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.
- The subject line inspires real concern (especially if you really are a YBS customer!)
- The “Friendly From” is believable (see inset)
- The sender domain is correct (because the real sender is spoofing it!).
- Branding is consistent with the real YBS website.
- The language is professional sounding and there are no spelling mistakes.
- There is a strong, visible call to action – “Click My Account Activity”
- The disclaimer and contact details all appear to be 100% correct.
- It generated a perfectly respectable Spam Assassin score of only 1.5
- It only identified one potential spam trigger word – “Disclaimer”
- It even rendered well on most major mobile devices!
- Nearly 1 in every 20 of these emails successfully bypassing spam filters successfully delivering to recipients’ inboxes.
- Average Read Rate for these emails is 3.66%. This is is particularly startling given that:
- YBS is a relatively small player in the UK with approximately 1% market share. Assuming that non-YBS customers will almost certainly ignore these emails because they are not relevant, Read Rates for the remainder can be inferred as actually being much higher.
- In a number of instances the Read Rate is higher than the Not Filtered rate, implying that recipients are recovering these emails from their spam/junk folders and responding to them!
- An authoritative report produced by Cisco Systems shows that on average 99% of phishing emails get filtered, with the remainder generating a 3% open rate. This implies the YBS phishing emails are highly effective, out-performing the Cisco benchmark by a factor of 6.
- Cisco also calculated the commercial impact of a phishing attack at $250 (£155/€190) per compromised recipient. Using the report’s average click-to-open rate of 5%, with 50% of clickers giving up personal data, we can extrapolate the Inbox Insight data to infer an estimated commercial impact in the UK of over £1M pm – for this single scam alone!
- Read our Anti-Phishing Guide which contains actionable advice on how to achieve brand protection and secure your email channel.
- Make use of Return Path’s APS suite of tools and services to:
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:
- Representative Hank Johnson is saying that app stores “threaten the physical and financial safety of consumers” – and introduced the APPS Act to limit the collection and use of data through apps.
- The FTC is taking action against a mobile device maker for failing to follow data governance best practices and putting “sensitive information about millions of consumers at risk” – and will be looking over the company’s shoulder for the next twenty years.
- A movement to strengthen existing European data protection laws is gaining steam, with a key European Parliament Committee joining the growing list of groups to endorse a plan that would give consumers the “right to be forgotten,” allow access and deletion of all consumer information, and require breach notification in 24 hours.
The States are getting in on the action too by pursuing bills that would set up conflicting standards in Maryland and California for marketing to children, and new regulations limiting online behavioral advertising.
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
This year was my first trip to the Email Evolution Conference in Miami Beach Florida. I know, you’re thinking how tough it must be to pick up and fly down there from Toronto, but you gotta do what you gotta do. While there I had the pleasure of interviewing several email marketing thought leaders. Today, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite videos from the event. You can catch all the interviews at http://www.GetResponse.TV.
Dela is always provocative in his thinking on email marketing. If there’s one guy in this whole business who keeps the rest of us on our mental toes, it’s him. He’ll challenge any idea and plays the devil’s advocate so well; you swear you can see horns growing out of his head. In this interview he explains the logic behind what is known as the “Open Reach Metric.” This is a metric which, according to Dela, will fundamentally change how you do your email marketing.
Jonathan Margulies is a Partner at Winterberry Group and he feels we don’t have the optimum terms to best illustrate what we do and what we want to do with online marketing. You know the term, multi-channel, but is it really accurate? Jonathan doesn’t think so! He believes that the term “omni-channel” or if you prefer “omnichannel” marketing is more fitting. In this video he explains why using better terminology is critical to the marketing industry.
Sundeep Kapur is a marketing thought leader and all around nice guy. What I love about Sundeep is his genuine enthusiasm for helping others understand email marketing and online marketing in general. At his EmailYogi.com blog, Sundeep dispenses wisdom and insight on a daily basis. In this video we talk about the top 3 challenges facing email marketers this year and what you need to do to meet them.
