Relevancy Rules in E-mail Marketing

A recent study by ExactTarget shows that e-mail is still one of the most effective (and accepted) ways to market to consumers. Their survey of more than 1,500 consumers found that 93 percent are subscribers -- meaning they have provided their e-mail address to at least one company or brand. Further analysis shows that the average consumer receives 44 e-mails per day. Of those, 25 percent (11) are permission-based commercial messages.

Consumers have come to accept e-mail as a marketing channel. But that doesn't mean it's a fail-safe solution. For one, just under half of those surveyed opened e-mails from their "favorite" companies. Chances are the majority of subscribers on your list don't consider your company a "favorite." So how do you change that? The answer, is relevancy.

Consumers expect personalization. E-mail is much more sophisticated than it was even just a few years ago and consumers know it. Therefore, they expect a message to be tailored to their needs, wants and even behaviors. "Dear Customer" isn't going to work, and neither is an offer for a product that holds no value to them. To be successful, e-mail marketers must ensure that each message conveys a sense familiarity with the consumer. ExactTarget cites a recent CMO Council study that showed 41 percent of U.S. Internet users threatened to stop buying from companies that sent irrelevant messages. Not only does an irrelevant message waste consumers' time but it also erodes confidence in that company. If they don't know me, how can they serve me well? If they don't care, is my information safe?

Consumers expect benefits. Not surprisingly, consumers often carry a what's-in-it-for-me attitude when it comes to e-mail subscriptions. In other words, is this e-mail list relevant to my wants and needs? Some benefits might be discounts and coupons, free giveaways and contests, educational material, early notification of deals (exclusivity) and content tailored to them. As ExactTarget client and Groupon Manager of E-mail Optimization Andrew Kordek explains, "E-mail marketing is not a one-way communication. You need to take yourself out of the company and put yourself in the subscriber's shoes. As a marketer, you're not in charge of the e-mail -- your subscriber is. Let the customer and subscriber dictate how you should run your email program."

So what are those subscribers saying? The study asked: What motivated you to give a company, association, or organization your e-mail address?

67%   To receive discounts and promotions
55%   To get a "freebie" in exchange for my e-mail address
50%   To get updates on upcoming sales
45%   To get updates on future products
33%   To get access to exclusive content
29%   For fun or entertainment
28%   To learn more about their products or services
28%   To stay informed about them
22%   For education about topics they specialize in
17%   Someone recommended them
14%   To interact with them
11%   To show my support

One number I find particularly interesting here is the 17% -- Someone recommended them. That seems to have much room for improvement. And social media might just help that effort. Read about social media sharing and e-mail.