…may now be de rigueur but there are still lessons to learn about measurement and effectiveness, finds the latest DMA survey
Good news: seven out of ten marketers are expecting more budgets to flow into email marketing over the next 12 months. This will be at the expense of other channels, particularly direct mail. But while email’s place in the marketer’s armoury seems assured, there’s still some way to go before it’s understood and managed properly, according to the latest national client email marketing survey from the DMA.
More than 150 client marketers were surveyed earlier this year and they’re committed to the channel, with over three-quarters (78%) using regular e-newsletters as their preferred form of contact. There has also been a jump since 2007 in the use of first-level automated emails, such as purchase confirmations. However, less than half of marketers have any kind of strategy on maximum email contact, with 12% ignorant of how many emails an address could potentially receive every month.
As the report’s authors note, with consumers seeing “too many emails” as spam, this needs addressing. While brands run the risk of alienating consumers, marketers are also tripping up on basic list management. Just over a sixth (17%) fail to remove hard or soft bounces from their lists and a quarter don’t suppress unsubscribe requests. At the same time, many are too ready to remove inactive addresses without a reactivation campaign first.
This is related to one of the most striking facts in the report: less than a quarter (23%) of marketers calculates the value of an email address. As the DMA report authors note, this makes it hard to evaluate the results of paid address acquisition activity. “It’s difficult to measure the value of an email address on its own for some companies,” says Richard Gibson, chair of the DMA Email Council Benchmarking Hub and channel relationship manager at Return Path. “But that’s not to say it’s impossible. Maybe that’s the big change we’ll see next year.”
Perhaps if marketers knew what an email address was worth they’d think carefully about tiring it out. Gibson argues that the recession has put pressure on marketers to use mail, but there’s also a wider problem in that marketers are not fine-turning the frequency of their mailings for maximum effect. “Clearly the more a subscriber is contacted, the more potential problems there are in terms of complaints, unsubscribes and disengagement from the mailing programme,” he says.
It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that marketers are making slow progress at segmenting their lists properly and moving from a ‘batch and blast’ mentality. Less than a third (27%) segment lists into six or more audiences. This confirms the relative absence of advanced email tactics. “I’m still surprised segmentation is so uncommon given its quite easy to do if you have the correct tools,” says Gibson.
Yet while marketers know they should be using better email tactics and measurement, they feel hobbled by organisational and financial constraints. There’s much skill and expertise at the coalface, but marketers need support at the highest level of the organisation. While email is seen as operationally important for organisations, especially in B2B marketing, there isn’t yet significant responsibility for it at executive, director or board level.
Open and click rates are the commonest measures of success, used by 72% and 66% of marketers respectively. This focus on deliverability is far more important than ROI for most marketers. “You can’t reliably calculate ROI if you can’t see which of your emails is actually being delivered,” Gibson says. “Get the delivery right and that will lead you into a more reliable ROI calculation.”
Marketers could also be missing a trick when it comes to acquiring email addresses. While 60% use transactions and website traffic to get addresses, almost 40% don’t offer a way to sign-up for emails on their brand website – “a huge missed opportunity”, according to the DMA.