Janine Popick on E-mail Marketing

December 3, 2007 at 7:13 pm Leave a comment

In this installment of Experts in Five, we chat with Janine Popick, president and CEO of Vertical Response, one of the better known hosted e-mail marketing providers. We wanted to find out how e-mail marketing is working these days, and how it has changed. Disclaimer: We use Vertical Response for some of our marketing, but this is not why we chose Janine. We asked her because she has been a pioneer in e-mail marketing and blogging on the topic for some years now.

CMO 2.0: Sorry to have to ask you this up front, but with all the spam these days, people are overloaded with e-mail. Does e-mail marketing still work?

Janine: Yes, done correctly email marketing is one of the most effective forms of marketing today. Smaller businesses have an advantage: they generally tend to know and have great relationships with their customers, so their customers look forward to receiving email communications from them. Their data tends to be in one place so managing and cleaning lists is simple. Larger businesses tend to have more of an issue. These businesses are spending a lot to acquire customers fast, but with quantity doesn’t always come quality. With so many potential places a larger business keeps their data, they have to be extra careful how they obtain email addresses, manage and clean their lists in a timely fashion. We’ve seen it work but it takes a lot of resources and care.

CMO 2.0: I’m sure you could talk all day on this, but can you give us the top three do’s and don’ts for e-mail marketing and explain why these are important?

Janine: First of all you want to have your list of recipients be as “opt-in” as it can be. In other words, ask for permission to email them and get permission. In the long run you’ll have some really impressive response rates. Secondly you should follow the rules, that said, follow the law. Make sure your subject line relates to the content of the email, make sure that you include your postal address and make sure you have an unsubscribe mechanism that works. This is why we tell most businesses they should choose an Email Service Provider that will cover them in this area. And lastly stick to the promise you made your list members when they joined. If you told them you would send them a weekly communication and you start sending them daily, you’ve broken a trust. You’re more likely to have them unsubscribe than to have them be excited to get your emails.

CMO 2.0: Buying lists and managing e-mail campaigns costs real money. What kind of percentage returns are you seeing these days, and what kind of cost per lead? How should a CMO position e-mail marketing costs to a CEO who’s writing the checks?

Janine: VerticalResponse is strictly a customer retention tool, so we don’t allow our users to email to purchased lists through our system. However, there are many ways to get a lead through advertising means. A cost per lead really depends on what you’re selling and how long it takes for you to make back the marketing dollars you spent. A CMO should know the lifetime value of a customer and when the cost per lead will pay back.

CMO 2.0: Talk a little bit about trends you see in e-mail marketing. What’s hot right now? What can a marketer do to stand out or get better results than his competitor?

Janine: We see a lot of people using email in so many ways; driving people to events and webinars, selling products or services, sending out monthly birthday wishes, driving traffic to blogs, videocasts and podcasts, appointment reminders, transactional emails and even awareness around social media. We even see businesses trying to convert their paper newsletters and postal mailings into emails to save on costs and for environmental purposes.

What we are seeing as a trend, although not a great one, are more and more businesses creating their emails using either one large image or a series of images put together to make a really beautiful graphic. We are constantly telling our users this is a really bad practice. Why? When this type of email reaches a recipient’s Inbox and the recipients has a default of their images “turned off”, the first and in many cases only thing the recipient will see is the unsubscribe link.

A good practice is to have a mix of both images and text, we recommend 30/70 to be on the safe side.

Caveat: If your recipients have accepted you into their Inbox, you’re email will fly though with all images shown, so it’s really up to you and your relationship with the recipient.

Other trends we are seeing are that businesses are doing less of the “spray and pray” method of email marketing and doing more segmentation and targeting of offers and content. This is driving up response rates overall.

We’re also seeing more and more businesses using tracking mechanisms like Google Analytics to see their overall ROI for their campaign metrics. It’s not only about opens and clicks anymore, it’s where the recipients go on the sites in aggregate.

I always think that to stand out from your competitor you really have to hype your advantage. If you’ve got better customer service but the same exact product, hype that you pick up the phones and talk to people in this day of bits and bytes. Do it in all of your materials, make a campaign out of it.

CMO 2.0: Predict the future for us. Where is e-mail marketing going? Will it still be around in five years, or will it be replaced by something else?

Janine: The future sure seems to be changing right before our eyes! RSS was said to replace email, but it hasn’t. Email is still a huge part of the way we communicate with the availability of email through handhelds, not just at the desktop level. According to Jupiter by 2010 email marketing will grow from 885 million in ’05 to 1.1 billion and those are just US figures. ISPs will get smarter about blocking spam which means that more and more legitimate emails get through increasing delivery rates.

Experts in Five interviews are CMO 2.0’s way of bringing you insight and advice from marketing experts. Five questions for an expert, a five minute read for you.

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