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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Are Indian Marketers adopting the best practices in email marketing?

I am receiving newsletters from the various agencies and companies who are into online marketing over a couple of months.

As a professional worked for large global online marketing companies and their clients who manage global brands, I see Indian online marketers are still at a nascent stage in using the media.

Looking at over several newsletters, alerts, marketing campaigns from several companies, I observe the following issues.

1. Target Selection
Segmenting the customer profiles based on demographics, preferences and purchase behaviors is not being done by Indian marketers. Indian Marketers send every customer everything they want to sell or inform. What it means to consumers? Spam! Consumers stop reading the messages, ignore them or classify it as spam.

Hence Marketers have to change their traditional mindset from mass advertising through print and electronic media when they want to adopt to online marketing. Selecting your target audience and carefully positioning your offering is more important than mass advertising.

2. Personalization
Email Marketing provides better personalization features for each individual. Email itself is meant for one-on-One communication. However most of the Indian Marketers tend to ignore it and send non-personalised messages, as though they are sending the message for masses.

Not addressing the recipient in the message doesn't create any relationship or value to the consumer. The first thing marketer has to do in direct marketing is to develop the relationship, before he could even offer him anything.

3. Message Content
Direct Marketers have to pay special attention to the content in the message. The content has to bring out clearly the value proposition, excite the consumer and create interest in your offering.

When looked at the content being sent out by Indian Marketers, they fall into 2 extreme mindsets. One is very simple text messages and other rich images. Both are bad. Simple text messages doesn't convey everything the marketer has to convey. They can't create much interest in consumer minds. Sending graphic images requires high bandwidth and many ISPs block images. It may take several minutes to download the image before reading them.

Rich HTML messages with judicious use of text, images and links can provide a compelling interest with consumers. They are easy to read and when consumers need more information they can click on any link and visit the marketers website for more information. The message sizes are also optimal. The consumers can start reading the text in the messages, even before the images are being rendered on the email client.

Marketers also get rich metrics on opens, clicks on all links, and landings on their websites and further web site analytics through the navigation of the consumers on the websites through the landing pages. The landing pages further can be optimised for creating more interest with offers, etc.

4. Giving the control back to Consumers
When I looked at the messages sent by Indian Marketers, very few provide the option to reply back to a reply-to address, opt-out, send viral marketing messages, putting the physical address of the company/marketer who is sending the message, change preferences, etc.

According to CAN-SPAM act, any message not following the rules for message content will be classified as SPAM. The ISPs may bounce such messages, block the sender domain from sending emails or put it in spam folders. What it means to Direct Marketers, is that their deliverability (number of emails delivered to consumer inboxes/total number of emails sent) will suffer.

5. Email Frequency
Some marketers flood emails in a day thinking consumers will read all of them, just like the 30 second ads that get repeated on TV every 5 minutes. While Television viewers have no option, rather view them, but thanks to new devices like Tivo can allow to skip the ads, online consumers have the power to delete or move those to Junk/Spam folders without even opening them. This may land the marketer in trouble, as ISPs will now treat the senders as Spammers, because their readers are not reading those messages.

Hence Indian Marketers have to start listening to consumers on how many messages they can read in a day/week/month. If a particular message has been sent, when can they send the same message again if it is not opened or clicked? or even can they send an other offer, if another offer has been sent earlier and if so, after how many days?

6. Deliverability
Deliverability of emails sent by senders is very important, as it a measure of how many consumers received the emails in their inboxes, vs. sent. Deliverability depends on many factors, the list hygiene (correctness of email addresses, valid ones, etc.), the sender reputation, the message content, the consumer's behaviour, senders relationships with major ISP's etc. It is largely a collective responsibility of sender (list hygiene, opt-in lists, message content, etc.), email marketing solution provider (reputation, capability of handling bounces, sending messages to ISPs through various techniques enforced on them, throttling the email sent per hour, setting the frequency of emails sent to each consumer, relationships with ISPs to address deliverability and Abuses, Tracking options, powerful reporting features) and Consumer behavior (interest, spam, etc.).

However Indian Marketers tend to think their deliverability will improve if consumers are asked to put the sender email id into safe sender list. Consumers will not approve or guarantee to give control to senders to send anything. Moreover, it doesn't guarantee deliverability as there are other issues that the sender and the email service provider have to adhere to.

Hence, Indian Marketers have to take this responsibility on themselves and adopt best practices from both the senders and email service provider's perpsective.

7. Lead Generation
Indian Marketers have to move from the traditional mindset of creating mass awareness that was being done through traditional media when migrating to online marketing.

Online marketing provides better opportunities in not only creating brand awareness, but also in lead generation. Anyone visiting the marketers or company website is a prospect and his/her contact information has to be captured. Most websites today are just iconic in India and have no provision to collect email addresses. When company websites, start collecting information about visitors, they are building a powerful customer database, through which they can keep in touch with periodic newsletters, offers etc. and building a loyal customer base.

Through Viral Marketing (forward to friend) features, marketers can enhance their lists in a exponential way.

There are plenty of opportunities for Indian Marketers to nurture and grow their customer base, only if they adopt best practices in email marketing.

Email marketing is a powerful tool and if not used in the best way can also damage the reputation and sales of the marketers.

Aghreni Technologies is a provider of customer centric, ROI driven email marketing solutions and services to Indian Marketers and clients. It has many years of working with leading global companies and clients in email marketing and lead generation.

For more information, visit

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