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Less is more: targeting the engaged for maximum return

28 April 2014
by Adam Oldfield

“Reduce your email send volumes to improve open rates.” Sounds too good to be true? Well, in fact, by targeting only the most engaged and excluding unengaged prospects you will improve your open rates. It’s simple mathematics – after all, you’ll be talking to the same engaged base but with a lower starting send figure.

There are several reasons why reducing send volumes can increase open rates.

Take spam filters. These usually monitor the volume of messages sent from a particular IP address in order to arrive at an IP reputation score. So, send out fewer emails in a more regular and consistent manner and your IP address is more likely to be classed as a trusted sender, and therefore more likely to pass the mail on for delivery.

Also, some larger networks may consider previous and current inbox engagement in calculating your “spam score”. If your base is largely un-engaged, it will consider the mail to be unsolicited and may block or spam-box it. However, if the mail receives an extremely high open and click-through rate it is more likely to escape untouched.

But if you’re reducing volumes then those emails need to be targeted as effectively as possible. We often hold limited client information – last product purchased, industry, job type, etc – which in some scenarios is fine for targeting but can lack granularity. We therefore need to consider what other information we have access to and proactively construct our campaigns to guide us into learning more about our customers or prospects. So, for example, consider which pages on your website the contact is currently engaging with, and tailor the outbound communications to what you know they have engaged with. It sounds simple but is often overlooked.

At Force24 we call this 3D marketing.

Any email we despatch may have hundreds of possible layout and content combinations made up of information we know about your contacts. That sounds scary, but it really isn’t thanks to innovations in marketing technology. As long as the creative can support the possible combinations, then an effective marketing automation platform will do the heavy lifting and perform customisation during the email send process.

A classic example here is pricing. Say a family of four looking for a holiday to Turkey has browsed holiday packages already on your website at £300-£500. With this knowledge, the next step is to create a communication offering Turkish holiday deals for under £399. In contrast, a more discerning traveller who has been engaging with high end resorts may find this same messaging to be a big turn off and should instead be targeted with messages tailored towards high-end luxury.

Everyone is different, so your emails should be too. We shouldn’t neglect the unengaged prospects however but adopt re-engagement contact strategies to drive interest in this apathetic group.

Ignore the unengaged base and you’ll be missing out on a potential RoI goldmine.

So how do you reactivate these contacts and make them engaged? It’s actually quite simple and we will need to work with the maths again. Let’s assume you have a base of 20,000 contacts that you have collected over the years and at no point in the past 12 months have these contacts even opened and email from you.  You also know the mails haven’t bounced, so it’s likely you are just not appealing to them in the right way.

This is the time to get brutal, and start treating these contacts as prospects – as a unique set of individuals.

Firstly think about the proposition and consider communicating to them about a more generic topic, regardless of the contacts’ mind set, just as an opener. As an example, we recently published an article about the summer heat wave predictions. It had nothing to do with marketing automation as such, and this is crucial. We sent this email to the unengaged base and saw that open rates ended up matching those of engaged customer data.

It’s not as easy as simply changing the content. You also need to adapt the sending process to drip-feed the emails at an extremely slow speed – for example, we like to throttle the sends to a maximum of 500 an hour. This also improves the open rate, even though this group of contacts has ignored every email you have sent them in the past 12 months.

As and when the contacts engage, it’s your role as the marketer to maintain the engagement and capitalise on it.

May the Force24 be with you.

Photo of Adam Oldfield
Adam Oldfield
Managing Director & Founder

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