Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Email, email, email. It still works.

When I started working in the interactive marketing space with Aviatech in 2003, they were doing Aviamations, flash images inside an email message within the Yahoo! email system. It was amazing to see how the lowly email could be transformed to art with animation and music. We were going to be millionaires!

Of course, that was short-lived: Yahoo bumped into rules about selling their email lists like that anymore, Flash files were big files compared to text or html messages so they were filtered out with increasing frequency, and then unsolicited advertisements via email fell into the CAN-SPAM can, so no more.

But we had several clients who ...
had come to embrace email marketing during that period, so we found other ways to make an impact through offers and coupons, using house lists, better writing, timing the messages, linking to landing pages. All of these, 10 years later, are still legitimate and effective tactics. They just aren't exciting and cutting edge any more. But that doesn't make them less valuable.

Harvard Business Review took another look at email, and figured out that it doesn't cost much and is just as effective as other formats. By their Ivy League math, that makes the modest email EVEN better: "email marketing is the most cost-effective advertising method available today."

The email offers so much the other outlets like TV, online ads and social media don't:

  • Immediate trackability to specific offers.
  • Trackability by customer.
  • Room for lots of different links. Too many is of course overwhelming, but you can create multiple pathways to a sale and users can choose.
  • Easy and quick and cost-effective A/B testing.
  • You have a relationship with anyone you're mailing to so you can email them again later.
They cite an excellent case study where a retailer could track customers through a loyalty card, they divided up their customer base into three groups: direct mail+email, direct mail only and email only. The groups that got only email converted at the same rates as the direct mail+email group, for a fraction of the cost.

So Harvard says "email is more efficient and cost-effective." I guess they know what they're talking about.