Thursday, May 26, 2011

No Open, No Value

I read Chad White's MediaPost article about "Bad Advice from email marketers." While all of the points were good, his "No open, no value" bullet strikes a huge nerve with me...of course, this is just a dumb assertion that Chad nails quite well. It's the epitome of email myopia.

Back when I ran email, we consistently saw that about 8% of purchasers - who we regularly sent email to - never opened emails we sent to them. Several industry pundits recommended that I stop mailing these people as they were "not engaged."

Just because people don't do what you want when you want, it doesn't mean they're not engaged. It just means that they're engaged in a way that either you don't expect or you can't measure.

For example, some people just don't trust the email channel. Maybe it's one too many attempts at transferring millions from secret overseas accounts but there are some folks who just will not execute via your email. Even if it were the best email in the whole wide world. They simply won't. What they will often do is either go directly to your site (usually prompted by your subject line) or search based their idea of what your email is trying to get across.

So do you abandon those folks in the name of efficiency? You could...but it turns out the email still has value - just not the value you think. Will they purchase even if you don't send them email? Why take the risk? So the real issue here isn't the email, it's the fact that your measurement systems are myopic. Or that you're stuck with a punitive and counter-productive CPM agreement with your ESP.

I'm really beginning to become wary of "email experts" who are anything other than deliverability specialists. Email is simply an arrow in the marketing quiver. In some quivers it's a huge arrow. In some, it's nothing more than a sharp toothpick. Before you go changing arrows, make sure your measurement systems are up to par.


  1. I agree...treat them differently, rest them, adjust cadence, use different creative approaches, but until they unsubscribe or hit spam keep mailing them. There have been plenty of studies showing that people's perception of a brand is increased by receiving emails from them even if they never open.

    ESPs are concerned about THEIR platform, not your reputation and not your bottom line and ROI goals so they push this POV of removing inactives.

    Then you have the email hippies who think email marketing should be this harmonious environment where there are no pre-checked boxes, everyone must double opt-in and people only gets emails they will open and click on and every morning we all wake up to singing birds.

    Well...that's not reality and it's not marketing.

  2. I totally agree Bob -- and Kevin, too. Email is not the holy grail of direct marketing, it doesn't need to be treated like some really special channel that has to be used ever so carefully. It is simply a direct marketing channel that, when used correctly in an integrated channel marketing approach, can help increase brand awareness, engage customers, and hopefully convince and convert prospects.

    Use and measure the email channel as closely as you do your direct mail or telemarketing channels. If you use an analytical approach to your overall marketing, all of your channels will perform better simply because you are scientifically determining how best to communicate with all of your markets -- most appropriately and with the most relevance.

    Bravo Bob Frady!

  3. Good points, Bob.

    What I think you're proving is that the notion of "engagement" is not a single-channel concept. Unfortunately, there are a lot of marketers out there that, because they only work with a single channel, only look at engagement from the perspective of that channel.

  4. Bob, glad you enjoyed my MediaPost column. We definitely recommend taking a cross-channel approach to inactives. We often advise folks to put inactives in "cold storage" until they see activity or purchase in any channel. So why would you rest a subscriber who's an active buyer even if they're not opening or clicking your emails? Visibility can be hazy, but lower your deliverabilty risk by focusing on email inactives that aren't active in any channel.