The Email Experience Council (eec) is now accepting nominations for this year’s most admirable thought leaders in the email industry.
Email marketing is experiencing resurgence in focus and investment. It is the epitome of 1-to-1 marketing, offering the highest opportunity for relevancy and ROI. Marketers have doubled down in creative and technology to showcase just that, and it’s time to be recognized for those efforts. In an often misunderstood channel, from both a customer and executive perspective email still has everything to prove. It’s time to showcase the true colors of respectable email marketers that are achieving commendable results.
Each company is at a different level of sophistication in their email program. Whether the nominee is laying a foundation for a new email marketing program with best practices or sending dynamically populated content in hundreds of variations to subscribers, we want to hear their story. Whether the nominee is an entrepreneur running a small agency out of their home or an associate at an agency comprised of thousands of employees world-wide, we want to hear about their journey. Each is unique in their challenges and creativity and we encourage you to submit your nominations no matter what your scenario may be.
We are excited to announce that there will be two awards this year, representing the brand and agency side of the business:
To Nominate for Brand-side Email Leaders Only:
Sal Tripi, (EEC13 Stefan Pollard Award Recipient)
Assistant Vice President, Digital Operations and Compliance
Publishers Clearing House
To Nominate for Agency/Vendor-side Email Leaders Only
Are you, or someone you know, at a brand or advising company deserving of either award?
Nominations are open through December 5, 2013. Nominations must be completed by an eec member, but nominees do not need to be a member. The eec Awards Subcommittee will carefully review each nomination and select a winner for each award. Winners will be announced at the Annual Email Evolution Conference in January 2014 in Miami (which is a great place to be in January!).
Winners will receive:
So what are you waiting for? Get going and nominate your un-sung email marketing hero today!
Chair, eec Awards Subcommittee
California has the latest development for the Do Not Track efforts. The Amendment to CA's Online Privacy Protection Act (AB 370) aims to push forward measures that would purportedly give consumers more privacy online. The bill begs the question of whether it will simply act as a disclosure or provide something more.
Advocates of the bill worry that consumers’ rights to privacy are at risk from advertisers tracking consumer behaviors online. In the minds of the advocates, the bill would provide a step in the right direction to allow consumers more visibility into the marketing practices of organizations.
Short of disclosing the information to consumers, the bill does not require websites to do anything further. It is up to the consumer to determine whether or not the consumer wants to patronize the website. The bill may turn away potential consumers as a result of marketing practices of tracking user behaviors. However, consumers may not care about the tracking or may not pay attention to the privacy policies.
Potentially large implications exist for companies from a marketing and revenue perspective. Disclosures will simply inform consumers who want additional information, but will only disclose the information for now. The choice will still remain with the consumer whether to continue to visit that particular website.
Michelle Wimmer, eec member
Consumers on one hand want relevant messages and offers yet have a concern about privacy. Currently Google faces a lawsuit dealing with this issue. The lawsuit alleges Google reads and mines the content of private emails in violation of California's privacy laws and federal wiretapping laws for advertising purposes. In re Google Inc. Gmail Litigation, 13-md-02430, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
By using an automated system to scan emails for content, Google can serve relevant ads to Gmail users that highlight an advertiser's product or service that relates to specific content within the email. Advertisers can use this technology to serve the right messages to the target audiences at the right time.
Emails in conjunction with relevant contextual targeting provide advertisers with an opportunity to meet their objectives and objectives of consumers by targeting a relevant marketing message. In a world where consumers are inundated with advertising it has become more important than ever for marketers to be smart about messaging to make sure the consumers are getting the most relevant messages.
The issue of providing consumers with a certain level of privacy yet also ensuring relevancy of marketing messages will continue to present a struggle for marketers to achieve the right balance. Time will tell how the courts end up treating this privacy concern and what impact it will have on email as well as other digital marketing channels.
Michelle Wimmer, eec member
A few years ago, personalization was the holy grail for email marketers. If you could use a customer’s or subscriber’s first name in a subject line or an email, you were heads above your competition and getting more attention in the inbox.
As with all things email, however, we’ve evolved beyond the first name level of relevance into a whole new world of delivering very specific content in a very timely manner to the widest possible variety of individuals.
