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Archive for November, 2009

As Ferris Bueller urges us, you’ve got to stop and look around once in a while, and as we near the end of the decade I’m feeling introspective. I’m also rather seasonally affected and in need of cheering up, what with the disgraceful weather, pasty skin, a near biblical attachment to my duvet and a torpid mental state despite the supposed Last Big Push at work as another sales year hurtles to a close.

So I’m pausing to take stock of email marketing at the turn of the ‘Teens’ decade. In the time-honoured tradition of men’s magazines, it’s taking the form of Top 10’s. All sorts of ‘decade’ lists are appearing right now: defining events (9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Tsunami, Obama, Lehmans…), technological advances (Facebook, iPhone, Wii…), the NME’s top albums (The Strokes Is This It was numero uno)….

Firstly, I’m thanking my lucky stars that I’m in the digital industry and working for a company that’s grown despite the recession. Email marketing has had a phenomenal rise over the past decade to become king of communications. There’s been many key milestones (the first multipart mime email, the first billion emails sent, scheduling emails, API development, split-testing etc) but it reads as a rather geeky ESP history, so my first Top 10 is: Why I’m glad I jumped on board the email gravy train:

1. ROI is exceptional

DMA research  shows email marketing generated an ROI of $43.62 for every dollar spent on it in 2009. The expected figure for 2010 is $42.08. It outperforms all other DM channels.

Datran’s 2009 marketing and media study placed email as the top performing ad channel.

 2. Spend is increasing

More than 70% of marketers will increase spend on email in 2010, according to the DMA.

 3. It’s data driven:

I’m a closet data geek and email is the most trackable of direct marketing channels – a vast array of actionable campaign data can be used to refine approach and underpin…

 4. Advanced targeting:

Today’s email systems have evolved to allow integrations with CRM databases, web analytics and eCommerce system, with tools to allow on-the-fly personalisation and dynamic content based on preferences, behaviour and engagement.

 5. It’s universal:

B2C/B2C, cross-sector, all over the world – email’s strength is ubiquitous.

 6. It’s regulated:

Contrary to popular belief, we’re not spammers: since the Data Protection Act of 1998 and the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, email is legitimised as ‘Permission Marketing’, requiring a clear opt-in. ISP’s now collaborate with ESP’s to clean-up the industry, flush out spammers and get elicited emails through to inboxes.

 7. It’s fast-evolving:

In the past five years I’ve seen the outsourcing argument overcome, an array of new sophisticated campaign tools and a seismic shift as marketers move from a blast-mentality to a one-to-one lifecycle dialogue of targeted triggered messages.

 8. It’s a relationship tool:

Email builds loyalty and engagement when employed as a core channel in CRM strategies, rather than just a bolt-on sales tool – Welcome/nursery programmes, post-purchase transactional messages, special offers for most loyal customers and reactivation attempts for the unengaged, can combine to drive a quality relationship with subscribers.

 9. We’re getting much better at it:

Email is a bit like Marmite but people are coming round (like, don’t use too much and have it on some quality toast..) The challenges facing the email industry are well-documented: inbox clutter/junk, declining response, deliverability, lack of resource allocated to email. But as the Top 10 points above become widely accepted at board-level, we’re given more scope to help clients and collaborate on a far more effective email strategy.

 10. It’s (quite) good fun:

We have a jolly time here at eCircle Towers and enjoy the often-incestuous machinations of a competitive industry sector, as well as working with bright young(ish) things in marketing teams.

Next decade: email will not die

Enough evangelising: the industry certainly presents many obstacles and it’s definitely not plain sailing being an ESP. Many commentators, perhaps annoyed at email’s quiet ascension, are gleefully predicting the decline or even total death of email in the next decade. But just as email didn’t kill postal mail, RSS didn’t kill email and social networks like Twitter won’t bring about its demise either. Email is like a zombie, it just won’t die (Social Networks are vampires; they’re really hot right now!). It continues to innovate, integrate and complement all other forms of marketing. We’re now all swimming in one great big sociably-networked pond and email is the hook by which online marketers reel in their fish – it’s used for social alerts, invites to connect, transactions, user-generated content, surveys, and so on. I can appreciate that under-25’s love the immediacy of one-to-many status updates or IM for quick banter, but you can’t use Facebook or Linked In to send a personal and credible message (unless you are a recruiter, and that’s a dubious approach anyway).  My Top 10 Future Trends league table follows shortly so watch this space…

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I watched Location, Location, Location last night, a programme that always makes you feel like you’re £50,000 short for the house you really want!  Enough to stir thoughts of how can I, where can I …damn it. Acton isn’t too far from Chiswick anyway! This has absolutely no bearing on this blog whatsoever, it’s just reminded me that I need to ensure eCircle are ALWAYS involved in all ITT/RFP/RFI processes.

Without doubt, your more experienced marketing staff are used to the ESP review process, you know, what to look for, questions to ask, companies to see… However, it’s fair to say there are a good few that don’t necessarily know and, sometimes, talking to a host of ESP’s can end up causing confusion on what’s important (again, that’s sometimes, not always).

At this point, I wanted to get some numbers in, so I typed ‘number of marketers employed in UK?’ into Google.  Unsurprisingly, a whole lot of rubbish came up, yet there was a number given on a jobs website which stated that over half a million people are employed in Marketing the UK.  How easy was that?  But how many of those half million know what to look for when selecting an email partner and is there enough advice out there to help them?

Number of UK marketers

There are probably a good 20 to 30 points that people offer as consideration when choosing an ESP, yet I would say that these estimated 500,000 UK marketers need consider 4 key points:

  • Local vs. Global
    • What is their market presence?
    • UK only or experience in multiple countries – global ESP’s will benefit from far greater infrastructure
  • Number of clients/experience
    • Is having 1,000 clients a good or bad thing (see support section below)
    • Is there a wide range of companies/market/sizes covered?
  • Size of support team
    • What is the client per support member ratio? Be sure to check this per individual country (for the record our client:staff ratio is 4:1)
    • Is support via a named Account Manager?
    • Is there a helpdesk option available for those minor issues?
    • Any doubt on this, go visit their offices – meet the team!
  • Services
    • What services are offered beyond email delivery?  Data insight/management, email engagement programs, customised reporting, consultancy
    • Do they work with other best of breed partners?

There will be times when ESP’s offer so-called quick wins/tactics/statements, usually based around a non-relevant feature or cost, yet stay firm and concentrate of the above mentioned 4 key areas. Such features can always be deployed via an aggressive roadmap and you most certainly get what you pay for, just ask Rafa Benitez.

Despite having offices across Europe, namely in the UK, France, Italy and – most recently – Spain and The Netherlands, eCircle are still often referred to as a German company. If that is to be the case then please be reminded, as my dad said during World Cup ’90, “Son…those Germans are damn good!”

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ecommerce trollyThere has been a lot in the news recently about the Royal Mail strikes causing havoc and additional cost to business’ direct mail campaigns across a number of different industries. While this is true to a certain degree, the strike has also provided savvy online marketers with an opportunity to rethink their online communication strategies.

Read my blog post ‘The postal strike – good or bad news for email marketing? in this month’s DMA Email Marketing Council’s Infobox here, where I highlight some email marketing measures retailers should consider to alleviate some of the disruption caused by the strikes.

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