Finding A Combination For Success

Posted by on February 11th, 2010

iStock_000007422541SmallWe were recently asked to weigh in on a relatively new and untested email program that a client was considering using us to implement.  At the client’s request our initial discussions focused largely on the email message and more specifically on the proposed design including creative and copy.  In tandem with these conversation however was the fact that that there were many other facets of the proposed pilot program beyond creative that were at least equally important to the overall success of this initiative.

These conversations in turn led us back to the somewhat more basic questions of what were the specific goals of the program and how would we know if our efforts were successful.  After all, budgets had already been set, timelines drawn up and test structures loosely defined.  Shouldn’t the program’s goal or goals have been clearly defined somewhere or at the very least, obvious to those managing it?  While the answer to that question is just as obvious, not knowing what the real objectives are is becoming more and more common and more and more the norm.

In this case the stated objective was to see if we could generate sales using email and do so cost effectively. And as stated, the proposition itself was somewhat flawed in that the answer was essentially yes or no, the answer did not address issues of how much we could sell nor did it identify potential channel conflicts or possible operational issues which might arise. The plan was to send an email message to an nth name sample of the file in three different waves using a different creative approach in each wave.  If the first message produced an acceptable result, we were successful.  If not, then we’d have to act fast to help ensure that the second and third waves were successful. In other words as the effort was structured we had three shots and three shots only to prove our success.  And that’s a recipe for failure.

With our client’s help we’ve managed to segment their entire file using those old tried and true direct marketing metrics called Recency(R), Frequency (F), Amount(M) and Type (T).  Do customers who recently bought have a greater or lesser propensity to buy today than those who bought a long time ago?  Do customers who bought 5+ products or services in the past 3 years respond differently to your offers than those who are one-time buyers?  Do those who’ve spent $500+ with you over the last x months respond differently than those who have spent $3 or less?   Do those who bought widgets behave differently than those who bought snidgets?

As a result of this type of thinking, we now have 24+ opportunities to succeed in the first wave alone where we previously had just one…we have increased the likelihood that at least one of these combinations of RFMT will be at or below the acceptable cost threshold and therefore enable us to successfully achieve our efficiency goal in wave 1, validate it in wave 2 and refine it in wave 3.  Has it required more work?  Absolutely.  Has it increased our chances of success? No question about it, by 2,400+%.  Has it guaranteed success?  No, but it has certainly provided a far better approach with far greater take-aways and key learnings than would otherwise have been achieved.

So why do so few email marketers today ignore the RFMT metrics?  If I had to guess it’s probable the combination of it requiring more work and the fact that email is still relatively inexpensive.   When gasoline was a quarter a gallon, nobody was talking about smaller engines let alone fuel efficiency.

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