Or…that’s what we are trying to evolve to at least.
With many consumers weary of superficial personalization, inboxes more crowded than ever, and attention spans even shorter, the real relevance is no longer a first name but rather an extremely relevant and timely message delivered to just the right customer at just the right time.
People aren’t opposed to receiving marketing messages, either B2C or B2B ones. But they want, even demand, more than yet another sales pitch with their name attached. They want customized product recommendations and information that is relevant to them at that moment in time.
A relevant email marketing message is one that contains content determined by a customer’s stated preference combined with their past behaviors. Consumers are more receptive to these kinds of messages, emails based on both what they say they’re interested in (preferences), as well as what they show they’re interested in (behavior).
Compare that to a first name. Is that name really a useful piece of data these days, when organizations are sending out hyper-targeted email messages based on everything from microclimate (for lawn care) to gestation age (for pregnant mothers)? If your personalization is limited to a name, what kind of useful email reporting can you hope to learn from?
You need more than a name
You need to know more than a name. You need to know your customer (or prospect).
With the business systems integration and deep analytics possible today, you can really know your customers…through both their preferences and their behaviors. And with the right technology combined with the right ESP, you can use email integration to put that data to use to send email marketing messages that speak to people on an individual level like never before.
Consider a wine lover, for example. She eats at her local Italian restaurant about four times a year and she always orders a bottle of wine with dinner. Using a relational database, we’d know this about her as a customer. Using advanced segmentation, we could target her with a discount on wine that might tempt her to patronize that restaurant more often.
How to get to know that customer
Obviously you can’t set up dinner dates with everyone in your database, so you can’t get to know these people in person. But you can still get to know them. How? You get to know your customer by collecting and using data about them. Emphasis here is on the word “using.”
Collecting data is nothing new in the marketing world. We’ve been doing it probably since marketing started and the door-to-door salesman, traveling from farm to farm, remembered that Mrs. Simpson always bought an extra bag of sugar if prodded.
Like our marketing predecessors, many organizations collect data these days. However, less than half are able to put that data to use, partly because of the sheer volume of data collected. (These days data is about a lot more than a bag of sugar.) A recent Forrester report finds that although marketers are capturing data, only 45% of those surveyed are capturing it and using it too.
How does a marketer cross that bridge, to go from collecting the customer data to being able to put it to use for targeted email marketing? By having the right technology in place.
By technology, I mean two pieces:
When you choose an enterprise-level ESP like ExactTarget, you get a robust email service provider that can handle not only your email volume but your data volume too. Plus these types of top-tier ESPs usually integrate with sophisticated analytics and email reporting tools like Tableau Software, tools that make it much easier to interpret your data and put it to use. Plus the market now offers tools like eMVision--a proprietary platform based on Tableau Software and built exclusively for ExactTarget—that make it even easier for you analyze data, identify new patterns and segments, and send targeted and timely messages.
Yes, we’ve definitely moved beyond first-name personalization, and consumers know it. They are wary of emails using their first names and they are welcoming of emails that are extremely relevant to them. With the right technology in place, you can deliver the messaging they want, when they want it, buy really knowing your customer.
Email marketing is a special form of advertising. Because of its opt-in nature, it’s mostly been 100% first party data customer targeting-based advertising. Email is CRM advertising, pure and simple. You get an email because you subscribed.
The CRM nature of email marketing is what has made it, along with search, the most intentful and successful form of advertising ever invented. When an online retailer or publisher sends out an email campaign it is confident it is sending a message to a ‘friendly’ customer who has agreed to accept messages.
Despite a dismal 15% open rate, customers who open are so responsive that retailers keep on sending. But who can be satisfied knowing that 85% of their customers ignore them? Wouldn’t that make you sad after you worked so hard on the creative inside that unopened message?
So how do retailers get more out of the email channel in an inbox that is essentially soaked in competitive messages and controlled by Google and Yahoo?
You are probably aware of the four major tactics for increasing email engagement:
Using these four tactics alone you can create enough complexity to drive yourself insane. Is that all you can do?
There is room for at least one more strategy.
