E-mail: Marketing’s Neglected, Ugly Stepchild

By May 21, 2007

(Magilla Marketing) A significant percentage of marketers who use e-mail do not care what their outbound messages look like, according to a recent study by online marketing services firm eROI.

Sixty-nine percent of marketers surveyed said that how their e-mail’s design reflects their brand is very important, and 68% said that making sure e-mail is coded to work across all e-mail clients, or readers, is very important, according to eROI.

Both those numbers mean the majority of marketers are greatly concerned with how their messages appear once they reach people’s inboxes. But they also mean that one-third of the 211 e-mail marketers surveyed aren’t all that concerned with their messages’ appearance.

This survey comes on the heels of two studies in March—from the Email Experience Council and JupiterResearch—that determined that marketers do not have common definitions of basic e-mail metrics and that most aren’t measuring any of the common success-gauging metrics, such as average order sizes and revenue per subscriber.

In eROI’s study, 87% and 81% of marketers said relevancy and deliverability are very important, respectively. So while marketers obsess over getting into the inbox with relevant content, comparatively few care what their messages look like once they arrive.

“E-mail design is an often overlooked element in e-mail marketing,” said eROI’s report on the study. “Many marketers feel that if you just get it out the door or to the inbox it will work.”

Yet e-mail that hasn’t been designed to work across all clients is less likely to succeed at whatever it was supposed to do.

“When someone looks at a broken e-mail, there’s a higher propensity for them to label it as spam,” says eROI analyst Jeff Mills. “Unless there’s a strong brand affiliation, you’re making it worse on yourself. It’s already hard enough [to communicate with customers] with image blocking.”

Also, while 87% of respondents said relevancy is important, just 55% said proper e-mail segmentation is important. So apparently a lot of marketers want to be relevant, but only in the broadest sense. This finding is in alignment with the repeated complaints of e-mail service providers that one of their biggest challenges is convincing clients they shouldn’t mail every pitch to their whole file.

And in another eyebrow-raising finding, just 59% of the marketers surveyed said having the call to action appear above the fold in an e-mail is very important.

While putting the offer above the fold would be second nature to anyone with a direct marketing background, many e-mail marketing managers don’t think of themselves as direct marketers, says Mills.

“A lot of e-mail marketing people want to distance themselves from direct mail because they’re thinking, Look how much better we are,” Mills says. “In fact, you go back and you look at the direct mail world and you discover that people started putting the offer that was on the inside of the envelope onto the outside of the envelope. There’s a reason they started doing that.”