We used Microsoft Exchange for our email services for many years. We received lot of spam despite all spam filters from Microsoft and Symantec. So I set my Outlook to consider everything as junk, unless I whitelisted the sender. Worked great for existing contacts, but legitimate mail from new contacts were buried to the junk mail folder, or worse, to Exchange's spam quarantine. Uups! Lot of manual work then.
Then we changed to Google Apps for Business late last year. And the spam problem was all gone. Vanished in one day. Clean inbox with legitimate mail and spam folder that's all spam, but very few of that. Great! Lot's of time saved from daily email management.
But the spam problem had hided another email marketing problem: Legitimate, irrelevant mass email marketing that is. From companies I have done business with, either personally or professionally. A lot of legitimate irrelevant mass email marketing. I haven't noticed it before, as I spent so much time fighting the spam problem on that junk mail folder. But now I can see it clearly. I could got 10 mails within 1 hour.
During the last month, I have unsubscribed or denied marketing from more than 50 companies. I am still getting more legitimate, irrelevant marketing than regular email, but it's getting more manageable. Maybe the next month and 50 more unsubscribe will solve this problem.Your customers are fighting with this same problem. Spam from unknowns and irrelevant mass email marketing from businesses they know. Like yours.
Legitimate and irrelevant emails
The mail is spam, if you don't have the recipient's permission to send it. It's legitimate if you do.
The mail is relevant if it contains information the recipient finds interesting and it's irrelevant if it's only you who finds it interesting.
Unfortunately mass email marketing is seldom relevant because your customers have very different needs. As a media, email cannot contain many products. If you send the same mail to your whole list, how probable do you think it is that you find 3 products to your mail so that at least one interests most of your readers a bit. Close to 0%! Maybe that's the problem to your low success rate? Irrelevancy.
Adding products helps a bit, but you still have one subject and not much space "above the fold". People make the decision to read your mail first on the sender, then subject and then a quick preview of the mail. If you fail a checkpoint, you are gone. The email is usually previewed without images and in contrained space showing only the top of your email. Above the fold, they used to say, to mimic language from era of printed mails folded on envelopes.
Personalization is not a answer
"Dear Antti," does not make a email more relevant. The customer knows you already and expect you to know him or her too. No extra relevancy to be gained here. Do say the customer name if you have something relevant to say, but do leave it out if you don't. Getting personal but not getting personal says you are one of those sleazy (sales)people that always call you on your first name like they had known you for years even if you just met. You never do business with them, do you?
Segmenting, that doesn't solve a thing.
Segmenting is the next idea of getting more personal, more relevant.
Many have tried, but few do it. Why? In most businesses, a segment is not relevant enough to a customer. There is still too much different needs in a segment for you to get relevant with only handful of products. And the content production is really a pain. Instead of designing one email, you might be designing 5 emails. Instead of writing about 3 products, you might be writing about 15 products. Try to do that every month. Or every two weeks.
Some businesses do have natural segments where the needs within a segment are very similar. But most don't.
So if you are looking for a email tool, don't get excited about the segmenting tools. You won't be using them much.
So what it takes to get relevant?
This is of course a subject too large to cover in a post. But to keep things short, there are few things can make a email relevant and few things that you need to actually get there.
It's about showing on customer's inbox on the right time with right offer. Simple, yet so difficult.
Let's start with the timing. Getting on the inbox on the right moment is not about scheduling your post, although there of course are better or worse times to do so. It's about getting there when the customer is in the right mind. If a customer has just ordered a new car, there might be a very good change to sell service contract, insurance or some retrofit options. Very good indeed. But not many days. If the customer has bought a flight, maybe he or she is missing a rent car, hotel or insurance. But again for not long. This is about triggering email marketing based on customer action.
Triggering helps to get there on the right time, but it's does not help to activate your in-actives. You need ways to send relevant content and here you'll need customer transactions and lots of content.
Customer transactions, whether actual purchases or web views, shows where customer's interests are. If these are compared to what others with the same purchase(s) have bought or viewed, you are very close of having your relevant products to that customer.
But you need a lot of content so that you find some content to put on that email based on the relevant products you just identified. Here e-commerce players have the advantage of having all products listed on their site. If you start from your top 30 products and expand from there on, you are getting more relevant as you go. And remember, you don't need to have a offer in price, it's the game of being relevant you are in. Offering the right product at the right time will get you a sale even if you offer it on the standard price.
Then you'll need a tool that runs this for you. You will find that popular email marketing tools are all about mass email marketing. Build you own or wait for Loyalistic Customer Trainer coming to cloud near you soon. But that's another story to be told later.