Stephanie Miller, VP of Member Relations DMA, is simply an amazing person. She loves email marketing and is devoted to helping email marketers navigate the rapids of legislation and succeed. The Email Experience Council (part of the DMA) has a lot to offer you if you are an email marketer. In this video, Stephanie lays out what’s in it for you and why you should be involved with the EEC too.
Matt Blumberg, CEO of ReturnPath and Chairman of the Board with the DMA and the perfect guy to ask what are the biggest challenge is in 2013 for email marketers. Funny I should say “biggest” because as it turns out, Matt wanted to talk about something you’ve likely been hearing a lot about lately, “big data.”
John Caldwell runs Red Pill Email and is a go-to guy for people looking for sage advice on email marketing solutions. He’s also an uncompromising voice for email marketing best practices. I asked John about the three most important things one should consider when choosing and email service provider.
Content marketing is a big buzz term in online marketing today, but what’s it all about? I was lucky enough to corner Chris Baggott of Compendium at EEC 13 to talk content marketing, demystify it and offer some tips on how to make it work for your business.
Ken Magill is not known for pulling his punches. In my opinion, he’s email marketing’s answer to 60 minutes and the Colbert Report, all rolled into one. This is the first time I had the pleasure to meet Ken in person and I jumped at a chance to engage him on what Ken calls the “Conventional Wisdom Buzz.”
GetResponse Email Marketing
And the 2013 Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year Award winner is....Sal Tripi of Publishers Clearing House! It was a very close call among our finalists, including Ryan Phelan of Acxiom Digital Impact and Morgan Steward of Trendline Interactive. The Award was presented at the 2013 Email Evolution Conference last week in Miami. Sal's acceptance video is located here.
Incredibly deserving of this recognition and Award, Sal is a stand-out in the marketing and consumer privacy field. Through his good work at PCH, Sal has helped build one of the most impressive and customer centric email marketing programs in the business. Plus, he is incredibly generous in sharing learnings, knowledge and success stories with the rest of the industry. He's been a long time speaker and writer for DMA/eec events, as well as other email conferences. A staunch advocate and industry expert on consumer data protection, compliance issues and marketing best practices. he's also willing to step up and give back to the industry, and Chairs the DMA Ethics Policy Committee which reviews, updates, and sets ethical guidelines for marketers; Chairs the Online Trust Alliance; Sits on the IAB’s Email Committee.
We want to thank again, Loren McDonald of Silverpop & Chair of the DMA/eec Awards Committee and all the members of the Committee for their hard work and efforts throughout this process and of course the community for taking the time to submit your choices and for sending beautiful tributes for this distinguished award. The response from the community was overwhelming.
Congratulations, Sal! We're proud to have you awarded with this top honor.
Lisa Brown Shosteck
It is important to build towards mutual results, so we need common, standardized metrics. In my earlier post called “Email marketing, are we even talking the same language” I talked about multidisciplinary teams and benchmarking, but what other reasons are there that make an initiative like SAME a necessity?
The need for a common statistics is nothing new.
To illustrate this and keep things light, some biblical references. Do you know the stroy of Babel? According to this history, and long before there was google translate, people used to talk the same language all over the world. It was great. While having this common language (but not yet insight, regrettably), they were able to build a tower that reached to the heavens. What to do to stop them?
The only way to stop them from doing amazing things WAS to rob them of their common language, therefore being divided because they couldn’t understand each other anymore.
The word Babel actually means “confused”, one of the first online translators was called babelfish. (and yes there was even an oscar winning movie with Brad Pitt in 2006 called Babel). There are some lessons to be learned here, one of which is that once you have a common language you are able to achieve more, without it can become a confused chaos.
Using multiple ESPs
Maybe we don’t realize but there are plenty of marketers who work with multiple e-mail, CRM, lead gen, CMS and other marketing automation systems at the same time. Singling out ESPs this might already be more than one. Sometimes 5, 6 or even more email marketing systems are used on agency side and multiple on client side. Can you imagine! We see what the problem is there.
A common language is needed in and metrics and reporting is the place to start with. But even if you aren’t using multiple ESPs at the same time, there are still needs for common language in regards to the long term. One of them being customer insights and migration.