#5. Reach your customers outside of your own 1st party email newsletters using 1st party data based on the MD5 hash of the email address
Reaching your valuable email subscribers using your 1st party data – the hash of the email address – is the most effective strategy that you have probably never used. Because until Facebook introduced ‘custom audience’ earlier this year, it wasn’t something that was readily available. Now, besides Facebook, other large sites are creating ad networks. And there are email ad exchanges that allow user targeting based on the email hash. This technique is a viable alternative to cookie-based targeting.
Why is this useful? Using ‘Custom Audience’ targeting on Facebook or on email ad exchanges using 1st party email hash data has a 100% open rate. It has zero breakage. Hash-based targeting is based on your own data, not 3rd party cookie data.
Custom Audience targeting is the merger of two elements: real-time user matching and bidding. How does this work?
What this technique does is place your advertisement in front of YOUR customer, where they are paying attention. On Facebook it happens in the newsfeed on the right rail, and within email ad exchanges it only displays within newsletters that your subscribers open and enable images. Newsletters and sites which they are visiting, opening and reading. It is literally waste-free.
So, keep on sending your 1st party newsletters. They are great vehicles for your own content. But if you want to bring your email CRM data to life and reach your valuable subscribers where they are paying attention, there is no better tactic than custom audience targeting in social media and premium newsletters using the MD5 hash.
Chief Operating Officer, LiveIntent
As we pass the halfway point of 2013, it is clear to see that the email channel is still robust and effective. In early 2009, I read an article titled "9 Reasons Email is Dead." I recall thinking, boy this stinks! If email is dead (or dying) what am I going to do? I was too young to retire and old enough not to want to start again. Well, not only is email alive and well, it remains the most efficient and effective method of Marketing. Having said that, sending effective commercial email has certainly gotten much more complicated and challenging. Maintaining an effective and efficient email program takes more than just good marketing. Successful programs takes a mix of marketing, operations, creative, privacy, compliance and technology to do all the "right things" to make a program successful.
Consumer expectations are at an all time high. Consumers expect to be contacted when they want to be contacted, in a format that is appropriate for the device they are using at that time, with exactly the right offers they are interested in. Simple, or even complex, segmentation is no longer good enough. Consumers expect marketers to deliver highly relevant, targeted, timed, campaigns using data that was obtained in a clear and transparent manner that satisfies their marketing needs, but protects their privacy and data.
When I was selected as the DMA/EEC 2013 Stefan Pollard award winner, I commented that in no other industry was there the passion, intelligence and commitment as the people who dedicate their time and talents to the email industry. Below I listed a few of the recent challenges marketers faced in the first half of 2013 as well as some of the new innovations in email.
Gmail continues to add new innovations and nuances to their email platform. These new innovations continue to present email professionals with new challenges. The most recent change is one that has most marketers on the edge of their chairs. Gmails new inbox, which is being turned on by default, automatically sorts email into three tabs. The Primary tab is earmarked by Gmail for personal one to one conversations. This tab is automatically displayed when you first log into Gmail. The second tab is called “Social,” and includes all of your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media updates. The last tab is for “Promotions,” and is earmarked for all opt-in email marketing offers. While some may argue the reduction in inbox clutter that occurs when promotions are mixed with bank statements, personal notes and social media update notifications will be a positive change, most will agree that having marketing messages filtered to a promotions folder will negatively impact response. How big of an issue is yet to be determined. Effective Marketers are going to have to quickly adjust strategies to accommodate this. Time sensitive emails will need to be adjusted to account for the lower frequency people may end up checking the Promotions folder.
In June, Yahoo! announced that it was reclaiming dormant, unused email addresses and would make them available to new users. While on the surface this sounds like a good idea (I would prefer firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com) it opens up a host of issues for marketers to deal with in order to ensure they protect the user data that has been entrusted to them. While most marketers are already removing from their active email lists members who do not engage in a year, a lot of marketers use email address as a primary key. Breaking the link between email address and PII has become a critical concern. All good marketers know one of the fastest ways to kill a business is to erode the trust of the users especially with the handling of their personal data.
