A scary story for Hallowe’en

6 minute read


Are there people like me lurking in your database?

According to some great research (undertaken by us in our annual Email Benchmark Report) just 22% (actually 22.87%) is the average open rate for marketing emails sent through the Sign-Up.to platform in the UK. If that’s not enough, only 3.26% click through to included content links. And it’s not like we’re touting internet brides or notifying people unclaimed suitcases of cash in Nigeria! This is with fully opted-in, permission based data, sent by respectable marketing people like you and me. Put another way, that’s a huge majority of people who have actively requested to receive information but who don’t open it and certainly don’t care enough to read more (or even for that matter to unsubscribe).

To me that’s scary data. You’ve got good intentions, you’re 100% legal and you’ve followed a solid permission strategy. So what’s gone wrong?

There’s a common myth that permission allows you to send what you like to your subscribers. Wrong. It allows you to send what they like, and that’s a big difference. In fact if you follow the true definition of permission it ‘allows’ nothing – it merely grants you the privilege to communicate, and then only with anticipated, personal and relevant messages.

Here’s a case. I’m a member of a well-known chain of sports and leisure centres (I’ll spare their blushes). The facilities are first class, the staff are great and I visit nearly every day. I’m a happy customer – I’d go so far as to say I’m a brand advocate. As a 100% permission subscriber I’m fully signed up to their communications. I’ve even white-listed their from-address. So as a subscriber, in many ways I’m as good as it gets.

So why don’t I engage with their email campaigns? It’s simple. Relevance.

While I welcome contact about my membership, occasional service updates and timely alerts (it’s so disappointing to arrive when the pool is closed for maintenance) I have no interest in ladies only Yoga for the over 60’s, the opening of a new flagship centre in Cornwall, or a 50% discount joining offer for new members only (especially that!). I also don’t recall asking for product news from their skin care partners or latest offers from their preferred hire car agents. Duh! There are no options for selective information so it’s receive all or nothing, and there’s no attempt to understand or target information according to my individual needs. My permission is being abused, and as much as I enjoy my daily swim I’m afraid I have become a serial email deleter. Sorry!

So what’s scary? Well, two things.

Firstly, you will almost certainly have people like me lurking in your database. Everything seems in order. We are opted in and we probably open your messages (at least to delete them), so we look good on your campaign metrics, but we are far from engaged. We are on the slippery slope from brand advocate to passive to detractor, and that’s scary for your business. If only you knew!

Secondly, it’s easy to fix, but few do.

Collecting profiling data about your subscribers is a simple task, and much of is already there or can be obtained automatically. In my case my membership status, location, age, sex, and usage history are all already available, tucked away gathering dust in a CRM system. Integrating your marketing campaigns with your CRM instantly makes all of this data available. Then all you need to do is use it intelligently.

And that’s easy too. Segment your data to create specific audiences and use these to create and target highly relevant campaigns. You can even automate future messages according to my previous responses.

So, unamed gym chain, are you listening? With relevance sorted, I’m engaged again, and I’m I’m out there telling my friends and family what a great company you are.

Let’s not kid ourselves. I know that it’s not spontaneous, and I know it’s not a personal email from you to me, but I don’t mind. I’d rather it was timely and relevant and that you were at least trying. And don’t forget to offer profile options so I can fine tune my own subscription options.

Actually, there’s a third scary point. 22% open is the average result. If you are still sending untargeted emails to a general audience then chances are you are doing worse than this. Most scary, your competitors could be doing significantly better.

It’s Hallowe’en tomorrow. Sleep well!