Around 20% of promotional emails never reach the receiver’s inbox or end up in the ’spam’ section and get deleted without having been read either because they get blocked by the email filters or because the receiver hits the ‘report spam’ option.

During my research about email marketing I have read many articles about what makes a successful email campaign. Advice, tips, secrets, countless lists in magazines and blogs, they all talk about one thing: good planning!

Firstly, there are a few questions to ask:
What do I want to talk about?
Who do I want to talk to?
How is my information related to my target group?

Relevance is the keyword! People do not spend time opening emails that are not relevant to their interests. Contrarily, they appreciate personalised emails offering exclusive content, offers or discounts. A few not relevant emails from the same company are enough to make the receivers unsubscribe or click the ‘report spam’ button. Also, emails accounts, such as Hotmail, Yahoo!, Gmail, redirect to the spam list all newsletters which have been ignored by the receiver in a regular basis. Thus, targeting and data analysis are very important.

David Hughes, founder of The Email Academy, commented to Mike Fletcher in an interview for Revolution Magazine:

“Spammers send high numbers of emails so if your volume numbers are also high, it’s critical that your complaint, hard-bounce and spam-trap hit rates are low otherwise you will be treated as though you were a spammer. The major reason for the inclusion of spam-trap addresses on a mailing list is poor list hygiene.”

 (Revolution Magazine, September 2009, Email Handbook 2009, page 19)

In order to keep an up-to-date mailing list and achieve targeting, a brand needs to build a relationship with its customers and understand the way they interact with the company. Analysis of their transactions, the links they click, the web pages they visit, the time they spend on the website, the products they have purchased can be very useful for planning how to approach them.

Last year Sainsbury’s Bank hired RedEye, Online Behavioural Marketing & Analysis company, to increase conversion across its product range. RedEye studied customers’ behaviour on the relevant websites and generated behaviourally triggered emails for the bank’s pet and car insurance products.

They also analysed the customers’ journey on its website in order to send individual personalised emails encouraging re-visiting and reiterating the benefits of the products. As a result, the ROI for Sainsbury’s pet insurance promotions was 750%, the open rate in one ‘retrieve a quote’ campaign was 70% and the general conversion rate across all campaigns for the bank was 12.8%. (marketingdirectmag.co.uk, Six steps to boosting online sales conversion, Mark Patron, 21 May 2009)

Case studies like the above, prove that activity-triggered emails can be very effective because they carry the right message at the right time. Thus, timing is another important issue to be cosidered. The triggered email needs to reach the receiver leaving a significant time gap from the transaction so it does not put pressure on the customer making him/her feel watched. Finally, if the regular newsletters are too frequent they can be considered as spam and end up in the spam list.

Many detailed articles can be found on the web and in magazines about email marketing and how to get it right but considering that every brand, product and target group is different and has different needs it’s difficult to talk about a recipe. Having done a lot of research, I believe that if the above key points are taken into consideration they can bring impressive results.