While the concept has been out there for a few years now, in 2013 we have seen rapid growth in content optimization at the time of open. Spurred by the dramatic increase in smart phones and mobile devices, marketers are adapting their programs to optimize content based on time, place and device opened. Technology companies like Adstack and Moveable Ink are focused on providing tools that make it easier to customize content. Coupling this new functionality with traditional audience segmentation has enabled savvy marketers to take their campaigns and programs to new levels.
Overall, it is safe to say, email is alive and well! Consumers and list members continue to challenge brands to raise the bar and provide them with content they want, when they want it, in the manner in which they want to consume it and optimized for the device they are using at that time. Email marketers continue to find ways to find new and creative ways to leverage technology and provide truly customized content for their users. Commercial email remains one of the most effective mechanisms of delivering marketing messages.
You can stay current with the latest in email marketing practices by taking advantage of the wealth of resources available from the eec. EEC offers webinars, in-person events and networking opportunities with your peers and thought leaders in the industry.
AVP Digital Operations and Compliance
Publishers Clearing House
2013 Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year Award Winner
We’re excited to announce that the Email Experience Council is launching a new initiative focused specifically on email marketing in the retail industry. Starting this month, we’re kicking off our Retail Marketing Special Interest Group, and we’re looking for a few good Retail Email Marketers to join in this initiative!
This special interest group will bring together 6-8 retail email marketers and industry experts who are interested in sharing best practices and develop thought leadership that will help shape the future of email marketing for the retail vertical. Members of the Retail Marketing Special Interest Group will have the opportunity to:
If you’re a retail email marketer interested in joining the Retail Marketing Special Interest Group, we’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
For marketers in other industries – stay tuned! We’ll be launching additional special interest groups later in the year.
Lisa Brown Shosteck
Managing Director, eec
The email marketing landscape is always changing as marketers find new and savvy ways to boost engagement, increase conversions, and maximize their efforts. But, beyond the discussion of open rates, click-throughs, subject lines, A/B testing and deliverability is the issue of compliance.
In an overall sense, there are two rulebooks that email marketers follow:
Most marketers are familiar with the US CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. But, now Canada has their own proposed version of anti-spam legislation that in it’s current state goes much further than it’s US counterpart.
It’s important marketers are aware of the new proposed legislation so they can begin taking action well in advance to ensure they remain in full compliance. While there is still a lot of time to make sure your ducks are all in a row to appease CASL, it’s never too soon to get started.
This post will cover the main highlights of Canada’s proposed Anti-Spam Legislation. For a more in-depth summary, you can read my blog post titled “All About CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) in Plain English”.
CASL isn’t just focused on Canadian email marketers, but rather extends its coverage to anyone who is emailing someone that will receive that message within Canada.
So, if you run an eCommerce store out of the USA, but you occasionally sell to people north of the border and have those folks on your mailing list, then CASL is in full force for you.
It’s not just those in North America that have to play under these new rules because the people behind CASL are hoping it’s reach will extend to marketers internationally who are contacting Canadians. In an interview, the CRTC’s chief compliance and enforcement officer, Andrea Rosen, said:
If the spammer is offshore, we have the ability under the law to co-operate with foreign governments, to share information and to bring proceedings together against individuals that are offshore.
There is an exemption written into CASL that if the sender does not know or could not expect to know that the receiver would be using a Canadian computer to access the email, then you’re off the hook. So, if your USA-based eCommerce store doesn’t ship to Canada and you have no Canadian’s on your mailing list, but someone has taken the trip to see the Jays play in Toronto and while there they get your email, you don’t have to panic.
Do keep in mind, however, that ignorance won’t be an excuse so even if you don’t think you have Canadian’s in your database, be sure to be on the lookout for that. At Elite Email, we have been prompting people to look at their geo-reports to get a sense of who is engaging with the email in Canada because it might be more than you think.
The current proposed regulation is really long and if you care to see the whole thing in it’s entirety, you can click here.
For those that are too busy to read the whole law (...and that is probably ALL of us!) here are the primary requirements:
One key thing I want to highlight is the notion of subscribing to your mailing list as an affirmative action. I see a lot of signup forms where the box is pre-checked and you have to uncheck it to indicate you don’t want to signup for a mailing list. If your organization is doing this, then it’s one of the first things you should consider changing. It’s a quick change that will ensure all new subscriber acquisitions are valid under CASL.
