Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Email Search Optimization (ESO)

A friend of mine was pretty honest when giving me feedback on the emails my company sends him:
"I never read or open your company's emails."
It didn't sound like my friend wasn't interested in what my company had to say. He also didn't seem to be fed up with too much email or advertising from a company. He just said it as a matter of fact.

He continued:
"I do know that I have those emails somewhere in my inbox. And when I need to buy your product I find that email and I make my on-line order from your email onwards."
Now here's a way I hadn't looked at email marketing: Some customers just keep the emails in their inbox, un-opened, for when they want to buy something from you and they can find you.

I have always looked at email marketing as the company reaching out to the customer to try and pull him back to your site. With emails to customers, the company is in control: the company defines when to send, how many times they send, what products to include, if our clients are worthy of a promotion, etc, etc. We see the client as the passive receiver of the email, and he can do what the company wants (open the email, read the email and buy) or ignore your communications (which about 90% of your clients tend to do with your emails).

Now my friend was telling me a complete new way of looking at email: the client is now in control, and he doesn't want to follow the company's lead. He opens the email when he wants, he doesn't give a damn about how great your products, promotions or designs are. He just uses the email as a way to come to your site and to buy what he already knew he was going to buy. It's very similar to a bookmark: people keep preferred links to pages as a bookmark to come back to that page pretty quick.

It explains various things I've noticed over the last couple of years:

  • Outcomes of emails are sometimes very unpredictable: your email can focus on one product, or give the customer a specific promotion. But chances are that they just go on and buy what they were already going to buy and don't bother with your great design or splendid campaign.
  • I've seen people open their Christmas email in May and actually buy something, although the products announced in the email weren't available anymore.
  • In some cases I've noticed that more then 50% of the clicks on the email sent are on the header-logo: clients don't even bother to read or scan your content, they just open the email, click and move on from there.
  • A lot of what I wrote last week about the importance of transactional emails can be explained by this.
  • I've also seen that sending more emails can increase your sales of customers coming from emails, but it usually takes away sales from clients coming from other sources.

All this does put email better in perspective: your client is not a passive number in your data base that will jump up and do whatever you want them to do when you send them an email.

Email Search Optimization?

This also opens a new discussion of email-findability. Companies think that clients who already know what they want, search for your brand on Google. That's why company's spend so much time and effort of appearing on the first results in search.

But maybe we have to start thinking about how easy it is to be findable in the inbox of your customers. Everybody now has a spam-email where all the campaign emails enter. Your email will probably end there together with literally thousands of other emails. To be found there when your client is ready to use the email to find your site might require a different approach then sending your daily 'best offers' email. Maybe it's time to start a new sort of internet marketing. Email Search Optimization.

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