E-mail, which is well into its teens, is still viewed as a cheap, yet effective marketing channel. But as the medium starts to mature, sales and marketing teams may have to ramp up spending on their e-mail programs in order to separate their brands from the pack, reach new prospects and cultivate existing clients.
However, devoting more of your budget to e-mail campaigns is just half the battle to garnering decent returns. Many companies tend to create one-size-fits-all e-mail programs that get blasted regardless of who the end-user may be (like a howitzer being deployed to shoot an army of gnats).
“You need to segment and target appropriately and often it takes more time and resources to make that happen,” said Nicholas Einstein, director of strategic and analytic services for Datran Media, a marketing services and technology company whose clients include Entrepreneur.com, Lycos and ValueClick. E-mail programs need “to be a) automated, b) segmented and c) perfectly integrated with [your] Web site to ensure you’re getting people right when they’re signing up.”
Overall, 58% of marketers said they planned to increase their e-mail budgets in 2009, according to a survey released in April by Datran Media. The company took the pulse of more than 3,000 industry executives from Fortune 1,000 companies and interactive agencies.
Einstein, who blogs at “the other einstein” (hats off), said that e-mail programs should feature relevant content, such as white papers, links (and invitations) to Webinars, information about upcoming virtual events “or any drivers of leads.” But smart packaging of content is a nonstarter unless it is properly segmented.
Indeed, segmentation is key. Open rates for segmented versus non-segmented campaigns are as much as 20% higher on average for the first 30 days, according to MarketingSherpa’s “Email Marketing Benchmark Guide 2008.”
Click rates for segmented versus non-segmented campaigns are doubly high for the first 30 days, with a slight increase for 60-90 days, while click rates for segmented versus non-segmented campaigns are five times higher the last 90 days of the year, the study said.
Because they are on the front line, sales execs can be the innovators of new e-mail programs depending on the audiences’ needs. But executing and managing the execution of email campaigns is a job that’s increasingly being left to marketing.
Einstein said he is seeing more and more e-mail campaigns that are centralized. Clients “are taking away some autonomy sales teams have had in the e-mail space, because, quite honestly, you get into situations about compliance and CAN-SPAM issues, and it can get hairy having sales teams sending out promotional messaging” to people who have potentially unsubscribed to the material.
The happy medium is when IT can integrate sales and marketing and provide a bridge between inbound and outbound efforts. “We have seen a lot of success launching triggered and serialized messaging programs based on behavioral targeting,” Einstein said. “When prospects are taking action on a Web site, it’s important to leverage this behavior to target relevant messaging that nurture the lead and help foster sales.”