October 08, 2007

E-Mail Success, or E-Mail Failure?

Many of you now know that I'm a fan of e-mail marketing, but I'm not a fan of e-mail performance.

Any direct marketing activity that drives the volume (per e-mail) that e-mail delivers is immensely frustrating to me.

Sometimes, however, we get down on ourselves, when in reality there is room for optimism.

Take this example. In 2005, a company had an e-mail subscriber file that averaged 1,000,000 names. One campaign was sent per week, generating $0.15 per e-mail delivered. In total, the annual sales generated by e-mail marketing was 1,000,000 * 52 * $0.15 = $7.8 million.

In 2006, the e-mail marketing team was disappointed with the following results: The average subscriber file was 1,300,000 names. There were 60 campaigns during the year. Each campaign drove an average of $0.13 per e-mail delivered. In total, the annual sales generated by e-mail marketing was 1,300,000 * 60 * $0.13 = $10.1 million.

Was e-mail marketing a failure because productivity decreased from $0.15 per e-mail to $0.13 per e-mail?

Or was e-mail marketing a success because annual sales increased from $7.8 million to $10.1 million?

All too often, we focus on "SMALL" metrics. Open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates are all "SMALL". SMALL times SMALL times SMALL = Really SMALL!

Chief Executive Officers, Chief Financial Officers and Chief Marketing Officers don't like to hear about small metrics --- especially small metrics that decrease. Who wants to learn that only one in seven hundred recipients purchased from an e-mail campaign?

Executives like to hear about BIG numbers ... like an increase in performance from $7.8 million per year to $10.1 million per year. That's an increase of 29%, an increase of $2.3 million dollars. Those are BIG numbers.

When working with your leaders, focus on BIG numbers. Work your tail off behind the scenes to improve e-mail productivity. But when working with the highly paid folks, tell a positive story using BIG numbers.