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Is there really one way to email successfully?

I’ve been watching a bunch of folks discuss someone’s mailing practices. The discussion has been fascinating to me.  I’m hearing from the conversation is that there are very specific rules regarding how every company should mail. And that anyone who deviates from those practices is heading down the path to failure. Doing it wrong.
This theme has come up before, when I’ve heard expert marketers comment that Groupon proved how wrong the “daily email is too much” advice was. My response to that is confusion. Who decided daily email was too frequent and wouldn’t work?
I come from a non-marketing background, so maybe I’m missing some essential bit of wisdom or context. But it strikes me that a lot of the rules (no daily email, never establish aggressive engagement metrics) are really stifling innovation. There seems to me to be an unwillingness to think about why it might work if a particular sender does something against the grain.
Of course, once something has proven a success, everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Half my potential clients over the summer told me they “want[ed] to be the next Groupon.” Most of them didn’t make it, though.
I look at email as having a massively diverse user base. There are lots of people who use email in ways I would never consider. There are lots of people who think the way I use email is wrong. Unlimited opportunities for smart marketers exist.
The more cynical part of my brain says that finding and developing an enthusiastic recipient base takes too much time. Companies want to be the “next groupon” or the “next facebook”. But they want to do it by copying the business model, not by being innovative and meeting some need that currently isn’t being serviced.
There are, of course, some models that are never going to work, like randomly harvesting addresses and sending spam. But I don’t think that means email marketing is dying, just that innovation and imagination might be.

3 comments

  1. Tim Watson says

    As always, great wise words.
    I feel the confusion is around tactics and even strategy vs fundamentals of human psychology.
    All marketing is in one way or another trying to message, influence and sell to people. These fundamentals don’t change and were true as much 100 years ago as today. People don’t change. I can almost imagine Indian’s doing smoke signals of ‘two for price of one buffalo’.
    I worked with a company that sent daily emails way before Groupon existed. They were a news provider and people signed up for daily headlines. Worked just fine. Back to human physchology, value exchange and expectation setting.
    If we want to have a discussion around do’s and don’t’s it must be more about people and less about execution details.

  2. Tim Roe says

    Hi Laura
    I think it’s more about people not having to do the research and testing required to find the right frequency for emailing. So if they adopt “rules” spoken about on the web, they can justify to themselves that they are following best (common, popular) practice and spend most of their cash on creative instead. Unfortunately, data analysis is not as sexy as creative design, but the results of its use in targeting and segmentation, are far higher than can be achieved by flashy creative. The issue comes when organisations are unwilling to invest in finding out more about their customers, then using this customer knowledge to send relevant and timely communications to their customers. It’s a shame really, it’s got to be the best way to make a happy customer.
    Cheers

  3. The Proverbial Barry says

    marketers dont like to think very hard.

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