Common language in ESP migration
One third of ESP clients migrate from one system to another per year. And how can we compare with the old metrics if we don’t have the same (standardized) reports. Although ESP migration doesn’t always have to be a big headache, it often is a hefty undertaking.
Migration is very hefty, especially when you are seriously sending email and it is not the kind of thing you wake up wanting to do. Only to see the deliverability part done in email service migration right takes 7 or more steps.
Behavioral data doesn't have to get lost
You don’t want to destroy or leave behind the behavioral data and aggregated insights you have been building over the last period, just because of incompatible statistics. This is where the use of standardized metrics comes into the picture again, making sure your reference reports from previous year(s) keep their value.
When it concerns using multiple marketing automation systems, either at the same time or sequentially, standards can make the marketers’ life all that easier.
By Jordie van Rijn, an independent email marketing consultant, specializing in smart email marketing, event-driven campaigns and is the founder of emailvendorselection.com a platform for selecting the best email tools.
The annual Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year award from DMA/Email Experience Council will be given at the Email Evolution Conference in Miami on February 8th (Not yet registered? Join us for great keynotes and amazing case studies and new ideas at emailevolution.org. Use code MACDT for a great discount.) This year, we had a number of nominations from many of you – our eec community – and the three winning candidates are all amazing marketers and “email geeks” – just the type of people that continue Stefan’s legacy of talent, generous contribution to the industry and effective mentoring.
We circled back with 2012 Award Winner Meg Reynolds of REI. She is still shining and humble in receiving this honor from the DMA/eec community.
Meg: I have been so honored to receive the Stefan Pollard Award. I’ve since moved on to a role at REI that is not focused on email marketing, but I rely on those same experiences all the same.
SAM: What are you doing now?
Meg: I’ve found new challenges leading the Marketing Campaign Planning team at REI. I’ve learned a lot in the past year; it’s energizing working with many programs, channels and cross-divisional partners. I’ve even learned a bit about myself. I’m still finding my way in a new professional community. Hopefully that will come in due time, I’m a new kid in this role!
SAM: Is it good to be “beyond email”?
Meg: I do miss my email role and the confidence of knowing the ins-and-outs of a medium. I miss highly measureable program performance and knowing whether someone is BS’ing me a little bit. And, of course, I miss a community of creative and passionate folks to turn to with every challenge. So give my best to that wonderful community. I continue to support it where and when I can. I open my time to young professionals and students about opportunities in digital direct marketing.
SAM: Any advice for email and other data-driven marketers for 2013?
Meg: Respect your subscribers, enjoy your peers, and show-up when you are nominated for an award. Even when you don't think there is a one-in-a-million chance of winning. All the best to the wonderful, supportive professional email community.
By Stephanie Miller, DMA's vice president of member relations
Did you know email marketing might be at risk if you use consumer data? Come to DMA in DC 2013 to protect your email marketing practices.
Right now…Congress, the FTC, and the States want to end your ability to collect and use consumer data, including email marketing. Right now…DMA in DC is your forum for gaining the policy insight, advocacy tools and powerful connections you need to stop them. Register now and join us in Washington, DC, for…
DMA in DC 2013
Advancing the Data-Driven Way of Life
March 12 – 13, 2013
The Madison Hotel, Washington, DC
This year’s conference includes two stellar keynotes:
• Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill will share insight into privacy issues that matter most to your organization. As the FTC continues to explore how marketers, including email marketers, use data to serve consumers and fuel the economy in today's data-driven marketplace, Brill will share her perspective on finding the balance between privacy and innovation – as well as her vision for the FTC in the New Year.
• State of Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler will detail his focus on privacy in a data-driven world. Gansler has made privacy issues in the Digital Age central to his tenure as president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). Learn from his investigation of geo-location tracking, data collection, and data breaches. Hear how attorneys general across the country are taking action to ensure meaningful options for consumers – and how you can stay out of their cross-hairs.
Early Bird pricing has been extended to February 1, 2013, so register today! The $200 you save today could save your organization in the future.
For more information, click here.
