Which enterprise email management tool should you use?

Every so often I am asked to recommend an email marketing solution by a client. My usual response is to ask the client what they plan to do with it. Of course there is an obvious answer! – send email. Email marketing is however one of those areas that I regard as having extremely low barriers to entry, low short-term tangible costs, and is seemingly extremely easy to undertake. Indeed, I have in the past talked with colleagues whose idea of email marketing is to regularly send out blanket mailings to their entire database without much regard to list segmentation, identifying the needs or interests of the recipients. This approach often leads to what I, (and I believe others), term the ‘great disappearing list’. Either unsubscribes rocket, or more often than not,  recipients simply ignore the emails and response rates collapse (if there were even any to begin with).

Effective email marketing to my mind is part art form, part science. To be truly effective and achieve the results you desire, the growth over time of a highly responsive yet growing list, requires incredible discipline. You must regard each and every email address not as an entry on a database but as distinct individuals with their own wants and interests, personalities even. Only by regarding your email database in this way can you truly understand that email ‘enlightment’ can be truly achieved. Your ultimate goal should be the establishment of two way channels of communication with each and every recipient.

Of course, many of these relationships are actually achieved by proxy. To explain, often the relationship you are actually trying to forge may not be with you, but your ‘brand’ or in the B2B space that I usually operate, with the recipients designated Sales Contact. I often seek to achieve this by following the approach pioneered by Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop called Customer Communication Management (CCM). Indeed, I touched on CCM in an earlier post where I talked about the issue of frequency and how ‘often’ you can email contacts.

But how do you know that you have achieved email ‘nirvana’? Quite simply when your email marketing efforts are pushed to the center of your relationship efforts. Email can be positioned in this way because of the incredible flexibility it can provide. It can act as:

  • The glue that puts sales opportunities in front of your Sales Team – by watching how people interact with communications
  • A market research tool – by feeding research pieces to key audience segments and then watching how they respond
  • As a tool for the dissemination of information – messages can go viral and be forwarded on to friends, family or colleagues
  • As a business retention tool – to either deal with news (good or otherwise) head on, or to stay on top of fast moving events

Key however to putting email at the heart of your distribution and relationship efforts is the strategy that you follow. You must pay careful attention to the messages you put out, not only in terms of content but who you are sending them to. Many organisations fail to look at communications from the perspective of the recipient. I simply look at it in the following way: putting myself in the recipients position, would I be interested in receiving the message I am intending to send to them. If the answer is no, no matter how ‘good’ the message is, it should not be sent.

Going back to my original point, which email tool would I recommend, I usually reply, to be honest, in many respects, it does not matter. It is how you use the technology, the communication strategy that you follow, that truly determines the success of your email marketing. I am glad to be able to say I have learnt this the hard way – by working over the years with some real email marketing ‘stinkers’. Despite this I was able to achieve incredible results by leveraging the solution to best effect. To my mind a skilled workman need not have to have the best tool available – he simply needs to know how to use what he has to hand effectively.

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