While there are lots of different facets to CASL, if I had to boil it down to one thing, I’d say that the most critical factor is ensuring you have obtained consent properly. If you’ve done that, then you’re heading down a good path.
CASL currently outlines four different scenarios that would qualify as consent.
This is the scenario that many people will already be familiar with as it’s the one that is based on an existing business or nonbusiness relationship between the recipient and sender. Essentially, if someone has bought something from your organization or entered into a contract with you then you have a “business relationship” with them. Whereas, if someone does volunteer work for you or becomes part of your organization, then you’ve got a “nonbusiness relationship” with them.
The critical part of this type of implied consent is the 2 year time limitation. From the moment someone purchases something from you, a 2 year window commences where you can email them and be in compliance with CASL without needing any other form of consent. On top of that, if that same person buys something from you again during that window, the clock resets and you get another full 2 years. However, as a general rule of thumb, at some point during that 2 year window, you would want (or need) to obtain explicit consent in order to keep emailing them after that window expires.
I suspect most email marketers are already actively engaged in this type of consent where the recipient gives you direct permission to send them emails. Most commonly you will have a signup form on your website that lets people join your mailing list. This direct type of consent is really at the core of CASL, which is why it’s important that you obtain good evidence to support your practices. Doing things like capturing the date stamp and IP address of a new subscriber when they join your list and then when they confirm their subscription (for double opt-in) will help ensure you’ve got a strong case should someone challenge if consent was obtained.
As I mentioned previously, make sure your signup forms require an affirmative action and not an opt-out action. So, if you’ve got a sneaky pre-checked box that auto-enrols people, you’re going to want to change that up ASAP because it won’t count in the eyes of CASL.
According to CASL, you can also get written or oral consent and while that is acceptable, it should be noted that these methods are far more difficult to prove. If you plan on using these tactics, make sure you’ve got a workflow that allows for the careful documentation of when, where and how consent was obtained.
This is a rather unique scenario that is very different than the two above. You can send someone an email if you obtained their email address and the following three criteria are also met:
(i) The email address is clearly published for viewing.
(ii) In the location where the email address is published, there is no specific statement saying that unsolicited emails are not allowed.
(iii) The email you’d be sending to that address is related to that person’s business or official role. [For example, you can email a university professor about a new book that is related to their field of expertise/interest, but you cannot email that same person trying to sell them concert tickets. It’s a bit tough to exactly draw the line on what is related and what is not, so we might see this further clarified CASL.]
This is the “business card” or “networking” rule under CASL that lets you send someone an email if they willingly share their address with you. CASL doesn’t want to render the email address on a business card useless, so if someone shares their card with you and doesn’t say they do not want to be emailed, then you can email them and be in compliance. Be sure to document the how, when and where they shared their email address with you so you’ve got that on file in case you need supporting evidence. However, do keep in mind that if you want to start sending someone your monthly newsletter (and not just emailing them as a follow-up to a networking event) you should obtain consent using another method as well.
Shame on you! Now go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done!
But, on top of that shame, penalties for violating CASL can range from a maximum of $1 million for individuals and $10 million for companies.
It should be noted that anyone can bring this new law against a sender, it doesn’t have to just be the government or other legal agency against the sender. Of course, if someone goes down this path and it turns out they were wrong, then they are responsible to cover all court and legal fees.
Also, the reason I have been harping in the sections above about keeping evidence for how you obtained consent is because if you can show that you really made strong efforts to follow every aspects of the rulebook, then that will play a factor in any legal proceedings.
There is still no specific date set so at this point everything is an estimate, although there have already been delays so further delays are not out of the question.
Based on the current flow of events, Industry Canada should have the regulations finalized by the middle of this year (2013). After that, there will be a one year grace period for everyone to digest these new rules and prepare for the coming changes, which will result in CASL going live some time in the middle of 2014.
