Xerox, eBbay, Qwest Communications, General Motors: When it comes to marketing, even big companies like these have to try to do more with less.
E-mail marketing is one powerful tool, if you know how to use it. Small companies with meager marketing budgets have no choice but to get crafty, but too many still don't know how.
We asked a slew of top executives at multibillion-dollar companies to share their e-mail marketing strategies (via e-mail). Without further ado, their answers:
Christa Carone, Chief Marketing Officer, Xerox
E-mail marketing has certainly taken on a life of its own. It's relatively easy--almost too easy so that anyone with something to sell, a list of people to sell it to and an Internet connection--can blast their message. On the one hand, it's inexpensive and it takes the old direct-mail adage "spray and pray" to a new level; on the other, it's really easy to delete. That's why our focus is on cutting through the clutter and giving you a reason to read, click, link and listen.
Our most successful campaigns are those that have embedded personalized video in the e-mail. Using variable data and customization software like XMPie, we've developed personalized e-mail marketing campaigns for Xerox promotions, the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival and even for our clients, like Universal Orlando. In each case, adding the personalized video to the e-mail more than doubled the click-through rate, and adding personalization in the subject line lifted open rates by an average of 40%, 3 to 5 times higher than the industry average. For campaigns that linked to a direct-purchasing opportunity, sales were typically 20% higher than from static e-mail campaigns. And, in many cases, the viral component of the personalized video quickly multiplied our outreach and engagement with potential clients.
Of course, the creative [the content in the e-mail] is only as good as the data--and that means knowing your targets, their interests and their reason to want your product. When this data is combined with a powerful, cross-media personalization tool and creative ways to engage with your brand, cutting through the clutter becomes more than an objective---it's a measure of success.
Greg Fant, VP North America Marketing, eBay
We have found that our best results in e-mail marketing are tightly coupled to how well we customize the content. Based on the context, we use e-mail in a variety of ways. Primarily, we're trying to help our users take the next logical step in the transaction process. For example, if buyers searched for and looked at an item but did not purchase it, the goal is to help them find a similar product and complete the transaction at very attractive price. If they lost an auction, we want to help them find another item like the one they lost at a great price.
There is, of course, a balance to be struck. Not every interaction can be entirely personalized; we would quickly be repeating the same message if we relied only on personalization. As a result, we mix personalized messages with popularity-based messages. Even here, though, we try to be targeted, letting buyers' activity help us understand the best categories in which to recommend merchandise.
Lowell Miller, VP--eBusiness, Qwest Communications
Suzie Lucken, Lead Marketing Professional, Qwest Communications
We generally see higher response rates when a customer has requested to receive specific information via e-mail, when the message is highly relevant or when the person is not contacted too frequently. It's all about communicating the right message to the right person at the right time.
Analysis and testing are important, too. Before you dive in, be sure to define the metrics that measure your success. Here are four useful ones: the "open rate" (which validates the efficacy of the list of addresses being used); the "click-through" rate (evaluates the relevancy of the content and the value to the customer); the "conversion rate" (measures the alignment of the right message to the right person at the right time); cost per acquisition (assesses the relative effectiveness of the method used).
When Qwest did an analysis recently, it found that its "welcome" e-mail was only being opened 25% of the time with a 7% click-through rate to Qwest.com. After analyzing the click-through data from the e-mails, it became clear that the non-sales links were garnering the most click-throughs to the website. To boost open rates, we reduced and centralized the resource links into a resource page; we also changed the tone of the e-mail and tested various subject lines. Result: We increased open rates to nearly 50% with an 11% click-through rate from the e-mails.
Teri Dhooge, VP Marketing, GoDaddy.com
Our e-mail campaigns are more than just marketing efforts. For starters, we strive to keep the benefit-driven message simple and supported with appealing and relevant creative. We also send account update reminders, entertainment news and key information about new product features---often suggestions from our customers.
Serviceafter the sale is a major attraction, and our e-mail communications are often tailored to deliver specific service information. Our customer communication methods also include using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook; we understand that certain customers prefer communication other than traditional e-mail.
Most important, we test something in every e-mail campaign. Variables include price, audience segmentation, creative imagery, product presentation, subject lines and landing pages. This keeps our communications fresh.
Don Butler, VP of Cadillac Marketing, General Motors
In our e-mail efforts, like all of our marketing, we strive to be meaningful and relevant to our customers, establishing the basis for building an ongoing relationship.
Example: our OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics e-mail. This is a monthly health check that automatically reports on the status of hundreds of diagnostics checks performed on key vehicle operating systems, as well as maintenance reminders based on the vehicle's current odometer reading, remaining engine oil-life and other relevant information. With the growing sophistication of vehicle systems, we've found this to be a wonderful way of de-mystifying the new vehicle ownership and maintenance experience. Within the emails, we use targeted messaging based on the vehicle, mileage, systems status and lifecycle to generate new business for our dealers.
Benefits: We greatly increase our ability to obtain valid e-mail addresses because customers readily recognize the inherent value. Better yet, we build an ongoing relationship and dialogue with our customers while providing them with real value and benefit.