Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Email Marketing by the Numbers, Review

Yesterday at Chameleon Cafe, on top of Russian Hill with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, I read, straight through, Email Marketing by the Numbers, and it’s a testament to his writing that I was able to do that. The moment I read on his blog that his book was out- I rushed out and bought it, excited at the prospect that it represented what I have found to be true in CRM and email marketing- that numbers, metrics, and closed-loop analysis have fundamentally changed the marketing space. It’s been technically available, and sporadically practiced for years of course, but recently it seems to have finally seeped into the consciousnesses of those who make decisions in large corporation marketing departments, the ones that I’ve been in, and the comments and posts I’ve read online, at least. I haven’t seen it expressed, though, in marketing books.

Chris’ blog, Email Marketing Strategies, and his company Exact Target, are respected in the industry. If you’re reading this, you already know that. So as far as I respect Chris, I of course vary in my opinion on many things. But suffice to say that I agree with everything in the book not mentioned in this post!

First, the structure. Chris has taken on a few huge tasks. He is trying to make a book that represents the very rich, intertextual knowledge of a few great blogs on email marketing, and represent it in a business reference book. Also, he is writing in a tradition of business books on marketing- which at the same time address those new to marketing, clients, peers, and specialists. His method is to include emails or blog posts (it’s unclear to me which) from the community of emarketing blog writers and seminal industry folks. The result, for me, was a bit discursive. Sometimes the quoted people talk about thoughts and tips that are explained in basic detail later on in the book, so encountering them early on is a big jarring.

To me, the value inherent in this book isn’t about new concepts, but leveraging the common thoughts going on in the blogosphere about email marketing techniques- his own opinions and others- and of these, I was really happy to see his well-written defenses, anecdotes, and rationales for the following:

  • Presenting a strong defense of metrics in marketing departments. From small to large companies I’ve met resistance with email marketing- and he describes the benefits in terms of other marketing channels and media quite well
  • His approach to personalization reflected where we are going with email marketing- the first name is not enough, and in many aspects it’s insulting if the content is a form letter. (p.2)
  • My notes say “au courrant” regarding letting go of lapsed contacts, and to manage the profitability index for each segment. It was along the lines of “when to say goodbye,” a discussion I’ve been seeing in other email marketing blogs.
  • The importance of key metrics such as profitability of each lead, RFM, and segmentation
  • Most important, automated messages and acting on customer’s transactional behaviors as a form of segmentation and personalization (example: abandoned shopping cart).

I felt that the first six or so chapters were a bit slow going and nothing was new (to me) though in the face of printed marketing and business books, it was probably revolutionary. I feel like he did an excellent job with practical explanations- so necessary in these kind of books- though most of my clients are usually large, online, business to consumer, retail companies. The examples too represented far smaller lists than I’m familiar with. Not to say that 80% of the book, let’s say, relates regardless of list size.

His CAN-SPAM, and deliverability chapters are delightfully chock full of information. On the other hand, there are far more interesting things he could have done with the recency/frequency/monetary (RFM) model. Slicing and dicing data, segmentation, and determining key metrics for each individual company- and it does vary- there is a huge spectrum of modeling way beyond RFM. I will probably write about this in the future, but accessing raw event in combination with transactional behaviors captured from online companies opens up many doors to new metrics, analysis, and campaigns ideas.

Since I don’t work with content usually, I was surprised to be interested in his content chapter. He has tips on email writing, inspiration ideas for newsletters, and a general approach to doing newsletters. For various reasons he wants companies to move away from newsletters, to leverage the content out of newsletters, then devotes a full chapter in how to write one. So mixed messages in a way, or perhaps acknowledgment that folks are still tied to writing them, and embracing a future without newsletters is the goal, but a far-off goal.

