Are Best Practices Too Hard?

A recent review of practices by top brand email marketers makes me think that there is something really wrong with our collective ability to follow best practices when it comes to creating compelling subscriber experience for new subscribers. Return Path just released the results of a study of 61 companies on this topic, and I tell you, the findings were pretty disappointing.

Below are some highlights from Great Email Experiences – Is Your Brand Relationship Worthy. I’d love your feedback. Does this synch with what you find in your own inbox? In your own marketing programs?

The biggest shocker for me is in the depth of the missed opportunity. Relatively simple and firmly proven best practices were NOT followed by some pretty large brands—Best Buy, Nike, Sony, and Disney, to name a few—all with smart email marketers in house. Does that suggest we have the wrong best practices? Or that sending relevant email really takes THAT much more work than just spitting out broadcasts? It shouldn’t, right? Yet, maybe it is that much harder, which is why so few of us actually spend the time to do it well.

We were rather surprised by the findings:

1. A majority (60%) of the companies in our survey did not send a welcome message. Of the 40% that did send a welcome message, only 33% sent it within 24 hours. The remaining 7% took anywhere from two days to three weeks.

2. The shock of the missing welcome messages was compounded by the astonishing number of companies—30%!—who didn’t send any email within a month of sign up. While the majority did start sending email soon after subscribe, engagement—which is key in the first 30-days—was lacking.

3. 70% of companies asked for a lot of data (name, address, birthday, and so on) at subscribe, and the bulk of them (75%) never used it. This “just in case” mentality is not a good experience for subscribers that are forced to complete long forms and preferences when the potential benefit is never realized.

4. Even across four very different industry verticals, the marketing offers (Free Shipping! Discount! Sweepstakes!) were surprisingly the same. Often these types of offer strategies are self-fulfilling and addictive. Why not use valuable content to drive readership and stand out from the crowd?

Look forward to your comments!

—Stephanie Miller of Return Path

2 thoughts on “Are Best Practices Too Hard?

  1. The welcome letter stat really blows my mind considering other studies have found that this email is the most opened of any you will send. It makes me wonder if the email programs in these companies are being neglected.

  2. Very sad indeed.

    I believe the only reason email continues to be successful for companies using the untargeted "batch and blast" is that the costs appear to be low.

    However, few are considering the cost of alienating your subscribers with worthless, irrelevant content.

    For some reason, companies tolerate terrible response rates to their email campaigns, simply because the cost is low vs traditional marketing such as catalogs, flyers, radio, tv, etc. People need to wake up and realize the potential of this sleeping giant if it is done right.

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