Halting the steady decline of email response rates

By Angela Schuster

Guest Blogger, Jonathan Calver (Director of web based marketing system StrategyMix) continues his discussion regarding the alarming trend being seen in the UK of declining email response rates.

In his last blog, Jonathan asked three questions in relation to the steady decline of email response rates in the UK:

  1. What would be the cause of this trend?

  2. Is this trend likely to take hold in Australia?

  3. What can be done about it?

In this blog, Jonathan answers question three:

What can you do to maintain decent email response rates?

This of course, is the most important of the three questions. Here are five counter measures that you can take. Some are tactical quick fixes. Others are more strategic, which makes them more important and more difficult to do.

Tactical Options

  • Text vs graphic

    If you're still sending "corporate-style" graphic emails that look like they've been designed by an advertising agency, then you should at least, undertake some controlled testing to see how their response rates compare with those of text-style emails (Ed note: or less "agency-hyped", well designed graphic emails!).

    The problem with most graphic emails is that they are so obviously adverts, which means that large numbers of people who are not interested in overt marketing messages will ignore them, and your response rates will continue to decline.

  • Send from the BDM (Business Development Manager)

    Following on from the text vs graphic point, people are more likely to respond to a real person - someone that they have met or spoken to, or at least can speak to. Most of the time, this means that your emails should come from your sales people. This of course means that you're going to need to involve them in your campaigns, which may be something that you just have to do.

    The key point is that if you're still sending emails from an obviously unreal email address such as marketing@yourcompany.com.au then you're already reducing your response rates.

    (Ed note: A good mix is to send the first email as a well designed graphic email then follow up with text emails "from" the BDM)

  • Re-examine your emails and marketing offers

    They say that the best predictor of the future is the past. Well, if you've been sending out emails that have delivered low value in the past and especially if you're still doing so now, then we can safely predict that your future response rates are going to decline. Indeed, there is no reason why they should not. So you might want to take a second look at the quality of your emails and your offer.

Strategic Options

Even if you do the above, the sad truth is that it may not be enough to arrest a decline in your email response rates, in which case you'll have to go "strategic".

  • Multi-channel campaigns

    The most "natural" and naturally effective campaigns are multi-channel. The practice of following up a letter or an email with a phone call has been normal sales practice for more than fifty years. Yet in the marketing world, it is quite "normal" to send a prospect 10 emails in a row without pre-planning any sales or phone contact. This approach is not natural and it does not make sense.

    There is an alternative. You can very easily implement a multi-channel campaign consisting of email, phone and even direct mail that is likely to be far more effective and will help to maintain high response rates.

  • Target company focus/lead profiling

    One problem with taking a multi-channel approach that involves phone calls is that phone calls need to be made by real people with high marginal costs. Sending 5,000 emails costs about the same as sending 1,000 emails. Making 5,000 phone calls costs about five times as much as making 1,000 phone calls. So the implications of this is that you need to be very careful about who you're calling.

    You can start by focusing on "Target Companies", those companies that match your Ideal Customer Profile, and are therefore more likely to buy from you. Then you need to profile your prospects via lead scoring so that you only allocate your phone and sales resources to your best leads.