The Open Rate
Another slight contradiction in explaining open and click rates, but also acknowledging that more email clients are setting the default to having images-off. I wrote about the images-off open rate, “New Metric: Images-Off Open Rate”, and Chris also reinforces that the click rate is far more important than the open-click or the open rate. (p.189) He seemingly disproves the validity of the open rate:

As you can see, the open rates decline. However, there is promise in the fact that click-through rate sand unsubscribe rates hold steady. ExxactTarget concluded that this likely indicates an overall trend in image suppression rather than a decline in email engagement. (p.190)

Then continues to say he still ‘believes in the open rate.’ I think Chris is responding to the industry, a marketing industry that can’t quite grapple with the future of only having click rates and deliverability, with uneven if unreliable open rates.

Automated Messaging & Integration

I felt like he was a little soft on promoting triggered messages in place of promotional campaigns, as the chapter is near the end, and it turns otu that while he’s a fan of automated messaging, he admits to not having expeirence with one of the leading types of these campaigns. I have strong feelings about this. Granted, it’s a transition in the industry, much like RSS, and it’s taking a time for companies to adapt. With RSS, the responsibility relies 50% with consumers changing their reading behavior. With transactional campaigns, the responsibility is entirely with the corporation. I wrote about this in “Why Bulk is Bad.” As for the integration chapter- he recognizes he’s not the one to write it and passes the baton to an integration consultant. So apologies if I come down harsh on Chris, I mean to come down harder on Dolvil! Haha.

Regarding automated messages, Chris says:

“There’s been a lot of talk about email triggered from an abandoned shopping cart that includes an incentive for hte product you didn’t quite buy. I’ve not seen this in real life, so I can’t say it works or not.” (p. 240)

So I applaud his honesty, but having been someone who has worked with triggered messages such as the abandoned shopping cart- and was at Proctor & Gamble subsidiary that was awarded for this campaign- I was kind of shocked. It does work! The response rates are amazing! Consumers love the incentive! So no problem except that his lack of experience in this realm leads into some missteps in talking about getting one setup, namely, that for each triggered message you need an API. In the systems I’ve worked on, they are usually already ontop of a basic CRM system, that, if it’s worth its salt, took into account potential buyer behavior and customer interaction for transactional campaigns. For hosted applications, that may not be true, granted. I have no idea what ExactTarget offers their customers- perhaps they do need a data feed.

Regarding the term API, what I think he means is a data feed, such as an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) or Export, Transform & Load (ETL). API is usually a programmatic method of attaching a program, such as a lego, onto another larger application, such as a web server or a Lego’s Pirate Ship. The large pirate ships that we’ve designed- at Disney, Microsoft, etc.- usually are third to fourth generation systems. They already integrate the silos quite well. I’m brought in to finesse, expand, or optimize. The integration he’s describing is 1st generation CRM system- and if you already have SalesForce, SAP and Siebel and the integration folks didn’t ask you if you had automatic or triggered campaigns on the horizon, and they didn’t build out the functionality, you got a bad crew of consultants. My experience is that clients can do a lot with the data that they already have.

Best Bits
Overall, though, my favorite part of his book, and probably the most lasting, will be his bad examples. They are truly funny in that inside email marketing joking, gallows humor, way. The airline examples pages 41-50 are worth a pick up and read in the bookstore, or even a purchase!

I am thankful that Chris wrote something so concise and well-written in my field, so that I can refer to it and have clients refer to it, as well. It’s a great launching point for far more in depth conversations on the nature of email marketing.

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Written on Thursday, 03. May 2007 at 16:27 In the category other_blogs, techniques. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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1 Comment »

  1. [...] * Great bit in Email Marketing by the Numbers- that first name personalization is so overused now that it’s generally ignored. Personalization by transactions are far more effective, and referrals and social networks, that this guy knows my Dad, furthers loyalty. Written on Wednesday, 23. May 2007 at 12:37 In the cateogry Basics, campaigns. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. [...]

    Pingback: Adventures in Email Marketing » Thoughts On Newsletters | – 23. May 2007 @ 12:38 pm

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