On email marketing – two deadly SINS!

Wasp I hate email marketing to anyone besides your affirmed customer list.  And even then you need to tread carefully. The fact that email marketing works is the yellow and black pattern of a wasp to warn you to be careful around the beast.

To start positive, some companies like Victoria Secret and Amazon find the appropriate balance and partially use email to maintain a strong branded relationship with their clients.  But these brands are not buying lists and sending spam.  They are building their brand and driving traffic and customers to their sites by email and search.  Their moderate campaigns are designed for increasing and personalizing a TRUST relationship with the brand.

THE FIRST DEADLY SIN I see with email marketers in particular is an obsession on email open and delivery data that is so wrong it defies logic.  Tracking read rates for starters.  I was at a meeting recently and the man said "I saw you read my email".  I had not.  We use a remote blackberry server which had downloaded it and sent a false read notification and he made an assumption based on that erroneous piece of data.

Email read receipts are of course blocked on most mail servers so those in the business use graphics in the email to track reads.  First I view this as an invasion of privacy until they CLICK and take some action.  I can’t define the exact reason, but it is MY inbox so stay out of it.  Keep it up and I will use RSS exclusively or just abandon the relationship with your company.

Here is an example of that logic – note how assumed it is that tracking email opens is a good thing.  (link found on NetTakeAway – http://www.nettakeaway.com/tp/article/180/analyze-by-domain)

Are All Clicks Created Equal?  (MediaPost)
by David Baker, Monday, Sep 12, 2005 3:15 PM EST

WE LIVE AND DIE BY metrics. We measure the success of our e-mail programs by metrics, and justify our budgets based on these very sensitive variables, yet should they all be looked at the same way? I’m a huge proponent of domain modeling–that is, modeling behavior by the recipient’s e-mail domain (hotmail.com, yahoo.com, aol.com).
Add to that the fact that each ISP’s interface is littered with obstacles to gaining a measured response (view or click); image blocking, filtering, and preview methods.
If all these environments are so different, why do we put equal value on response metrics? Continually challenge the value of your metrics, your approaches, and how you put value on response.

The author even says that they "live and die" by the data and that the metrics are "very sensitive variables".  The full article outlines a clever plan of adjusting your statistics based on the likelihood of a user on a particular domain system getting to the email graphics.  This sounds fun and cool, but from a statistical perspective I see data being jammed into two or three standard deviations through a miracle-adjustment-factor when it could be hundreds of deviations away! 

This data method only makes sense in marketing, not in a real science.  And more importantly connections between this data and profitable marketing are dubious at best.  The author mentions justifying budgets but not any connection to profit.  Ergo… a problem.

THE SECOND DEADLY SIN I see with email marketers is setting up temporary web sites to track response from different email campaigns.  This is typically done because they don’t have advanced tracking capabilities or any control over the main web site so the agency dude circumvents the problem to feed his data addiction.  But in the process the mini branded sites appear and dissappear which undermines long term global branding goals for the company.  More on this on a future post….