October 30, 2013

Email Marketers - Shoemint: $40 Off

The email marketing community gets really, really upset with me when I communicate the myriad ways that email marketers carefully destroy brands.

Really, really upset with me.

So let's talk about email marketing today.

In the image above, show me what the key item is that the merchandising team cares so deeply about that they have no choice but to proudly communicate it to you - the item they are so passionate about that they must sell it to you at full price?

If I am the Chief Merchandising Officer, I'm walking down the hall to find the email director, and I'm going to swat him/her over the head with a rolled-up newspaper! With loving intent, of course. If I can still find a newspaper laying around somewhere.

There's no merchandise featured. None. Notice that the promo code is prominently displayed - the analytics expert got her way and will be able to measure everything properly. The email director got his way - he'll have "shocking" levels of opens/clicks that he can brag about at the next integrated marketing meeting.

The CFO is left trying to explain to the investment community why margins are shot or why marketing discounts are through the roof ("we're making a serious investment in customers which we expect to pay off down the road - it's all about lifetime value - we'll figure out how to convert these customers to full prices later, once they get a taste of our merchandise").

Do you know how often I hear that last quote? "We'll figure out how to convert these customers to full prices later, once they get a taste of our merchandise." Nonsense. Every project I've ever analyzed shows that discount buyers are less likely to buy full price merchandise in the future than full price customers are.

Email Vendors - You have a significant leadership role to play in the industry. You talk about relevancy and engagement and personalization as abstract terms. You have all the data in the world. Analyze it! Demonstrate to your clients that customers buy MERCHANDISE! You are the ones who can change the trajectory email marketing is on - and it isn't a good trajectory, is it? Your clients listen to you.

Merchants - It's time for you to "step up", as the pundits say. Demand that your email marketing team features MERCHANDISE! Demand that they tell a story about the merchandise, and if they won't, create your own darn email marketing programs. Seriously. I mean this. Take control of your own marketing destiny. If your email marketing team is going to give away the farm, protect your farm. It is your farm. You, not the email marketing team, are accountable for selling merchandise. You, not the email marketing team, get fired when sales drop. You, not the email marketing team, get fired when gross margins are in the tank. You are accountable.

Creative - Take over the design of your email campaigns. Tell a story. Do something to create interest. When the stories die out, the discounts take over. Discounts are like weeds growing in the cracks of a sidewalk.

CFOs - Demand a bit of rigor from your email marketing team. Demand an annual profit and loss statement from the email marketing team, and when they refuse to create one because they don't think that is a "relevant" use of their time, create one for them and remind them of the damage they're doing on a weekly basis. Demand that they keep marketing discounts under "x%" on an annual basis. Compare the email profit and loss statement to the search profit and loss statement, or catalog, or affiliates, or national ads, or social. Show how the lines of the profit and loss statement compare across channels. This should cause folks to feel uncomfortable.

CEOs - Why in the name of all that is good are you approving these promotions? Do you lack confidence in selling your own merchandise? Stop it! Give your email marketing team an annual goal - demand that they sell $20,000,000 of merchandise at 20% pre-tax profit, with minimal discounting. That should lead to some stimulating conversation at the water cooler.

Analytics Experts - Stop measuring opens/clicks/conversions. Start measuring profit. Measure the merchandise that leads to the most profit per email delivered. Move your organization to a new metric - profit per email delivered. Teach everybody why this metric matters most. Measure the long-term impact of discounting on your business.

Email Vendors / Merchants / Creative / CFOs / CEOs / Analytics Experts. It's up to you to change the trajectory email marketing is on. Email marketers, directed by the folks they report to, have gone "all in" on discounts and promotions, optimizing opens/clicks instead of profit. 

It's up to you! 

Do something.

Most important - email marketing can be saved.


  1. Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Remember the P’s? Price and promotion can be seen as tools to the brand an marketer. Use them wisely and they work for you. Problem is standing at the side, what we might see as misuse, can still be a very successful piece of entrepreneurship. Strategy will let you load the dice so they roll your way, but as for pricing, a company can determine on which numbers they are betting. And then, as it has always been, the ones that win the war write history.
    There are several problems with discounts though, to illustrate see this case about triggered email with incentives.

    On the other hand there are also many silent conversion killers in your email program.

  2. Product is pretty important!


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