The Science(?) of Email Marketing
I recently attended an event about email marketing sponsored by the San Francisco chapter of the AIGA. The presenters were my pal, Rob Bynder, from the AIGA LA and my new pal, Annie Kinnaird, of Emma. The presentation was extremely interesting and I was not only impressed with the industry knowledge of the two presenters, they also had a great sense of humor! I really had no idea how much study and research goes into email marketing and that there is actually a science to the whole thing--or IS there?
Part of the presentation was about the art, and annoyance, of spam and how to basically get around it with our "unique" and "targeted" email marketing campaigns and that are also CAN-spam compliant. I know I personally get a lot of spam as a result of "bots" from marketers who watch what I click on, which I consider intrusive. What Emma presented, however, was basically to be aware of and how to avoid the common blunders and pitfalls of otherwise legitimate email marketers. After all, I don't really want to click on the email messages from folks who offer ED treatment alternatives or black-market software.
Another part of the preso was how to create an effective target list and how to hopefully get those targets to actually open your email or sign-up for your newsletter. An opt-out option is a must, of course, but if we can get folks who are truly interested in our email marketing ploys to stay with us and possibly refer us to others in their circle who may be of similar interest, well, that's a successful use of the old viral marketing concept and a win in my book.
Most of the audience was interested in the actual design (duh!) of email marketing campaigns, which was covered somewhat. However, the focus of this presentation was a little different than the typical, sometimes boring, design lecture and design was not the real topic here. You can have a well-crafted and award-winning newsletter design or online marketing piece, but if you don't know who is opening or reading it and actually clicking through to your site, then the design makes no difference whatsoever. This type of communication is so fluid and dynamic that it requires serious email marketers to stay on top of it all the time. Believe me, that is a full time job and there were those in the audience that night who does it full time. There is always something new coming down the pike and new technologies seem to sprout-up overnight. It's exciting, scary, and true. With many open or response rates of less than 3%, a lot of research and testing needs to be done in order to be a success.
Of course Emma offers a lot of assistance in the areas of targeting and tracking as does others such as Constant Contact and Topica, but they're only messengers, really. We need to do the research and actual data capturing as it applies to our individual markets and targets. Just like design, it is an "it depends" business.
Email marketing as a science? YES - but it depends...