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Blasphemy: Segment? Pshaw! Just Send More, Says Quist

3/19/13

By Ken Magill

Want to make more money with your email program? Simple. Send more of it.

That was the gist of the message Dela Quist delivered in a wide-ranging presentation last week to members of the Direct Marketing Club of New York.

According to Quist, CEO of email marketing agency Alchemy Worx, one of the biggest issues crippling the permission-based email-marketing industry is “fear self loathing” where its practitioners are too busy bending over backwards to avoid being called spammers.

He began his presentation at New York City’s Yale Club with an eye-opening infographic illustrating just how ubiquitous email is compared to other online activities.

“There are just over 3 billion email addresses in the world, and on an average day, 188 billion, nearly 200 billion messages are sent,” he said. “That’s staggering. And by the way, that’s not including spam. That’s the legitimate stuff.

“By comparison there are only three billion searches a day,” he said. “And if that infographic was to scale, Twitter wouldn’t exist. It’s too small.

“Email is the only universal application online,” Quist said. “It’s the only thing everybody does. Everything else is a niche compared to email.

“The other thing about email is that anyone without an email address is the digital equivalent of homeless,” he added. “You are excluded from the commercial world if you don’t have a home address. The same is true for email.

“Email by a country mile is the No. 1 way that humans want you to deal with them if you’re selling to them,” he said.

However, he said, asking people if they want more email is “just dumb.

“How many people you know would vote for more billboards on a highway?” he asked. “Ask them: ‘Which method would you like to be contacted by the people who sell?’ and the answer is email.”

Moreover, he said: “Once you have someone’s email address, it frees you from the need of paying a media owner to reach your own customer. Never pay anybody for somebody you already know. … Driving people onto Facebook so [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg can charge you in the future is stupid.

“Given all these facts, why do you want to throw up every time someone says: ‘Send another email’?”

He held up the Obama campaign’s email efforts as an example of an organization sending a boatload of email and succeeding as a result. Obama’s campaign sent astronomically more email to its list than Romney’s.

“He [Obama] sent six in one day,” Quist said. “And you  would think that would be really big in the cloud, but it’s not there because there’s a conspiracy of silence about what really works in email, and that conspiracy is ‘You can send the right message to the right person and send less email than you ever did before and make more money.’ Bullshit. You can’t do that.”

The reason for the conspiracy of silence over what works in email marketing is most of the so-called thought leaders in the industry are selling software and functionality, according to Quist.

“They need to make you feel that you need to do stuff that’s cleverer than have a big list and mail a shedload,” he said.

He conceded there is always a breaking point where an emailer can go too far in terms of frequency, “but no one here is close to it. We’re so afraid of being called spammers, we don’t even try to find the breaking point.”

The Obama camp, Quist said, “is the only reputable sender who stood up and said: ‘We emailed the shit out of our list.’ And it worked.”

Also according to Quist, contrary to conventional wisdom, increasing email frequency decreases unsubscribe rates.

“Why?” he said. “You get the idiots who shouldn’t be on the list off the list because they unsubscribe. I love unsubscribes. Get off my list. You have free will and the opportunity to do so. Get off my list.”

Quist said he once calculated the cost of preventing an unsubscribe for a client.

“It’s nearly $1,000 for everybody you stop unsubscribing,” he said. “Compare that with just sending another email at $1.50 a thousand.

“Don’t send more email is a stupid piece of advice,” Quist said.

“Every rate goes down in email if you send more except for one: revenue per customer,” he added.

He then outlined what he believes should be email marketers’ priorities.

“If I gave you 20 percent more budget [for email] next year, No. 1, grow your list, No. 2, optimize your frequency. Don’t be afraid. You can always rein back if you make a mistake. It’s not a terminal disease when someone unsubscribes.

“No. 3, subject lines. Why? Because more people don’t open your email than do open your email. So what are you doing for the people who don’t open your email? When they finally open it, you can start worrying about creative and content.”

Quist recommended focusing on segmenting and targeting last.

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Dela Quist
Date: 2013-03-20 10:22:37
Subject: Method in The Madness

Hi Ken Thanks for covering my keynote, it was great to see you and meet with the DMCNY members. I would like to take this opportunity to add to your article by providing the data and detail that underpins my thinking, both on the Obama campaign and on my broader philosophy for email. The full Obama analysis and some very persuasive data to prove the points that I made can be found here http://bit.ly/WHyOXa I’d also like to add that just in case anyone reading this if people think that I am just saying “send more” or that “sending more” is the easy option, they would be wrong. To make you subscribers happy to receive more of your emails you must improve every aspect of your campaign - content, targeting, segmentation, etc. Why? Because people’s view on frequency and volume is directly connected to their opinion of the brand. Brand advocates will happily receive 2 or 3 emails a day, while brand opponents might see 2 emails a week as over-mailing. So use your content, use your targeting, use your segmentation and every other tactic available to improve your offering and brand perception. Then you can send more emails and increase your revenue. That’s why it’s harder to implement this strategy well but, as you’ll see in this article, it’s worth it - http://bit.ly/WHyOXa To those who have already responded please take the time to read it
Posted by: Tim Roe
Date: 2013-03-20 05:23:16
Subject: Junk folders of the world unite!

It’s an interesting point about unsubscribes reducing as frequency increases, it happens to feedback loop complaints too. We noticed this phenomenon years ago and we found that this reduction of complaints coincided with junk box placement. We could see this in the greatest detail in Hotmail, because not only did they have a feedback loop process in place, through their SNDS service we could tell where the email went (Junk or Inbox). It seems that once you going into the junk folder, people don’t bother to complain or unsubscribe, they just ignore you. We also noticed that whenever we had fixed a junk box issue for a client, they had a spike of complaints and unsubscribes, as people would now be seeing the email. Luckily this usually came with a corresponding increase in sales and responses. Tim Roe RedEye International
Posted by: Carlo Catajan
Date: 2013-03-19 18:02:59
Subject: Just send more?

If this recommendation were dished out 10 to 15 years ago, it'd be irresponsible and troublesome. With today's dynamic anti-spam, email-volume, and engagement filters, it is surprising that such a cavalier approach is still being remotely considered--much less, advocated--in contemporary email marketing.
Posted by: KS
Date: 2013-03-19 17:27:34
Subject: Interesting points, but...

It seems that using the Obama campaign as the example of why heavy frequency won't hurt you is short-sighted. It's hard to imagine that the typical B2C sender could maintain that heavy frequency without watering-down email ROI over time. A political campaign is heavy for a compressed amount of time, is highly relevant during that time and the recipients are very passionate for the "brand". Those are unique factors and not something that can be held true for most other senders. However I do agree that, in general, mass-blast messaging is still a big component in a successful email program. But from personal experience, I have seen that ISPs will begin to filter you out if you don't have high enough engagement. So without increased emphasis on high-engagement triggered messages, your mass emails may not make it to the inbox at all. There are legitimate reasons for encouraging email marketers to take a more strategic approach because the landscape truly is changing.

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