By Stephanie Miller, DMA’s vice president of member relations
On behalf of the DMA/eec Awards Committee, I am excited to announce that we have a winner of the 2013 Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year award! It was indeed a very tight race.
I hope that many of you will be able to come to EEC13 in Miami to see the winner announced on Friday morning, February 8th. Our 2013 finalists are... (in alpha order) …. (drum roll please)….
• Ryan Phelan of Acxiom (formerly Blue Hornet)
• Morgan Stewart of Trendline Interactive
• Sal Tripi of Publishers Clearinghouse
Adding to the difficulty in choosing a winner, this year, some of the nomination submissions were simply beautiful tributes. Many were absolutely in the spirit of the tribute to the late Stefan Pollard. Stefan was an amazing person and a real mentor and educator in our industry – and an active DMA/eec member. Hiring him in 2005 to work with me was one of the best and most rewarding decisions in my career. He made me a better marketer, thinker and I’d like to think even a better person. In this Award, and with the support of the entire DMA/eec community, Stefan’s legacy lives on.
Just a word about how the Award selection is made. First, we solicit nominations for people who fit the Award qualifications from the DMA/eec community and email marketers at-large. Nominations are made freely by the nominator – often someone who has worked with the nominee, or has been touched by them. We then ask our Awards committee to review and vote on their top picks. Every award committee member makes three selections. We select the top vote winners, and then have a final round of one vote per committee member. Committee members who were nominated recuse themselves in the final round. This year, we had a clear winner.
As Chair of the Awards committee, I want to personally thank all of the Committee members for their hard work: Joel Book (Exact Target); Jack Hogan (LifeScript); Greta MacDonald; Stephanie Miller (DMA); Ryan Phelan (Acxiom); Meg Reynolds (REI, 2012 Awardee); and Sal Tripi (Publisher’s Clearinghouse). (Please know that Ryan and Sal were honestly and enthusiastically nominated by others – and not allowed to vote for themselves, as much as they wanted to! )
Hope to see you in Miami Beach (swim suits optional)!
Chair, DMA/eec Awards Committee and VP, Industry Relations, Silverpop
In multidisciplinary teams confusion is very common, sometimes outspoken, often not noticed, but always limiting and slowing down the process. This is not a big shocker. Because people are from multiple disciplines, they have different backgrounds and a different frame of reference. When someone for instance is talking about a lead, it kind of matters if he is from sales, SEO email or a singer in the next pop-band.
How are we doing compared to others?
While interviewing some client side email marketers for my new book, one of my favorite questions was and still is: “How would you rate you current email program on a scale of 1 – 10..... And why?” I got different answers from a 5 to a 9. (no 10s yet) and almost all referenced benchmark data. “We are also above or the same as our industry email marketing benchmark.”
You see, although it might not be the best reference data, each marketer wants to know how he is doing both internally and compared to others. It’s also something the boss asks for, he also wants to know if there is more to be done and what the performance is. It’s one of the reasons I think that the dutch email marketing industry reports we did last year were so popular. Especially in travel, which is heavily dependent on online marketing. Finally something to really compare!
The challenge of making metrics count (equally)
Something that should be clear from the start are the metrics we use. The measurements of results success and failure. There are already a lot of ESPs listed as SAME project supporters but from the list of over 300 email service providers that is still not enough.
The challenge of understanding each other is multiplied if we keep speaking different languages. That is why all marketers using an email marketing solution should ask for the SAME (Support Adoption of Metrics for Email) metrics, especially if their email service provider doesn’t offer those metrics yet.
Tim Watson of Zettasphere, an eec Blog Contributor, is leading a session at the Email Evolution Conference in Miami this February with fellow DMA UK leaders Dela Quist of Alchemy Worx, Skip Fidura of DotMailer and consultant Kath Pay. Register today to receive the early bird discount (through January 14th) and to meet Tim and dozens of other industry luminaries. It's the best place this winter to learn how to make email and digital marketing more successful. Register now.
Open rate, acceptance rate, click rate, read rate, spam complaints, conversion rate, delete not read, inbox placement rate and more besides. Sure email has plenty of metrics. But have we let all these numbers distract us from considering what's actually important? Have we gone metric-mad?
