Email Marketing and the High Price of Irrelevance
A huge buzzward in email marketing lately is relevance. When you're not sending relevant messages that your readers care about, you see your unsubscribe rate increase, your spam complaint rate increase, your open rate decrease, and your ROI plummet.
Unfortunately, if you're not testing, tracking and tuning along the way, you might not realize you've missed the "relevance mark" until your list has taken a huge hit.
For most of your readers, email is no longer a novelty. They are not going to hang on every word you have to say simply because they are so impressed with the channel of delivery. Your readers are way too busy and way too overwhelmed with their over-crowded inboxes to waste their time with your email messages that no longer interest them.
You might be thinking "Hey, no big deal, if they do not want to hear what I have to say, just let them quit reading.
But let's take a look at some hard numbers.
I'll make the math easy … let's say your list is 10,000 names. If 10% of your readers find your messages irrelevant to the point that they simply delete your mail without ever opening it, that's a loss of 1,000 readers. But let's say that each of your readers generally refer 2 new readers to your list. These 1,000 readers will no longer be good for any referrals, so that's a loss of another 2,000 readers.
What if another 5% of your readers find your messages so insignificant that they unsubscribe. Subtract those 500 readers, plus the 1,000 lost referrals. Now you're down 4,500 readers.
Now let's say another 5% of your readers find your messages irrelevant. But, since they do not bother unsubscribing, you keep sending to them. They keep finding the messages insignificant, you keep sending, irrelevant, send, irrelevant, send. By this time, this 5% gets annoyed and reports you as a spammer. (Yes, I know it's not fair, after all, they never unsubscribed.But believe me, it happens – and it happens WAY more often than you realize! Just check your sender for proof.) Your messages will no longer be delivered to them, so you've lost another 500 readers, plus another 1,000 lost referrals.
But here's where it gets messy. Let's say 10% of your readers are using AOL for their email service (I'm just choosing AOL as an example. This applies to every ISP.) If your original list was 10,000 names, that would 1,000 readers from AOL. Using the same 10% logic, we can assume that 50 of your "spam reporters" are from AOL.
Most ISPs have a limit of less than 1% spam complaints. That's 1% of the mail being delivered to that particular ISP, not 1% of your total list size. If you receive 50 spam complaints from 1,000 readers, that's a 5% complaint rate. AOL can very well decide to block all of the messages you send to all AOL addresses, not just the ones who complained.
That's a loss of another 1,000 readers (not just the 50 complainers), plus the 2,000 lost referrals. And that's just from the few complaints from AOL readers. You still have 450 complaints from other ISPs to worry about.
When you look at these numbers, it's easy to see how getting sloppy with your email marketing campaigns can quickly have detrimental effects. You just can not afford to be irrelevant. Consider these tactics to improve the relevancy of your own email marketing campaign:
Segment your list to the n th degree.
Quit sending the exact same message to every single person on your list. If Joe Smith has already purchased Product B, why are you bothering him with an email promoting nothing but Product B? If you're hosting a local event tomorrow, is it necessary to send a last-minute reminder to your readers on another continent?
Get to know your readers.
Use surveys, quizzes, message boards, online forums and other techniques to get to know your readers. Ask for feedback, ask for suggestions, find out their preferences. This will help you to consistently provide the content they want.
Treat your readers as individuals.
Chances are, you have tons of information on your individual readers that you are not taking adequate advantage of – things like past purchases, product preferences, original subscription date, even the time of day he prefers to read his email messages. Why waste your time (and your reader's) with generic messages?
Give your customers preferential treatment.
I work with many small businesses who see email marketing as a prospecting tool . But after a prospect makes a purchase, he's still on your mailing list, is not he? And is not he more valuable to you than a prospect? So why are not you farming him that way?
Email marketing remains one of the most cost effective forms of marketing at our disposal. But, as marketers, there are things we can do and mistakes we can make that drive those costs up. Remember, your email campaign does not end once you hit the send button. In fact, that's when the real work just begins. That's when you must track, test and tweak to ensure that you are maintaining relevancy in your readers' eyes.