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Make email marketing work for you

Masoom Gupte  |  Mumbai 

Internet users are far too familiar with email newsletters that waste time, pitches that annoy, and those that are downright spam. Yet, it remains the most popular tactic among professionals, at least in part because it is the most cost-effective. Would you like to know how to build a great email newsletter without making the common mistakes that can ruin your reputation and cost you money? Listen to our experts

Gunjan Ghai,
VP, & E-Business, & Product Development, Tata AIG General Insurance

Cost-wise, email marketing is among the cheapest avenues available to marketers. This does not mean that one keeps sending out bulk messages to the entire database. This will yield no results. The approach must be much more targeted. That said, marketers must first clean up the database to minimise chances of misfiring. Put basic checks in place, verifying domain extensions, for instance. If it is a corporate email address, you'll need to steer clear of it, since nobody wants their work in-boxes filled with offer emails. They'll mark the emails as spam. Segregate the database based on demographics, income levels, purchase history etc for future reference.

The thing with email marketing is, neither can you overdo it nor can you underdo it. To start off, work with calendarised events, such as festivals, birthdays and anniversaries. However, look beyond it. At Tata AIG, for example, we send out emailers on World Diabetes Day, World Cancer Day, World Heart Day etc. However, we cannot send a buy-health-insurance message on Diwali day.

The efficacy of email marketing is largely determined by the offer. The offer needs to be relevant and timely for conversion rates to pick up. Besides being timely, emailers should also be time bound. The results of email marketing should be quantified in the long term.

Paying close attention to the subject line can be very effective. Avoid sending very sales-y messages. Consumers may not even bother opening these emails. Make the subject line a lot more personalised. Say, "important message for you, Ms XYZ" or "specially for you, Ms XYZ" instead. You will see the lift rates go up with this simple action.

Email marketing when used effectively can prove quite advantageous. It allows you to circumvent the 'do not disturb' call registries. It can be useful for marketing low cost products where the price of the product does not justify the more expensive advertising avenues.

Shabnam Kadwani
Head, CRM, BookMyShow

For us at BookMyShow (BMS), email marketing is one of the strongest means of reaching out to the consumer. Given that we have a high quantum of content to push out to consumers, emails prove to be the most cost effective method of communication. The first thing that one must know before sending out emailers is the exact purpose of the communication. Do you want more conversions or may be references to increase your consumer base? At BMS, for example, we have stopped doing movie marketing since we feel consumers are fairly well versed with using the portal for booking movie tickets. We are now focusing on promoting other events instead. Next up, define the target audience for your emails in advance using the historic data available. This can get you more results than sending blanket emails.

Another important aspect that we feel really helps is to pay for the emailers you are sending or having a specific budget in mind. This keeps you mindful of constraints and ensures that you do not end up overusing the medium just because it costs lower.

If you are investing in a software for email marketing, ensure that you don't make any ad hoc choices. Pick one carefully after evaluating all aspects of it. Check whether it lets you track the effectiveness of the activity on all parameters, ranging from deliverability to clicks, from open rates to conversions. This is fairly basic, yet if you go wrong on this, the entire math of email marketing will fall apart.

Email marketing should not be seen only as a means of asking the consumer to buy in to your products and services. Use it for rewarding your customers by sending gratification emails. This will help break the monotony of your emails as well. And keep the user hooked. There will be different buckets like occasional, loyal or super loyal customers to name a few. Depending on how you decide to reward these various buckets, you can devise your email marketing strategy, shifting between promotional and gratification emails.

Naveen Bachwani
Head, Marketing Services, Experian India

When including email marketing in the mix, start from the very beginning. Ask yourself the most obvious but rarely asked question. Is your consumer online? And if she is, is she well versed enough with the space to be impacted favourably by an email message? It is important to answer these questions to avoid falling in the current fad trap. Do it because you need it and not because it is the 'in' thing to do.

Permission-based email marketing is not big in India yet. Unlike telecom, where one can register with a 'do not disturb' service and evade telemarketing calls, there are no restrictions in email marketing. It is still in your best interest to seek permission from users first - asking them to tick a box allowing you to contact them with emailers. Mentioning the frequency of the emails improves effectiveness.

First time email marketers must peruse the rules of designing content well. The email creative should be clear and concise. There should be a 'call to action' for the emailer to be effective. The objective must be clear in the subject line. This helps brands to measure the effectiveness of email marketing. They can decide whether they wish to focus on inbox deliverability or open rates or click rates or final conversions. To be sure, if you are enrolling services of specialised email marketing players, irrespective of your internal benchmarks, the payment model is based on cost per thousand million emails sent.

Email creatives should also follow the 'page skimmability' concept of web design. The consumer should be able to take decisions based on the creative in three-four seconds. Text presented in bullet points and keywords highlighted, for instance, helps too.

Remember that every marketer is first a consumer. Before deciding what you wish to do for the consumer, just go through your inbox once. See what works for you and what you find irksome. Let this help you design the principles of your email marketing initiatives.

Manu Kumar Jain,

Email marketing can prove to be quite a double-edged sword. If done correctly, it can help the marketer grab the consumer's attention, leading to a conversion quite unlike any other promotion/advertising medium. However, if you indulge in carpet bombing tactics, sending users continuous emails, you risk irritating them to a point where they may stop responding to your emails.

It is, therefore, advisable to think and understand beforehand what consumers are looking for, what they would like to read in the emailer. Are they looking for information on new arrivals or upcoming sales or even about your new communication? Either way, it must be engaging. You must segment your consumer base carefully. In case of online retailers, browsing and purchase history, in addition to the demographic information, is handy. This way, you can customise the content and frequency of emailers.

Buying a database of email addresses comes with a handicap of not knowing anything about the consumers and is not recommended. Without knowing your consumer's preferences, likes, dislikes, it is possible you will just end up spamming her inbox. And apart from turning off a prospective or even existing customer, you may also end up compromising on your IP (Internet Protocol) reputation, which can be highly detrimental to the company. This is especially possible if your database contains a high number of 'hardbounce' (invalid) email addresses or 'softbounce' addresses, where the email addresses are valid but for any number of reasons the email keeps bouncing back. In such cases, the email service providers at their end may label emails from your IP address as spam, making the entire exercise futile. Similarly, if you keep bombarding your consumers with endless emails, they may voluntarily label your email as spam, damaging your IP reputation. Marketers should design emailers carefully as usage of certain words or inclusion of too many video links can result in spam status.

What sets email marketing apart from other marketing avenues is the measurability. You can track open rates and conversions. Emailers can also provide insights into consumer behaviour. So, based on where the consumer clicks after opening an emailer - like the overall message or a specific section - you can know more about her interests..

First Published: Mon, April 15 2013. 00:27 IST