Recent reports indicate that if you came to this blog post from my enewsletter, you’re part of the 77% who like to receive marketing information by email. If you came to it from my Facebook post, you’re one of the 4%(!) who want to be marketed to that way. If you came to it by my tweet about it, well, you’re a one percenter. And my link from my LinkedIn account doesn’t even register, from the survey’s point of view.
What survey is claiming all this? ExactTarget’s 2012 Channel Preference Survey, which this spring “asked almost 1,500 US online consumers (age 15 and up) about how they prefer to get permission-based marketing messages.” Email was the preference by a landslide; the second preference, direct mail, was at 9%. Text messaging took third place at 5%. Marketland.com does a nice analysis of the survey here.
The survey also found that 66% of respondents made a purchase as a result of the marketing message in their email, followed closely by 65% from direct mail (which for the record, lumps letters, catalogs and postcards as one and the same). A distant third place was by phone, at 24%. Facebook took fourth place (20%), followed by text messaging by cell phone (16%), a mobile app (10%), Twitter (6%) and LinkedIn (4%). Interesting, another new study detailed on Marketland.com, this time by marketing agency Knotice, finds that 27% of emails are opened on a phone, and rising. So while emails are king, they should be optimized to be seen on the little bitty cell phone screen.
Now, before you start wondering why the heck you’re allotting time and money to a Facebook and Twitter presence, let me point out that consumers do like to follow brands on these platforms (see analysis of recent studies here and here). The ExactTarget study also found out that respondents aged 15 to 34 were more likely to prefer text and social media than email, so the current popularity of email may dwindle as that generation influences the generation of buyers behind it.
And whether it’s in an email or on a social media platform, how do you nudge the contact from mere reader to purchaser? Again I turn to Marketland.com, which details a 2011 study from Constant Contact and Chadwick Martin Bailey: “Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they subscribe to a company mailing list to get discounts and special offers, while 41% said that’s why they ‘like’ a company’s Facebook page. In both cases, it was the No. 1 reason consumers take those actions.” That study found that “too much contact” — too many emails or irrelevant content — drives them away. The old “quality over quantity” adage definitely applies.
Marketland.com is my hero this week, because the results it reports from yet another study (from marketing software provider Silverpop) talks about how email “open rates are falling, but click-through rates are on the rise.” In other words, the people who are reading your emails are responding, even if there aren’t as many of them. And it just serves to underscore what a mixed bag online marketing of all stripes can be.
Keeping in mind that the needlearts and crafts industries tend to skew older and more social (especially on platforms like Ravelry and Etsy, which the surveys obviously cannot consider with these general-population respondents), I suggest you take a look at your marketing program and see whether you’re meeting your readers’ needs:
- Look at the open rate of newsletters and the activity of your social media pages. Are your numbers closely resembling the results of the study? Chances are good that they are.
- Include a call to action as often as possible in your communications. It’s true that readers will get sales fatigue if every Facebook post is telling them what’s being discounted daily, but slipping those kinds of posts in as warranted does make sense. (Don’t forget to track the response — see No. 3.) In the newsletter or information blast, give them a reason to read. I offer as an example my client Barbara Grossman, who runs the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival. Because the Festival is a spring event, there isn’t as much incentive for her enewsletter readers to open up an email from her in, say, mid-summer (well, the fall Knittreat is a good reason, but I digress!). Barb does pull in the readership by including special sweepstakes offers, book reviews and free patterns from partnering vendors and designers each issue. Feedback indicates that readers look forward to these exclusive goodies (and get updated info on the Festival as it draws ever-closer), while vendor partners look forward to the extra exposure it gives them.
- Think before you act. As the Constant Contact/Chadwick Martin Bailey study underscores, emailing or posting incessently or with worthless content is a turn-off on any platform.
- Track all leads. Is there a true spike in orders a day or two after a postcard mailing, eblast or Facebook announcement goes out? Are you adding to your order form page a field that says “How did you hear about us?” — or better yet, “Would you like to be notified about upcoming sales and announcements? How would you like to be notified?” and offer several options? Are you asking it on the phone, or making it part of your email signature to “sign up for our enewsletter, follow us on Facebook,” etc.?
- Don’t stay complacent. These studies that are true today might yield different answers a few months from now. We must also keep in mind that they are pulling a fairly generic audience, not a more niche one like that on your mailing list. But just as you do in person or over the phone, keep a rapport with your current (and potential) customers, and you’ll go far.
Now, it’s your turn: Share your insights, agreement, arguments and opinions by sounding off below, or emailing me feedback. And oh yeah, I still answer the phone, too.