-up their marketing efforts.
As for a potential opportunity, this too is a topic that is often mentioned in other industries, that of creating greater integration with a variety of tools. In reality, few companies have managed to integrate their digital, social and direct marketing approaches well.
Getting more money out of your data boils down to sorting the wheat from the chaff, having the right system in place, curating data, and finally, using machine learning with an eye towards it being an aid, rather than a replacement for human efforts.
Build A Better Database And Boost Your Audience
Put frankly, if you have not crafted your message so that you are engaging with your audience, with their permission, you will be out of the direct marketing game.
For businesses across the board, one way to get better returns is by improving efficiencies. For marketers in particular, the million rand question is how to build better databases and grow their audience.
Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify, says that building up an audience around particular marketing messages or strategies rather than pushing out any and all content to anyone, is essential. The latter may have been a trend that TV advertising praised, but it is ineffective as well as wasteful, when applied to direct marketing campaigns.
Marketers also must pay attention to their ‘list hygiene’ i.e. ensure irrelevant messages aren’t being sent to the wrong demographic. Do this by avoiding over-marketing, a factor which may be missed by those operating with a ‘more is better’ mindset. This can derail efforts, as even if people are partially interested in the marketing message, they will reach an unsubscribe point more quickly if marketers press them too often.
Dealing with information deluge
Front of mind for marketers should be that people are being besieged by information more than ever. Additionally, email and SMS channels are especially hotly contested marketing spaces, full of marketing promotions.
Clearly, any marketers who want to increase their opt-ins need to get their message and audience right from the outset, while ensuring that they send carefully crafted campaigns at the right time.
Segmentation needs to become more sophisticated too and is among top marketing trends for 2018. Doing so helps marketers treat their audience differently and adds a level of personalisation to their campaigns.
The Smart Insights report even suggests greater personalisation will result in an increase in conversions, by keeping marketers relevant and in touch with lists’ changing needs and preferences.
Strategies for success
Analytics can play a significant role here.
More granular detail can be built up over time such as what day of the week, and time of the day messages should be sent to particular segmented audiences for the optimal response.
Spread marketing messages out for a while too, and then hone in on specific days of the week, and times of the day, according to the audience being targeted. It’s considerably more effective to target the right audience at the right time than continuously sending general messages all day.
Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing
The importance of A/B testing to help hone the message to your audience also cannot be underestimated. By testing two or more variants, and listening to the feedback received, marketers have a basis from which to optimise their campaigns.
As for databases, is bigger still better? Yes, but only as a starting point for the data to be further segmented and refined, empowering marketers to more accurately define their audiences.
All this may sound like a great deal of work, but the benefit of doing so isn’t just to build an audience. It will also help marketers deal with the increased pressure from the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to ensure they aren’t spamming their audience.
Honour The Opt-out
Gareth Mountain from Olico, explains how PoPI will effect companies undertaking any form of direct marketing, and why it’s important to honour the consumers’ right to opt out of the marketing process.
It’s in a companies’ own best interests to toe the line when it comes to direct marketing best practices. It boils down to the fact that ethically it is the right thing to do, and that they should not wait for the implementation (and subsequent fines) of the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to kick in to respect the consumer.
1. Electronic comms and outbound calling
The most notable point to understand when it comes to electronic channels of communication (email, SMS, Automatic Voice Messaging), is that companies will need explicit opt-in permission to contact the consumer. Here it is not about having the legal right to market to them as the Electronic Communications Act currently specifies, but rather being able to prove that they specifically gave permission for your communication.
This is set to bring about an overall decline in electronic marketing, and securing that valuable opt-in permission is going to be crucial. Yes, some companies will certainly struggle, but by providing relevant, ethical, targeted deals to your consumer database, there’s no reason for them to opt-out, especially if your offers are beneficial.
When it comes to outbound calling, PoPI permits one marketing call to a person, even if they have not opted in. During this call, operators can attempt to get them to opt-in for future marketing (both electronic and voice). While this might protect jobs in the South African call centre industry, it could result in locals receiving more intrusive calls, while less intrusive email and SMS marketing declines.
2. Respect the No
One thing to keep in mind during all marketing communication, is to respect the public’s requests. If a person asks to be removed from your electronic marketing or direct calls, make 100% sure to comply and ensure their number/email does not slip through the cracks to the next campaigns.
On a national level the Direct Marketing Association of SA (DMASA) has established a National Opt Out Database to adhere to. Paid-up members of the DMASA have access to this database as well as the process involved in making sure that their own database corresponds to the DMASA no contact list. This is through a process called “Deduping” and ensures companies do not accidentally market to anyone on this national do-not-call database. DMASA members also need to adhere to the code of conduct which regulates behaviour in the industry.
3. The responsibility of the company
When it comes to a company-wide level, it is best to automate the opt-out process so that human error is taken out of the equation. Keep a record of the opt-outs and inform the consumer that they have indeed been taken off the database.
Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing
One grey area where we believe companies might try and bend the rules, would be to opt-out the consumer on a product-level, meaning that although they have said no for marketing on one brand or product, the company will continue with marketing other products in the stable. It is unlikely, however, that a consumer will decline receiving marketing for one product, and still want communication for another. Rather take them off the database completely.
The reasons why companies must honour opt-outs are numerous, with the fact that the PoPI Act allows for fines of up to R10 million or jail time for violation perhaps standing out as the most prominent. But with the ethical behaviour of companies under the spotlight locally, the moral responsibility of respecting the consumer should not be ignored.
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