That being said, there’s no need to wait until the final minutes to start ensuring your compliance with CASL. Although certain parts of the proposed legislation may change, the underlying concepts about the ways you can obtain consent probably won’t change much. So, take a good look at your database now and start to figure out who you may need to re-confirm and what evidence you’ve got to support that consent has been obtained properly (in the eyes of CASL). Review all of your signup and capture forms to make sure that it is an affirmative (and not opt-out) action that enrolls someone on your mailing list. Lastly, doing a periodic top to bottom review of your organization’s email practices can usually either confirm you’ve got your best foot forward and are ready for CASL or highlight areas that you need to improve upon... and there’s no time to take those steps like the present!
* Note: This article is intended to provide general comments about Canada’s new anti-spam legislation. It is not intended to be a comprehensive review nor is it intended to provide legal advice. Readers should not act on information in this article without first seeking advice from their lawyer.
Robert Burko is CEO of Elite Email, a leading email marketing solution and proud member of the Email Experience Council that has been helping businesses of all sizes harness the power of email for 10 years. Robert has been featured extensively in the media for his knowledge of email marketing, social media and digital trends. You can also find him on Google+.
$500 million is a big sum by anyone’s measure. Now imagine using email to deliver most of that money in just 18 months. Toby Fallsgraff and his team raised a sum not far off that amount for the Obama campaign last year. In fact, the digital department on the Obama campaign accounted for the bulk of the election funds raised from donors.
The strategy behind this incredible success involved something the email team called “Frankenstein testing”. I was fortunate enough to catch-up with Toby and he shared a few details of his strategy.
Three things that were key to success:
I’m going to share with you their approach to the test and optimization piece of the puzzle. In Toby’s own words “we did as much testing as humanly possible”.
The fundraising emails were all about getting donations and so copy had to do most of the work persuading donors to open their wallets. The process used is as follows:
You may be wondering how 18 writers could be afforded. Simple, the uplifts seen more than paid for them. On the ‘I will be outspent campaign’ of June 2012 the winning campaign raised $2.5m and a projected $2.1m more than the worst performing cell. That pays for the copy writers and the 10 analytics engineers checking over the results.
Occasionally although there was a winner, none of the emails performed to the level expected and in these cases the whole send was canned. The mentality was not one of send unconditionally.
Businessweek reported the different subject lines tested for the June ‘I will be outspent’ campaign. I quizzed Toby about a missing part of that story. The importance of the message body copy combined with the subject line.
The body copy plays a vital role too; the subject line can’t do all the work by itself.
In some cases a generic subject line was used to allow an evaluation of the body copy alone, such as use of the subject line ‘Hey’. This could be matched and make sense with any other body message.
However, an important learning was that the combination of subject line and body copy was found to be important.
Toby explained these Frankenstein tests. The best bits of messages from different test cells were combined in the hope of creating monstrous results (cough, sorry). A winning subject line was taken based on open rate and then combined with winning body copy message based on donations. Obviously this could only be done when the subject line was not so specific to the body that it would not have sense.
The new combined messages were the Frankenstein’s and these then tested too.
What was interesting was that the Frankenstein’s’ mostly didn’t turn out to be winners. Sometimes yes, but mostly not.
So the combination of a great subject line with great body copy was not necessarily a great email – often it lost in a head to head test with the control segment.
The insight here is that the subject line impact is much more than just getting the open. How the subject line frames the subscribers thoughts and how they perceive the whole message as a result of the subject line plays a big role.
Subject lines must be optimized for the action and not just the open.
You’re surely curious by now about some of the actual subject lines tested. Here’s twelve from the June ‘I will be outspent’ campaign:
The top one is the best performer, raising $2.5 million and the bottom the worst. Keep in mind that the subject lines had different body copy associated with them, so the subject lines can’t be evaluated on their own. Since as the Frankenstein tests verified, the combination of subject and body message is important.
Finally, I should be clear it wasn’t just subject lines and body copy that was tested, other items tested included; calls to action, donation amounts, text formatting and emphasis.
Acknowledgement: My sincere thanks to Toby for taking the time to share this information with me.
There is little doubt in my mind that email was the No.1 non-political contributor to Obama’s win in the 2012 US Presidential race. 75% of the $934 million raised by Obama was attributed to digital and nearly all of that $700 million was raised through email1. That fact alone is phenomenal.