All email experts agree customer engagement is important and the need for relevance, "right person, right time, right message", is almost a set phrase in email circles.
What is much less clear is what anyone really means by an engaged customer? How is engagement defined, how can you measure engagement?
Metrics are needed but optimizing the wrong metric can take you away from what's important to the business. Following the idea of "right person, right time, right message", does this means the focus is to get an open rate of 100%?
All businesses are hungry for revenue so any metric of customer engagement must consider whether the definition for an engaged customer also delivers a high value customer. Defining engagement in a way that does not maximise value is not in business interest.
The DMA in the UK has been debating this issue and looking at the evidence - brand marketing email data, to determine what is important and how to define engagement.
Thankfully there is a single metric that can be used to measure engagement . Here's a clue, it's NONE of the above metrics. On Thursday, February 7th at the EEC13 conference the question of definition of engagement is being debated. Based on analysis of data a single easy and measurable definition will be proposed.
By Tim Watson
Karen Talavera, eec Blog Contributor, is leading a session at the Email Evolution Conference in Miami this February. Register today to recieve the early bird discount (through January 14th) and to meet Karen and dozens of other industry luminaries. It's the best place this winter to learn how to make email and digital marketing more successful. Register now.
What exactly makes people respond to your email marketing offers? What is it precisely that makes them engage and buy from you? And how does knowing these things help you drive better email response?
It’s the sixty-four-million-dollar question asked of all advertising and marketing. While the fundamentals of what makes us want to transact with a company or say yes to one offer over another remain relatively the same across channels, how marketers employ specific tactics can vary drastically from channel to channel.
When it comes to email marketing it’s important to know exactly which approaches lead to trust, engagement, purchase and loyalty and how to translate them into successful email messages and programs.
Let’s start with that first part – the approach – then move into a specific, tactical process for applying it.
The Basic Psychology of Human Decision-Making
We can pride ourselves all we want on our intellectual superiority over the rest of the species on our planet, but a commonly overlooked fact is that we are as much emotional as intellectual beings – maybe even more emotional than intellectual. Our brains are equipped with reasoning and emotional centers, and both factor into decision making.
In online marketing, making emotional connections is especially important because the digital world can be fast, furious, and impersonal. There is a built-in immediacy in digital communication channels that often undermines the opportunity to slow down the sale and deepen the consideration process that older, offline channels afforded.
Plus, there is both a considerable amount of skepticism and unfortunately, fraud in the digital world. Allowing people to get to know you online with a relationship-building approach goes a long way toward creating the familiarity, comfort confidence consumers and business people alike need before they’re willing to buy.
It Starts with Creating Emotional Resonance
Despite our immense reasoning power, our instinctive “gut” reactions are older and better honed. From the standpoint of human evolution, we had to develop the ability to make split-second unconscious decisions to survive. This ability survives in us today and kicks-in when we’re faced with any decision – even if it’s not life or death – and often happens before our brains have time to intellectually process facts
That’s why research has proven time and again that people buy from emotion and justify with reason. So it’s essential to know how to emotionally connect with people in your marketing, and in email to do so not just authentically but quickly.
Remember, there’s that built-in immediacy factor with email – people don’t spend as much time with it as print or television. That’s right – with email you have less than three seconds to create emotional resonance.
When you resonate with your subscribers you strike an emotional chord with them. You make a visceral feeling connection. You both tune into the same “vibe”, and it results in comfort and trust, allowing you to sell in a non-salesy environment.
As in music, your aim is to sing to the same tune as your audience, then harmonize with them by recognizing their needs, pain, challenges and desires and meeting them in that space.
So now that you know we must appeal to both the intellectual and emotional sides of people, how do we do it?
The Five P’s of Profitable Email Response
I recoomend what I call the “Five P’s” process because it not only centers on authenticity, personality and transparency over features and facts, but also honors the intellectual reasoning component of how people make decisions.
