“To Do Is to Dare,” but It Doesn’t All Have to Be About Risk


Steve Denner

Marketing fails will inevitably happen every once in a while, but if you take care to improve your data and your strategy, you can succeed more often.

It’s something all marketing and PR professionals hope to avoid: a failed campaign. Unfortunately, it’s something most marketers have to deal with at some stage in their careers. Dealing with the stress involved in the planning, research, and launch of an event or product, only for it to fail to deliver the results you had hoped for, is heartbreaking. But it’s worth remembering that even the biggest and best brands are susceptible to a marketing fail.

There is no better example than Apple’s recent launch of its eagerly anticipated iPhone 6. To coincide with the release of the new smartphone, U2’s new album, “Songs of Innocence,” was automatically downloaded to 500 million iTunes customers’ accounts worldwide by Apple. Unfortunately, the technology giant had not counted on the public backlash against its giveaway. A swath of people took to social media to voice their disapproval at having no choice in the matter and then being unable to remove it from their phone. As the clamour grew, Apple was forced into issuing a new tool to wipe the songs from libraries less than a week after the initial announcement: far from ideal.

The point is that not every campaign, large scale or not, is going to generate the results we crave. And just because the failure isn’t on a global scale, as Apple’s was, it doesn’t stop it smarting. This feeling is amplified when applied to automated email marketing campaigns, when smart technology conspires to make us look a bit stupid. But misery loves company, and automation issues seem to be a fairly common challenge. Recent research conducted by Adestra reveals that just 4 percent of marketers describe their companies’ email marketing programmes as “successful.”

So where are businesses going wrong, and what can they do to avoid systematic failure?

Two of the three most common barriers to effective email marketing relate specifically to a lack of quality data, the first being poor email databases (55 percent) and the other, a lack of segmentation (42 percent).

Another core issue is a lack of strategy (48 percent), which is a contributing factor to why some companies have such a problem with data. Without a coordinated strategy or collection policy, companies often find themselves drawing on outdated or inaccurate data.

Due to factors such as people changing jobs, churn rates of existing lists can be quite high, so lists need constant cleansing and data building. Another common issue is that brands with multiple websites have different collection policies for each, which can lead to conflicts as data is drawn from multiple sources.

Five Top Tips to Improve Your Data:

  • Reactivate lapsed readers. If a contact hasn’t opened your email in six months, the chances are they won’t unless you intelligently target their apathy.
  • Do not harvest emails. Too many people augment their lists with emails found on websites, for example. This will hurt your sender reputation and infuriate your prospects.
  • Enter new leads into an automated nurturing program. Upon ingestion of new data, don’t start hard selling immediately – gradually introduce people to your brands, products, and voices.
  • Contact hard bounces via other channels. If a percentage of your email list is hard-bouncing, call these people to obtain new details.
  • Capture new data from everywhere (SMS, social media, offline advertising). Encourage people into your list first and then focus on selling to them.

In terms of your strategy, it is easy to overlook list building to focus on overall campaign objectives, but adding quality data to an in-house list is one of the easiest ways to increase email ROI. In recent years, marketers have had to deal with reduced budgets due to economic pressures and have often lost sight of the bigger picture. But as budgets are now starting to recover, marketers’ focus should be on constant testing and measurement, as follows:

Five Tips to Improve Your Strategy:

  • Don’t put email in a silo. Link in email touch points with those of other channels to gain successful synergies.
  • Set your email KPIs and constantly measure results. Never be satisfied with the status quo – if you aren’t improving, you’re getting worse.
  • Create a culture of continuous improvement. Make sure you are always testing, measuring, and ploughing forward with the results.
  • Target recipients on email results. Strictly looking at email ROI doesn’t give the full picture – avoid list saturation by targeting recipients on conversions, clicks, opens, or KPIs.
  • Measure email results – across communication type, not just brand.