But it’s not until you start to drill down into the data to find out why Obama’s email campaign was significantly more effective than Romney’s that the exciting insights start to appear.
Marketing pundits from all channels have offered their opinions. Just look at the word cloud based on the top 15 blogs about Obama’s email strategy - targeting, testing, creative, subject lines - everything but the two biggest contributing factors: list size and mailing frequency.
Why have these been missed? Because it is relatively easy to get a sense of a campaign’s creative, subject line strategy, frequency and, to some extent, personalization by simply subscribing to a list. What you can’t find out is how large that list is or how much segmentation is being done. That makes it almost impossible to know how many emails are actually being sent. Enter eDataSource …
Scratching below the surface with eDataSource
So, we recently took out a subscription to eDataSource and let our analytics team loose on their web-based tool that combines active monitoring of over 800,000 consumer inboxes with a library of millions of digital marketing messages from thousands of brands. This impressive breadth and depth of reporting gave us everything we needed to find out what really made Obama’s email strategy so effective.
First up was to prove my prediction back in October that Obama would win because he was sending significantly more email to more people. Using the Federal Election Commission, we were able to attribute all donations over $250 to each campaign for the 79 weeks running up to the election. We then plotted this against the corresponding weekly send volumes taken from eDataSource in graph 1.
Graph 1: Donations Received vs Emails Sent
The trend lines tell the story more succinctly than any blog: the more emails each campaign sent, the more donations each campaign received. If the purpose of each campaign was to generate revenue, then it was frequency and list size that had the biggest impact on performance.
What I couldn’t predict was what we found when we dug deeper into the data - the send volumes for each campaign had a striking correlation with the probability of each campaign winning based on the opinion polls …
Obama - the President who ignored open rates
On graph 2 below, we pulled the send volumes and open rates for both campaigns in the two month run-up to the election and compared these to Nate Silver’s Poll aggregator for the 2012 election. His algorithm has correctly predicted the winner of 99 out of 100 states in the last two elections, so it gave us a highly accurate winning probability at each point during the campaign.
Graph 2: Email send volumes vs Probability to Win (Romney volumes scaled up by x15)
As Obama ramps up his send volumes early in the race, his probability of winning increases. Romney also increases his frequency at a similar rate but, because his list size is 15 times smaller, his growth has little effect on the polls. List size matters.
When Obama reduces his send volumes by 38% his probability of winning drops by 42%. By contrast Romney’s campaign grows by 180% and his chances of winning increase by 160%.
In the final push, Romney reduces his send volumes and with it his probability of winning. But his open rates improve by an impressive 14%. Obama takes the opposite approach and aggressively increases his send volumes, which improves his probability of winning.
And Obama’s open rates? They plummet by 14% to a campaign low … and he wins the election.
Obama’s email strategy? Send more, raise more
Had Obama chased open rates would he have lost the election? Well, what we do know is the best way to achieve that goal, as shown by Romney, is to reduce send volumes. Of course, send volumes don’t win elections, donations do. So we set about finding a correlation between send volumes and donations to add weight to our theory.
Graph 3: Open Rates vs Volumes vs Probability to Win
Graph 3 plots annual donations against annual send volumes and open rates for the Obama campaign. The correlation between send volume and donations is undeniable – in fact, they are close to an exact match. The general trend is for a steady increase over the year until a drop off at election time.
But more interestingly – and this may surprise some people – the relationship between open rates and donations is an inverse one! Or, to put it another way, the higher the open rate, the lower the number of donations.
Because, broadly speaking, there is an inverse relationship between send volumes and open rates. The more email you send, the lower your open rate is likely to be. But if doubling your send volume only results in a 15% fall in your open rates, then you will be significantly better off.
So why is revenue so closely linked to send volumes? Because people cannot engage with an email they do not receive. Replace the word ‘email’ with ‘opportunity to donate’, and “an extra email send to 1 million people” becomes, “let’s send another 1 million opportunities to donate”.