The Five P’s of creating emotional resonance and response in email are:
- Plan (course of action/call to action)
This process can be followed to craft your copy, offers, message design, message sequence, and even overall messaging strategy throughout a quarter or year. Let’s explore each of these in more detail:
Proper positioning acknowledges both who you are and what’s in it for your audience to be in communication with you. Successful positioning boasts excellent clarity – it makes both your identity as the sender of email and your purpose in sending the message immediately apparent. It then goes beyond clarity to create comfort, familiarity and purpose for your audience.
In email there is little time and space for lengthy build-ups and stories – which is why creative/design elements (like graphics, color, and layout) can be more effective than long copy in creating mood, identity and personality.
Consider these tactics for creating solid positioning:
- Present the “big picture” of what’s possible for your subscribers if they respond to your offer. Show and tell – use both images and words or even video so they can experience that future potential as real.
- Include a link called “About us” or “Our Story” in your main navigation bar/ template that connects to more background about your company or organization. Don’t make it boring – tell a human story that creates both credibility and vulnerability.
Use outcome-driven, enticing language to set the stage for your offer to come.
Yes, evoking negative as well as positive emotions can entice response (the worst reaction is no reaction at all), but your purpose here isn’t to bring your audience into a place of fear or dread. It is instead to identify and acknowledge their problems, challenges or pain – problems, challenges or pain that you intend to alleviate. Spend just enough effort identifying the pain so your audience knows you understand them, then move on.
It’s tempting to avoid this step in the process. However, in glossing over or skipping it you risk leaving out an important part of the emotional journey for your audience; you also miss a chance to create emotional resonance by helping them feel understood.
Here’s where you spare no expense getting to the juicy goodness of your message and tying back to your positioning. Effectively creating promise means conveying – again through both words and pictures – the transformational outcome your audience will experience if they say yes to your offer.
Will they be happier? Richer? More beautiful? Healthier? Less-stressed? More successful at work? Better organized?
What are the desired emotions they will feel if they say yes to your offer? Love? Joy? Happiness? Satisfaction? Relief? Peace?
Understanding how your core products/services translate into both emotional and transformational benefits is essential to creating marketing messages that emotionally resonate. If you don’t know how your offerings transform and better people’s lives, you need to learn. If you can’t express the transformational outcomes of your offerings in your marketing, it will fail to connect.
So far in this process we’ve been heavily in emotional territory. In the proof stage, we accelerate the appeal to reason.
Proof can take several forms both within email messages and on web sites/landing pages. These days the most compelling proof is social proof – as humans we crave a sense of belonging and will often follow the crowd. Who else has experienced the transformational outcome of your offerings and what do they have to say about it? Ideally, you can pull this information directly from your social media pages (assuming you have it there) into your email and website.
If not, include proof in the form of testimonials, quotes, links to case studies, and short success stories. Keep it human! Clinical trials and research studies are factually powerful (and often indisputable) but social proof generates greater credibility. We tend to believe our peers more than scientists or research studies because we can identify more with a peer group.
Finally, don’t leave people hanging – tell them what you want them to do next and how to do it! Show them where and how to get what you promised.
Otherwise known as your call to action, this step MUST be abundantly clear, concise, literal and logical. While positioning, pain, promise and proof all influence engagement, this final step influences action and actual purchases. It can be as simple as a text link or a sentence next to a button; or it can involve a short list of steps.
Remember that in email true response is a two-step process beginning with a click from within a message and continuing as a completed call to action (sign-up, content view, purchase, etc.) on a web page. Continue the clarity of your call to action all the way through your landing page and conversion process to avoid abandonment. After coming this far, you don’t want to lose the valuable connection you’ve created with your responders.
By Karen Talavera
Enlightened Email & Digital Marketing Training, Coaching & Consulting
- The percentage of people in North America, Brazil, France and Germany that open emails on mobile devices
- Email open share by Industry, like Retail and Banking
- How Apple devices appear to dominate emails opens, and why this may not be the full story
- If and how much people are buying on their smartphones
It's darn inspiring. Toby Fallsgraff, email director for the Obama-Biden 2012 campaign, made it clear that email marketing was not just a key channel for the President's reelection campaign, but was a central, essential and integral factor in the success of the campaign. Wow - lowly email marketing re-electing a President? That's something to mention next time someone responds with languor when you say what you do for a living!
