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Ken Magill

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Face It: Your Email Competes With Everything


By Ken Magill

One big takeaway from Apsis’ E+mail Marketing Evolved conference in Stockholm, Sweden last week: Scandinavian email marketers face the exact same challenges as North Americans.

They’re just mostly taller and blonder.

For example, one of the questions during a panel discussion at the end of the event with three other presenters and I was: “How do we get our email to stand out from all the clutter in people’s inboxes?”

I blathered something along the lines of: “Focus on your subject line. Put a compelling offer in it. It’s the one thing you can count on everyone seeing.”

The other panelists made a better point, however. They were author, speaker and entrepreneur Peter Shankman, vice president of services and principal consultant at the Relevancy Group, Chris Marriott and marketing expert Steve Kemish.

They pointed out that marketing email doesn’t just compete with other email. It competes with television and all other forms of marketing and advertising.

I sat there wishing I had been that fast on my feet.

In hindsight, though, I’d like to extend that point a little further. Email marketing doesn’t just compete with other forms of advertising. It competes with every other distraction in recipients’ lives.

It competes with recipients’ families. It competes with their jobs. It competes with paying the bills. It competes with going to the fridge and getting a beer.

There’s an old saying in direct marketing that applies to email, as well: People aren’t stupid. They’re busy.

So what do we do with that information? Focus on your subject line. Put a compelling offer in it. It’s the one thing you can count on everyone seeing.

Maybe I’m not as slow witted as I thought.

Another universal question that came up was: “How can we make sure email gets the credit it deserves so it can get the resources it needs?”

I recommended demonstrating to managers of other sales channels how email boosts their sales. I said something along the lines of: Get the other managers on your side and you’ve gone a long way toward getting upper management to give the email program more backing. Or at least that’s what I remember saying.

Also, there’s an old direct marketing tactic that could—and probably somewhere does—apply to email. When someone makes a purchase on one channel and they can be identified, the merchant can cross reference their files and see if the person received communications from the other channels and allocate credit accordingly.

So if, say, someone made an in-store purchase and supplied their loyalty card information, the merchant could check to see if that person received a catalog within the previous 30 days. If so, the merchant could assign a percentage of credit for the sale to the catalog.

How large a percentage is, of course, a judgment call. The trick is—I’m told—to suppress a segment of the customer file from getting the catalog and compare their non-catalog purchases to the non-catalog purchases of those who received the catalog. If the in-store purchases of those who received the catalog are higher than those who didn’t, the catalog should get some credit.

The same principle may apply to email. If anyone out there is doing anything like this with email, I’d love to hear from you:

In any case, I have put the credit/resources question to Bill McCloskey’s Only Influencers digital marketing discussion list. If I get any answers, I'll publish them here.

Another seemingly universal question came up during cocktails after the event: “I’ve got a client who has 8 million email addresses, many of which haven’t been mailed for years. Now the client wants to reactivate them all. What should we do?”


Marriott’s advice: Among other things, manage the client’s expectations.

Another thing I learned last week—this one unrelated to email—is if you plan on a night of drinking in a Swedish bar, take out a second mortgage. Holy crap, liquor’s expensive there.

One Swede told me the thinking behind the jacked-up bar prices is that the extra money can go to the government to help pay for health issues associated with heavy drinking.

She said, however, that Swedes don’t drink any less as a result. They simply drink at home for most of the night and then go out for one drink at last call.

As a former bartender, I can say it would be pretty irritating to get slammed by a bunch of drunks just before closing who haven’t been tipping you on the way to their current obnoxious state.


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