The Incredible Power Of Email As A Communications Channel

According to my grandparents, there was never any shortage of colorful characters on the political scene in New York. I’m told none was more engaging than Mayor Ed Koch. Koch presided over a city in transition, with factions representing every niche in this very diverse city demanding his attention and support. No elected official had more on his or her plate to deal with.

A vital part of the love affair the city had for this mayor was his unflappable demeanor and candor in dealing with the myriad crises that came his way. Never shy about being among his constituents, he had a signature way of greeting everyone. It was always the same. “How’m I doing?” he’d blurt out, as his way of saying hello and connecting with the people he served.

With Koch, the question was much more than a greeting. He wanted everyone to know he was genuinely interested and concerned with their judgment. He had the confidence to know there were many good things his administration had done, many successful programs to improve life. But he was more interested in work yet to be done. What was on the minds of his “customers”? How could he improve his service to them? He was always probing, always listening to those who may have been overlooked or taken advantage of.

Much has been written here and elsewhere about the incredible power of email as a communications channel. There are numerous examples of strategies that leverage email’s ability to acquire new customers; build stronger, more profitable relationships with existing customers; win back those who may have drifted away due to a lack of attention; or any number of problems. We cite chapter and verse case studies about open and click-through rates, sales conversions, and ROI (define) analysis.

Many of us use advanced analytic packages to map individuals’ progress from email to website to understand where folks travel on the route to a transaction. And we pour thousands of dollars into reshaping our websites, call centers, and point-of-sale materials based on this data. A great deal of attention is paid to active customers in the database. Meetings are held to craft strategies that will drive even more incremental dollars from this active, loyal base of customers.

Common Reasons Why Your Email Marketing Strategy Isn’t Working


For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $38: source.

Take this simple test. Think of the size of your customer database; folks for whom you currently have email addresses. Got the number? Great. Now, from that base of email customers, think about what percentage of them could be deemed active.

Each company has its own parameters to determine customer activity: number of transactions; visits over the last 30, 60, 90 days, and so forth. We’re almost done. If you’re honest in these calculations, you’ll probably come to an understanding relative to the number and percentage of overall customers in your database who are active versus those who are either significantly less active or, in many cases, not active at all.

Do you know what percentage and how many of the customers in your database have at least opened an email message from you in the last six months?

Have you fallen into the what-I-don’t-know-won’t-hurt-me syndrome? Are you one of those folks who continue to avoid the Koch Question: how ‘am I doing? Are you satisfied with the fact that potentially 50 to 75 percent of your customer file isn’t taking the actions that would make them better customers? One of those people who keep telling the higher-ups, “Things are great! E-commerce continues to grow each year exponentially.”

The numbers are okay, and sales keep improving. Why rock the boat? Instead of dealing with the issue around the inactivity in the bulk of your customer file, you’d much rather spend boatloads of cash on acquisition strategies to regain customer transactions from folks who are already in your file. It’s like turning up the car radio so you can’t hear the problem with the muffler.

It’s time to stop deluding yourself, and your company, that all’s right with the world. Focus on addressing the problem. Those who directly send this challenge find the inactive customer problem can be hard work, but the dividends are enormous.

Throughout 2018 I developed five steps to solve the problem,

Five Email Optimization Best Practices


Understand the source of your customer data and adopt a clear set of metrics to determine customer activity. It’s essential to map customers with your data to build profiles for the future.

  1. Look at each campaign run in the last 30 days to assess the creative’s and offer’s performance. Which segments and individuals opened your message and took the desired action to consummate a transaction?
  2. Take an even closer look at customer segments, starting with your most active segment, and map whether there were openers and converters in this campaign. If a traditionally best-performing segment isn’t responsive to current campaigns, you have a more significant problem than you might think.
  3. Analyze your customer database for the most non-responsive members. Right now, they’re taking up space in your database. It’s time to develop a strategy to re-engage these customers in some sort of dialogue if you want any chance of reviving this relationship.
  4. Email technology allows you to run real-time tests with subject lines and dynamic content to re-engage inactive customers. If you don’t take advantage of this capability, you’ll doom these folks to the lost customer trash bin. And you’ll throw away any opportunity of generating incremental revenue from this segment, which once either purchased or expressed interest in buying from your company.
  5. Email communication provides direct marketers an incredible insight not available in other media, with the possible exception of face-to-face selling. Print and direct mail can provide marketers with useful information about audience segments that take action when materials are received. But, it can give very little insight into those who receive and don’t respond.

Wrapping Up: Stop Repeating The Same Mistakes

As a marketer, you can continue to view email in the same fashion as direct mail or any other broadcast medium and in doing so minimize the channel’s value. Or you can focus on the data’s incredible insight into customers who aren’t responding to your campaigns and your ability to chart strategies to re-engage them. You can work to keep engagement at the highest levels.

Failure to address the inactive or non-optimal performing segment of your customer database signals to your competitors that your one-time customers are ripe for the picking.

Protect yourself and your revenue.

D'Vaughn Bell
D'Vaughn Marqui Bell is a millennial entrepreneur, author and businessman. As CEO of Marqui Management he is responsible for day to day operations, management and insight. He continues his leadership development and training for the millennial generation at his website: D'Vaughn Bell

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