Email Marketing

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the core pillars of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and can deliver one of the highest returns-on-investment (ROI).

Simply put, email marketing is a form of direct marketing which uses electronic means to deliver commercial messages to an audience. It is one of the oldest forms of eMarketing (established in 1961) and is also still one of the most powerful. The power of email marketing is based on 4 pillars:

–          Extremely cost effective with a low cost per contact
–          Highly targeted through niche segmentation
–          Customisable on a mass scale
–          Completely measurable

Furthermore, email marketing is also very powerful because it reaches audiences at their most prolific touch point to the internet, their inboxes.


Email started out in 1961 as a method for users to leave messages to each other on the same computer. It was only in 1971 that Ray Tomlinson created the first working network email application. He initiated the use of the @ sign as well as the address structure we use today (username@hostname). Email was used to send messages to computers on the same network and is still used for this purpose today.

Only in 1993 did large network service providers such as America Online start to connect their proprietary email systems to the internet. This began the large scale adoption of internet email as a global standard. In conjunction with the standards that we created in the past 20 years, the Internet allowed users on different network to send messages to each other.

The first spam message dates back to 1978. According to Microsoft over 97% of all emails sent over the net are unwanted, and can thus be considered as spam.

Direct marketing (snail Mail, Catalogues) have long played an integral part in marketing campaigns, but the high costs associated with it meant that only large companies could pursue this course of action. However, with the growth of the internet and email adoption, marketing has found the costs dropping, and the effectiveness increasing.

Varieties of email communications [Marketing perspective]:
–          Transactional emails
–          Newsletters
–          Promotional mailers
–          Emails to suppliers
–          Emails to affiliates

These emails can be divided into two types of commercial emails:
–          Promotional emails: Direct and focus on enticing the users to take an immediate action
–          Retention emails: Focuses on providing information of value to the user, geared to long term relationships with the user

There is also a host of other emails that are sent on a daily basis, while I have just listed the most common ones from a retail perspective.

According to Quirk there are 9 basic steps to execute and email campaign, I have looked at 8 of these steps as Interaction handling needs to be a fundamental practice before even reaching the email execution stage.

The 8 Steps to Executing an Email Campaign

1. Strategic Planning

The first step of any email campaign should revolve around understanding the goals you want to achieve. This should be in line with the objectives of the larger campaign r strategy with email forming part of the communications marketing mix. Key performance indicators will also be established at this stage.

Promotional mailers will have immediate goals such as:

–          User purchase
–          downloading an item
–          Requesting further information

Key performance indicators include:
–          Open Rate
–          Click-through rate
–          Number of emails forwarded
–          Return on Investment through sales

2. Define your list

Running a successful email campaign requires that the company has a genuine opt-in list. This database of willing receivers is the most important element of an email campaign.

Lists can be acquired through several means:

–          Purchasing a validated list from a third party: Not a great idea as people will not have been exposed or associated  with your brand in the past. You are basically relying on their involvement with a third party to give validation to your campaign
–          Third party joint promotions: Running a joint campaign with another company through which you can then gain access to their list
–          Campaign databases: These are normally obtained through campaign interactions with the incentive for customers to win a prize
–          Organic lists: These lists are normally growth organically from newsletters, website interactions and forward messages. This list is considered the most valuable

Lists should include the following information:
–          Email address: This is the only element actually required in order to send out emails
–          First name, surname and title
–          Gender
–          Date of Birth

Any other information that you gain on consumers are incredibly valuable, but not necessary. Each bit of information will assist you in further defining\understanding your recipients and as such allowing you to more closely segmenting them.

3. Creative execution

Emails can be executed, and viewed, as either plain text or HTML. Always bear in mind that some email services render all emails into plain text, HTML included, so bear that in mind when designing visual mailers.

Elements of an email:
–          Header
–          Subject line
–          Personalised greeting
–          Body
–          Footer
–          Unsubscribe Link

It is always easier, and generally shows better results, if an email communication forms part of a larger campaign or communications platform. Also bear in mind that you should have a uniform brand image which carries through all communications, in-store elements and the rest of a company’s offerings. In-store promotions and offerings can be used to drive people to sign-up for email communications and so increase your database.

Also bear in mind that custom landing pages, in order to make the content more relevant, should be created.

5. Personalise the Message

One of the key components and offerings of email marketing is mass customisation. Even small changes can improve results dramatically. Customisation starts with using the recipient’s name and making use of preferences to segment communications to improve relevancy. Segmentation is a powerful tool and can be carried through to detailed levels of control.

6. Deployment

Create valuable content, establish the correct frequency and test an email for display and deliverability. Also bear in mind that consistency and timeous delivery also fosters trust. Remember to also test best sending times, as well as delivery preferences.

7. Generating Reports

As with all things digital, reporting, measurability and accountability are some of the fundamental benefits and attractors to eMarketing. Optimisation allows us to change, in a comparably short time, elements that might not have produced sufficient results and as such reporting must be setup in a user-friendly manner.

Elements for measurement include:

–          Delivery rate
–          Bounce Rate (differentiation should be made between hard and soft bounces)
–          Open rate
–          Unsubscribe
–          Forward rate
–          Click-through Rate and Conversion Matrix

8. Analyse Results

Once reports have been generated it now time to understand what the numbers mean, and how we can improve on these results moving forward on the next mailer.

At this stage A/B Testing (or Split Testing) can also be ascertained or employed to determine what elements would provide better results. Split testing simple means testing two variables to determine which variable provides you with better results. It can be as simple as testing the colour of your headlines, button variations, different call to actions and the price of the offer. Elements that we focus on for email marketing are:

–          Different subject lines and delivery times
–          Optimal number of links
–          Copy style, length, visuals, call to actions
–          Impact of Video

This blog is being completed as part of the requirements of the Digital Marketing Academ


About Marius Greeff
Online marketer for Exclusive Books. Also working on plans for world domination and the perfect pizza

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