One of the coolest things that Toby shared is around the challenges of using email marketing to do the hard work of a campaign: Defining a competitor, and establishing a candidate position. Email marketing done well, and with high frequency, can actually shape the conversation, not just reflect the brand. "We created a way for ordinary Americans to be involved and actually move the needle on the campaign success," Toby said.
The numbers are crazy. One mailing could generate up to 2 million dollars in donations. So the stakes - and rewards - were high. No wonder the team worked crazy hours and gave up so much personal time for the success of the program. There were 4.5 million donors over email, donating on average a $53 gift (many people gave more than once) generating more than a half a billion dollars online.
No question: Email marketing has changed how political campaigns are funded.
One key to success is focus and clarity of vision. There were four email objectives: Messaging, Mobilization, Money & Metrics, Toby said.
Some of the secrets of their success include the kinds of best practices that we talk about all the time, and especially here at the Email Marketing Summit.
•Treat subscribers like people, not data. Assumption that anyone who was on the list, was supportive. Messaging addressed supporters as knowledgeable insiders. "We know you know about Obamacare, but your friends may not." A series called, "You should forward this" is a great example of enabling social sharing.
•The subject lines were a huge buzz factor in the campaign. Some positive and negative social activity helped raise awareness of the program and entice people to actually open some of those multiple messages they received every day. Subject lines like, "Listen," "Hey" and "Say you're with me" were incredibly successful. Continual testing was key to subject line success.
•Use a field localization approach for mobilization. The Campaign relied on the States to know what worked best in their area. Enablement of those programs helped improve the response to local activity.
•Lots of testing in the strategy. They found that staff was terrible at predicting what would work or not work - just like every marketing team I've ever seen. "We had to test and test and never be satisfied," Toby said. "Innovation and metrics became an objective in itself."
•Reliance on segmentation. For example, on Oct 17, 166 individual email segments were sent something unique, and 84 of them were tests.
•Staffed for success. "Some people had to sleep, which I don't buy," Toby said. Still, of the 30-member Outbound messaging team, 22 people worked on email, 14 of them worked with the state programs. There were four people working on social. "We couldn't hire people fast enough. So we hired smart people who were good writers," Toby says. It led to a very collaborative culture with cross functional teamwork, as well bubbling up of many new ideas. "It's incredibly important to have a team that can rally around a vision, and be empowered to achieve it," he says.
•The program was very mobile friendly and responsive from the beginning.
•Continual honing of the test groups. For example, just taking out non-donors and west coasters (who were not awake when the tests went out in the morning) improved testing results and is attributed with millions in additional donations. Testing elements also had to be changed frequently. "Novelty is highly effective but can also be highly fleeting," Toby says.
Segmentation based on demographics was not nearly as effective as past behavior. What mattered was what you donated and when. "We were not being creepy, people liked that we knew they had recently donated or recently signed the President's birthday card." Toward the end of the campaign, "we put that strategy on steroids." What happened is that the program achieved what many of us strive to do: To be personal. The email marketing was in a voice that was authentic and honest. Plus, it recognized the donor and celebrated and enabled them. That is a great lesson for all of us. Big data is not always creepy data. Consumers are okay with marketers using information that we should know - and use responsibly.
A great validation of the success of this personal connection, is the emotional and heartfelt reactions from subscribers when the campaign sent out, "Goodbye inbox" messages at the end of the campaign. Subscribers would truly miss hearing from the campaign "personas."
Toby described what we all want to have, and often don't for many reasons: Knowledge, resources, time, technology, lack of vision. Theirs was a very data driven program. "We tested and tested because we had to, we used A/B testing as our bread and butter," he says. Routinely this meant dozens of segments and 3-4 subject lines to test. When you are projecting several million dollars in return from an email mailing, a few points can make a huge difference.