While relevance, engagement, creative, subject lines, testing and targeting all played a part in Obama’s success, they pale into insignificance when compared to the impact of reach, frequency and list size. And best of all? With email, you can optimize all of these at near-zero marginal cost.
But does it work in retail? Hell yeah!
Obama’s campaign is one of the few examples of a noted sender admitting that increasing frequency works. The data backs it up, too. But does it work outside of the rarefied world of political fundraising? The answer is “hell yeah!”
With the help of EDS Analyst, you too can find out if you are being out-mailed by your competitors. If the answer is “yes”, then they are probably out-selling you as well – and we shall be digging down into the data for that particular topic in the coming months. Keep your eyes peeled.
If you’d like to know more about how we use EDS Analyst to optimize email strategy, then get in touch. And if you want to replicate Obama’s success for your own email program, then feel free to use these strategy ideas from this post from our blog: FIVE reasons why open reach will revolutionize your email marketing.
CEO, Alchemy Worx
1. Joshua Green, The Science Behind Those Obama Campaign E-Mails, 29 November 2012, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-29/the-science-behind-those-obama-campaign-e-mails
In his recent Predictions & Unpredictions for 2013 blog post, Return Path CEO Matt Blumberg talked about how brands’ marketing and security functions will need to join forces to fight phishing. One key reason is that phishers and spoofers are continually getting smarter, applying an impressive range of best practices to make their emails ever-more compelling and believable.
This blog post from DMNews editor Ginger Conlon is a great reminder that even when the data suggests that someone is in the target market, that there are still factors that impact the satisfaction of our subscribers. Getting to a “segment of one” sounds great in concept, and many campaign management applications do promise it, but it also requires a pretty sophisticated read of the data – all the data. Yes, while Ginger is more educated about targeting and segmentation than your typical retail customer, she responds with all the righteous indignation of a consumer when she feels she gets something irrelevant.
Can we call our programs a success if MOST of the people in a segment are satisfied and take action? Or, is it only success when EACH of them are happy? We are doing direct marketing, not branding or social influence, right? The latter is our goal, and I suspect most of us settle for the former. Do you?
If you have any thoughts or feedback on this – please post below or at the DMNews article.
VP, Member Relations
Day in and day out, DMA’s Government Affairs team is on Capitol Hill advancing and protecting data-driven marketing and fundraising. Since the start of the 113th Congress in January, DMA has been focused on educating policymakers about how you use consumer data responsibly to benefit your customers and the economy as a whole – going on the offensive to stop attacks on the use of consumer data. But attacks on our data-driven way of life are still coming hard and fast:
DMA is doing everything it can to fight these attacks. Now it’s time for YOU to join the offensive in three easy steps.
1. Take DMAAction at DMA in DC 2013 – March 12-13
Every year, the DMA Government Affairs team hosts a “deep dive” on critical issues affecting the data-driven marketing community. We’re extending a special invitation to join us in Washington, DC on March 12-14th for DMA in DC 2013. You can register using the code “INSIDER” to save $200 off the conference price. You won’t find this kind of intimate access to a line-up of industry experts like this at any other event – including a Keynote Address by Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill. The Federal Trade Commission is THE regulator for email marketing.
2. Get Smart on Data Governance – March 14
You are already leveraging Big Data to reach and engage your customers or donors. But are you really prepared to deal with the increasingly complex regulatory and governance challenges that come with being a Big Data organization? Stick around after DMA in DC as DMA Education presents “Marketing Data Governance: A Strategic Briefing for Senior Executives,” designed to help you think critically about data breaches, marketing data management; and how you can to take action and implement a data governance plan that includes all the key players in your organization. Register together for DMA in DC and the Data Governance briefing and save hundreds!
3. Contact Your Congressional Leaders – Today
Make your voice heard even before you arrive in Washington! Personal letters and emails are one of the most effective ways that organizations can influence law-makers. Before the legislative fights begin, help DMA start things off on the right foot by introducing the data-driven marketing community to Congress and educating legislators about the important benefits that our industry provides to consumers, communities and the American economy. DMA makes it easy for you to say hello and welcome to your Members of Congress. Just click and take DMAAction today.
Vice President, Government Affairs
Direct Marketing Association