Companies that want to get the most out of their e-mail marketing efforts eventually come to a point where they need to ask themselves: Do we want to focus on our message or the medium? You can either spend your time doing what marketing professionals do best — developing compelling offers, engaging with audiences and building customer relationships — or you can spend it dealing with deliverability issues, database maintenance and inbox monitoring.
Today, marketers concerned with online channels would rarely learn everything possible about HTML or servers, as activities like building web pages and site hosting are usually handled by specialists so that marketing professionals can focus on the products and content. So why mess around with spam filters and resolving blocking problems if you don’t have to? Our company, CheapAir.com, recently engaged with an e-mail service provider to make the switch from a homegrown to a hosted e-mail solution. That yielded a number of benefits, including the following.
Prior to moving to an ESP, CheapAir.com’s staff was spending way too much effort on basic e-mail delivery issues, handling spam complaints and keeping our list clean.
Sending unwanted e-mails to consumers is certainly not going to do your CRM strategy any favors, and repeated use of bad or abandoned addresses can also damage your company’s reputation at receiving ISPs, so authentication and whitelisting (getting clearance from e-mail clients to send messages) are very important tasks. But list housekeeping can easily become overwhelming, especially because in-house IT resources are always limited. With an ESP, it’s easier to monitor actively deliverability issues, automatically identify and remove addresses that are repeatedly bouncing and address spam problems quickly.
Better tracking for more relevant messages
Customer relationship management is all about getting to know your audience so that you can make offers that are compelling and relevant.
When it comes to e-mail marketing, blasting the same message to every subscriber on your list in the hopes that a significant enough percentage will open and respond is not really very effective from a relationship standpoint – especially as more and more consumers are getting fatigued by inbox overload and ISPs are blocking communications more rigorously. Capturing metrics about who’s opening, who’s clicking and who’s responding to e-mails is incredibly important, as it can really help you better target and segment your communications based on a recipient’s behavior, preferences and purchasing history.
An ESP will provide this type of reporting for you, offering visibility into all aspects of e-mail campaign performance and analysis. The net result is that your marketing organization will spend less time capturing, organizing and crunching data, and more time acting on it to develop relevant and engaging communications.
CheapAir.com is a travel deal and booking site, and the timing of our marketing communications is especially critical. We want to be able to offer great travel deals as soon as we capture them – consumers looking for a good deal will go elsewhere if a competitor consistently finds better offers or communicates them faster; that’s why delivering the right message at the right time is so essential.
With an ESP, marketers are better able to set up triggered and transactional e-mails to make right time e-mail closer to a reality. At CheapAir.com, for example, we are beginning to leverage our customer data and the functionality of our ESP to move away from batch and blast communications to messages triggered by a specific opportunity or subscriber preference.
Ready to give an ESP a go?
Before you start checking out providers, make a quick roadmap of exactly what you hope to accomplish in the first 12 to 18 months, and ask each vendor to explain how each of those items on your roadmap will be accomplished using its system. The details matter, so be sure someone very familiar with your data and systems is part of the conversation and evaluation.
In CheapAir.com’s case, we decided that a hosted solution from Strongmail would be the best fit for us. We like the professionalism of its support team, the intuitive user interface, its model for data integration, and the expert services for setup, ISP remediation and delivery monitoring.
When it comes to email marketing, don’t get bogged down managing all the technology behind it. With an ESP in place, you can devote much more of your effort to building the customer relationships that will drive your business.
Gregory Samson is vice president of marketing for CheapAir.com (www.cheapair.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi