HOPES for email’s role as a lucrative and effective marketing tool are fading fast due to the misuse and lack of understanding of the medium as a direct marketing tool.
Swamped by irrelevant emails and often offended by the invasion of privacy they represent, consumers are quickly losing interest in commercial emails and are pressing the delete key in growing numbers.
Buzzmail principal and author of E-mail Marketing Made Easy, Malcolm Auld said the direct email industry was “choking itself to death on its own success”.
“While email is a good solicitation tool, the click-through rates have declined as spam mail has increased,” he said.
“There is too much rubbish email.”
Companies can collect legitimate lists of emails in two ways. One option is to purchase an email list from a third-party list provider. The Australian Shopping Survey conducted by Pacific Micro Marketing and Lifestyle Survey Data by Geospend, a division of Australia Post, are the two largest community opt-in email data surveys in Australia.
Option two is for companies to build up their own email lists by implementing an option preference into a website, direct mail, trade show display, on-pack promotion and telemarketing.
Mr Auld said the industry was being held back by the quality of third-party lists and badly designed and irrelevant emails sent by organisations to clients on their databases.
“Some organisation are sending the wrong things to the right people and the wrong stuff to the wrong people,” he said.
“Email is the easiest and cheapest way to do damage to your brand if you do it the wrong way.”
Mr Auld said the hierarchy of marketing was upside down and that, rather than senior executives developing the brand and juniors conducting customer contact, it should be the other way round.
“Customer contact is the most important and hardest thing to do; you are dealing with the people who pay your salary,” he told WA Business News.
Mr Auld said people who understood direct marketing should be using the medium if it was to be used appropriately.
Despite the misuse of the medium, he said email could be an effective direct marketing tool where there was a relevant and strong relationship between the consumer and organisation.
While the rate of online sales for e-commerce can vary from 5 per cent to 30 per cent and there were associated costs with advertising web sites, Mr Auld said email marketing was useful as another way to communicate with consumers who chose to receive marketing information.
High volume Internet messaging company Expedite services more than 12,000 organisations worldwide. Marketing and communication manager for Asia, Helen Conlan, said the increase of spam and badly conducted email campaigns was not affecting the response rate to campaigns.
She said people were still keen to receive commercial communication via email and had seen some clients’ consumer databases grow by hundreds of thousands.
“Our clients are now smarter with e-commerce and a lot more thought is used in terms of the campaign,” Ms Conlan said.
“We are still seeing in excess of 15 per cent response rate across the board.”
The effectiveness of email marketing depends on the quality of the opt-in email list and how well organisations know their customers, she said.
An effective way an organisation can build a database is by including a viral element into an email marketing campaign. For example, the Victorian Racing Club included a send to a friend element into its campaign, and increased its database from 5000 to 20,000.
Ms Conlan said organisations needed to understand that the technology used was complex and that organisations really needed to use professional services to ensure that there were not technological problems.
Describing himself as “no champion of email marketing”, Prospect Shop e-mail list broker Beau Loughhead said there were two main problems with email.
“One is the availability of good data and the other is the effectiveness of the medium and how people feel receiving mail from someone they don’t know, whether they opted in or not,” he said.
While Mr Loughhead said business-to-business email marketing was acceptable, he had seen no evidence that email marketing was any more effective than mail or phone as an acquisition tool.
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