Seizing the Email Opportunity in a Seizing Economy

Ben Bernanke delivered another gloomy assessment of the American economy to congress yesterday during which he pointed out that the seemingly antithetical dual risks we currently face—slow growth and rising prices (due in large part to energy costs and the credit crunch/housing collapse)—are likely to plague us for some time to come. A “perfect storm” of macroeconomic forces is currently ravaging us, and it seems as if we may not even have seen the worst of it.

Could this be good news for email marketers?

While I believe it’s probably not great news for anybody—especially for those of us who may own a house, have investments in the market, drive gasoline-powered cars, consume goods and services, or eat food—I do believe the current economic downturn we’re facing represents an opportunity for email to shine.

Marketing budgets across the board are shrinking, but in my recent experience, email is being allocated an increasingly larger percentage of that budget. As a highly measurable channel, we are immediately at an advantage. The fact that the average return on investment for a dollar spent on email marketing was an estimated $48.29 in 2007 according to the DMA doesn’t hurt either. When budgets shrink, it makes good sense to invest a greater percentage in email, and I am already seeing it happen.

So with an increasingly large share of budget, many of us are now charged with selling goods and services to segments that are increasingly price sensitive due to the $4.89 per gallon they are paying at the pump (I just paid that much). Many segments are looking for deals right now, and while we obviously still need to send the right ones to their inboxes, it seems as if consumers are now taking more time to review the offers they receive, which may be good news for good senders. I’ve seen evidence of this in the KPIs and test results of many of my clients’ programs, primarily in the form of higher than expected open rates for certain segments.


1. Now is a good time to test that reactivation program you’ve been thinking about.
Those inactive customers could be brought back into the fold with a juicy offer, and in these rough times, each win-back is more valuable than ever.

2. If you don’t already, leverage automated campaigns to the hilt.
Internal marketing resources at many companies hit hardest by the downturn are getting scarcer, but don’t let this inhibit the growth of your program. Focus on high-value, highly relevant, triggered and serialized campaigns that run without needing daily attention.

3. Think about creative ways to monetize your data.
Do you send targeted third-party offers to your list? Do you include banner ads in your newsletter? If you don’t, now would be a good time to test it.

4. Make a strong business case for more budget.
Few in your organization boast the ROI numbers you do. Build a cogent business case and get the additional budget you need to take your program to the next level—your business needs you now more than ever!

So while inflation drives prices higher and the credit markets seize, drop the Wall Street Journal, erase your E*Trade bookmark, and focus on messaging that appeals to your increasingly price-sensitive consumer. With any luck you’ll be able to uncover some rational exuberance in your email program.

—Nicholas Einstein of Datran Media