Posted 16th September 2009 by APSIS

The truth about Email Marketing

The popular TV show Mythbusters examines whether there is any truth to popular myths and beliefs. More often than not the myths are busted, but once in a while there is a grain of truth to the stories. Email is surrounded by rumours and mysteries. In this article, we turn our attention to a few of the most widespread myths to see if they are plausible or not.

What is the truth about Email Marketing?

Myth # 1: Email is dead (or dying, at least)

Email has been declared dead many times – and it has come back to life every time. As soon as a new communications channel sees the light of day, it is declared that email will disappear. Yet, somehow, email is still a natural part of our lives. An American study shows that the proportion of people with access to the Internet using e-mail on an average day increased by 15 % between 2002 and 2008. This is despite – or perhaps because of – the fact that most social media were invented and had their breakthrough during this period.

Myth # 2: Personalised email is not worth the effort

Segmentation, filtering, personalisation. There are many ways to make email more personal. But in this particular case, none of them will be used. Many email marketers send the same letter to all recipients, without using their knowledge about the recipients’ place of residence, age or purchase history.

But will it pay off? Is it worth the effort? Yes, definitely! Newsletters without any form of segmentation have an average open rate of 26 %, while transactional messages – that are highly personal – are opened by 70 % of the recipients. The more personal and relevant you become, the higher your open rate will be.

Myth # 3: If it works – send more!

It is not unusual to feel the urge to take advantage of a good situation. Lets say that you send one newsletter each month that bring you sales worth 25.000 Euros. A good result – but a result that possibly could be better? Shouldn’t two newsletters each month double the sales? And if we send newsletters every week, maybe our sales will be 100.000 instead?

No, it doesn’t quite work that way. There is a breaking point, and you can quite possibly see it clearly in the statistics. But it is hard to find without proper testing. Don’t be afraid to send email, as long as it is relevant. Just think about the content – and the frequency.

Myth # 4: Internal testing is quite enough

Once the newsletter is done, we send it to a few people at the office and let them check it out. Then we will send it to the entire list. That is enough testing, is it not? No, it isn’t – but this is usually how it is done. To get really great results, you need a different kind of tests. To get a reliable result from a test, you need to use your recipients. The easiest way is to make a split test, where you send two or several versions of the same letter to a limited part of your recipients. Then you will see which version that performs best, and use that one.

Myth # 5: More recipients equals better results

The notion that more recipients automatically gives you better results is quite similar to the notion that a higher sending frequency equals more sales. There is an appealing logic to the thought that it is twice as good to send to 20000 recipients compared to 10000 recipients. But the results are seldom that linear. Usually, the open rate goes down as the number of recipients rise.

Is it a bad thing, then, to have a lot of recipients? No, absolutely not. But you need to be consistent in your ambition to give each recipient something that he or she is truly interested in. We talked about relevance earlier – the more personal your newsletters are, the better chance of success you have. The number of recipients is not interesting in itself; the important part is how well you are able to communicate with each of your recipients.

Myth # 6: It is impossible to send e-mail on the weekend

We often discuss the importance of finding the perfect time for a newsletter sending. There is an ongoing debate about whether to send in the beginning, the middle or the end of the week – or if it is better before or after lunch. The answer is not clear-cut. Different times and days have their pros and cons for different businesses, but generally speaking you tend to get higher open rates in the middle of the week. These are also the days when most letters are sent.

But on the weekend, things grind to a halt in the inbox. Nobody cares about Email Marketing on weekends. But perhaps they should? Lots of people read email out of office. An American study shows that 34 % check their work-related email during the holidays, a number that is likely to by at least as high as that on weekends. Sometimes, it is good to be different – it is definitely easier to get noticed!

Myth # 7: Never use the word ”free”

The word ”free” is quite tricky to use in marketing. But it is even worse when it comes to Email Marketing – write the word “free” and you run a serious risk of ending up in a spam filter.

True or false? Well, it is true – but not entirely true. Many spam filters check the contents of newsletters and the alarm goes off when they find any word on a long list of suspicious words. The list is full of words like “free”, names of prescription medicines and words related to financial services.

It is possible that your newsletter may be in trouble if you use words like these, but it is important to remember that the words are one parameter of many that are checked. The words are seen in context and if nothing else is strange about the newsletter, it is unlikely to be stopped.

In short: if you are serious about what you do, you will have a very good chance of succeeding with your Email Marketing. Make it a habit to test your mailings in the most common spam filters so you know you are on the safe side before sending!