Experiments With Email Marketing Services
As an online retailer, you have to advertise your store. There is no way around it, if you keep your online presence a secret you probably will not be around for long. Moreover, there are several ways to go about this from pay-per-click, search engine optimization, and email advertising campaigns – to name a few.
Some of the email marketing services claims seduced me. I mean the numbers are there: if you send out a gazillion email ads, to opt-in participants that are just waiting for your ad and only 0.00000001% of these people actually buy something, BINGO you are a billionaire. Unfortunately, in my experiments things did not pan out so that the ads even paid for themselves.
The concepts seem straight forward enough. The email marketing service has categorized the email address lists so that the selected recipients have shown a past interest in this type of product.
The person launching the campaign either produces the content of the ad and subject line or pays the email marketing service to do it for them.
As part of the service, the email-marketing firm provides the statistics on how many ads were sent, how many were opened, and how many people actually clicked through to the Web site. Sometimes as an added benefit, the service provider will actually even provide the IP address of the clicker. Everything you need to know and sometimes more.
Even the strategy is straightforward enough; you compose your ad, subject line, and send it out. If the recipients receive it – that is it does not bounce back – but not enough people open it the subject line needs to be tuned. On the other hand, if the recipients open the ad but do not click though to the Web site, the actual advertising content needs to be edited to entice the recipients to click through. Finally, of the recipients receive the ad, open it, click through, but do not make a purchase, the Web site content should be adjusted to produce sales. As I said, it seems simple enough.
To test my understanding of the concept I tried a low cost online email marketing service. The advertisement was sent to 300,000 email addresses. The statistics I received back were that about 30% of them opened the email and about 2.5% of these clicked through to the Web site. Therefore, according to the email service firm’s statistics I should have received a little over 2000 clicks.
I have Google Analytics installed on my Web site (which I highly recommend installing if you are inclined to run your own experiments or something similar). The first hint that things were not going to be that simple was that the Google statistics were that the actual number of clicks was about half of what were claimed by the email marketing service.
The second sign was that of the location of many of the clicks reported by Google were not in the United States. Around 48% of them were in other countries and in most of these English was not the first language. Therefore, the recipient did probably not understand the subject line or ad and to top it off I do not sell outside of the US.
The email marketing service provided the IP address of the recipients that clicked through as part of their report. To confirm what Google was reporting I typed the IP address of some of the clickers into the site http://www.who.is and sure enough, the registered location for all of the sites I checked was outside the US.
Based on the above experiment, I figured that the quality of the list was important. Therefore, I signed up with a high price firm for a campaign of 5,000,000 and the results were even worse. Not only that, I never received any statistics, I am not sure the ads were sent and I am now disputing their charges on my credit card.
I learned several things because of my experiments. Some of the things I learned are:
- Start small don’t blow a lot of money based on exaggerated claims
- Make sure the email marketing services reports provides the information you need to make decisions and determine effectiveness
- Use some sort of analytic program to confirm what the email marketing service reported statistics claim
- Document the results or lack there of in case of a dispute
- Charge the costs to a credit card and be ready to dispute the charges when the results are not even, close to claims.
- Pricier does not mean better or more effective