Thank you, Toby. For doing great email marketing, and for your generous sharing of the campaign approach and success with us this morning! Readers, watch the video if you can! So many great lessons for all of us who want to be smarter about email marketing.
by, Stephanie Miller
"Originally posted on the Mediapost LIVE site from the Email Insider Summit in Park City Utah this week.” (http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/189012/a-wow-re-election-story-email-marketing-essential.html#axzz2Eh3krlWd)
eMarketer’s recently published report, “Email Marketing Benchmarks: Key Data, Trends and Metrics,” concludes that email is still one of the most effective marketing tools, despite all the other channels now competing for the attention of consumers.
The report cites three trends:
- The increasing use of mobile devices for checking email
- The use of personalized and triggered emails
- The use of “Big Data” for creating more targeted email marketing
Most interesting to me were the finding applicable to B2B marketers, particularly in regards to mobile and triggered emails.
In the past, those of us who write about email marketing separated out B2C and B2B issues because they differed. One would typically read an email marketing newsletter or post assuming it addressed B2C only unless stated otherwise. Any advice specific to B2B email marketing would be labeled as such. In our own email marketing blog, we strived to ensure we were offering enough B2B specific content.
These days, many of the challenges apply across the board. This makes sense because businesses are consumers too—real people, whether at home or at work. As consumers’ behaviors and expectations change, so do those of the buyers behind a business. If you’re a consumer who signed up to receive emails from Land’s End because you like their clothing, and you’re also a systems analyst responsible for recommending a new ERP platform for your company, your consumer experiences and preferences would naturally affect your expectations.
Look at the B2B adaption of social media for marketing purposes. If we were so good at keeping our personal/consumer and professional/work mindsets separate, businesses probably wouldn’t have ventured into the social media arena. However, people are people, and as our behaviors and expectations change in one part of our lives (the personal part), that can’t help but affect the other (the professional part).
Having said that, some aspects of B2B email marketing still require a different approach, as this report makes clear, especially in the case of mobile and automated email marketing.
What B2B marketers need to know about mobile email
Obviously, mobile usage continues to grow at a rapid pace. We can see evidence of this everyday both at work and at home, but research also proves it to be true. The eMarketer report states direct digital marketing solutions provider Knotice found in the last quarter of 2010, only 13.36% of communications were opened on mobile devices, but by the second half of 2011 that number had climbed to 27.39%. Now, according to this report, more than one third of emails are opened on a mobile device. According to a BlueHornet study, about two-thirds of US email users had used their mobile device to sort through email before reading it on the desktop.
However, there’s another caveat to this: an open doesn’t guarantee a click, whether it’s an open on a smartphone or a desktop. Although email open rates have gone up, click-through rates (CTRs) have gone down and now average below 5%, according to research from Epsilon and the Email Experience Council (EEC). This decline in open rates might be the result of the increasing the number of emails hitting inboxes. Mobile design has an effect on CTR, too. The BlueHornet study pointed out that 69.7% who received a non-optimized mobile email deleted it.
What B2B marketers need to know about automated email
Despite the overall decline in CTRs, one type of email continues to do well, generating noticeably higher than average click throughs: automated emails (also known as triggered emails). According to the eMarketer report, triggered emails generated a click-through rate of 10.4% (more than twice the average) in the first quarter of 2012. Some businesses have seen conversion rates as high as 50% with these automated messages.
That’s a very compelling argument for making automated emails part of your mix, especially as a B2B marketer today. Research cited in the report indicates the number of B2B emails will increase significantly. “Email research firm The Radicati Group estimates the total number of business emails sent and received daily worldwide will climb from 89 billion in 2012 to 143.8 billion in 2016.”
As a result, B2B marketers will see a lot more competition in the inbox. That’s on top of the competition from other channels—work-related and not. Keep in mind that just because someone is at work or at a desk, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still distracted by attention grabbers like Facebook and Pinterest. And that distraction can happen on any screen too, be it a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone.
The best email marketing continues to evolve and change, whether we’re entrenched in B2C or B2B or both. Take note of the trends called out in reports such as this one. Be relevant and test religiously, whether your audience is at home or on the job.
Marco Marini, CEO