Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Can Emails Be Made Useful?

For most executives, email marketing is at the top of their list for online initiatives. And God knows, there is nothing wrong with a good email newsletter. What Don Peppers of 1to1 Marketing has a problem with is that "newsletter" does not equate with "relationship". he quotes extensively from a Forrester Research study on email marketing "The Best and Worst of Email Marketing In 2006,":
"A lot of emails are still newsletters, with no call to action and no way to interact with what's been given to me," says Shar VanBoskirk, senior analyst and author of the report. "And a lot are still brochures -- they send a pretty picture, but I have no way to respond with what I think about it or to get more information."
This kind of language is exactly what VoiceSage likes to hear: "call to action". How simple it would be to have a click to call function at the end of your short and to the point email alert, where when the person clicks, the call is automatically routed to the right person, because you know who got the email, in what context, and what they probably want to talk about. This kind of thinking probably brings a better focus on why your customer would want to receive the email in the first place (i.e. is someone receiving an email to enhance their relationship with you? do you benefit from receiving this email?) Forrester studied 63 email marketing campaigns in six verticals -- business products and services, consumer goods, financial services, media, retail, and travel. The research found that from start to finish, the emails are still plagued by misdirection and a lack of customer focus. Thirty-three (52 percent) of the subject lines described the email content, but did not hint at the value the user will experience by opening the message. And only 11 programs passed basic usability requirements: easy to scan, had a digestible volume of content, and effectively used bullets and headers to aid navigation. Twenty-nine programs placed calls to action below the fold, and 25 were almost impossible to understand without graphics. Surprisingly, financial services firms ranked last among the verticals. Typically they are considered leaders in online customer contacts, but VanBoskirk is unimpressed with their email strategies. "Two factors are dragging financial services down. They have been slower to adopt email as a medium, so they haven't had as many chances to try different things," she says. "And their emails are very focused on pitching products. [Customers] want their needs met, not just to hear about what you have to sell them." Media companies, retailers, and travel were the top three verticals, helped along by calls to action, the ability to transact, good use of text and images in tandem, and good marketing communication. Consumer goods and B2B companies followed, with financial services in the bottom spot.

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