Email Marketing: Building Relationships One Send at a Time

STOP! Before you reach for the low hanging fruit with another discount or free shipping, did you know that you might be trading tomorrow’s lifetime value for today’s sales?

One of the privileges of being a consultant is that you get to see the results from a variety of clients. If one client benefits from reducing the number of discount emails, it’s an anomaly. When most clients that try it, benefit, it’s a best practice.

It is a hard recommendation to sell when people are in the habit of churning out sale emails. It usually involves a little begging on my part. “Just test it. That’s all I ask. Please? Pretty please?” are words I’ve been known to say. Some clients require more persuading than others (you know who you are!), but I digress.

Continuously sending discount emails trains your customers to wait for a better price, reduces your return, and doesn’t improve your relationship. There, I said it. The ugly truth is that the bump in sales you see after a blast is instant gratification for the marketing team (and maybe the executives), but there is a price to be paid.

The first cost is lost opportunity. Every email you send is a chance to cement your company’s brand into your customers’ mind. How memorable is another sale email? Consumers get them in droves every day. But what about an email telling them how to save energy if you are a home improvement company? Or, one explaining how to look 10 pounds slimmer without dieting if you sell fashions? You get the idea. Hopefully, you are already thinking about how you can help your customers in your next email.

Helping others is the key to helping yourself. I know that your dear ol’ Mom told you that long ago. This is just a reminder in case you need it. My daughter loves American Girl dolls. I love American Girl reminders. There has been more than once that I said “Oops!” right before I clicked the link in a panic. They got the sale. I got a happy girl. Life is good for all!

The next cost is diminished brand value. Why would you pay full price, when it can be bought for less if you wait a few days? When snail mail was king, we used to cycle discount promotions so no one could anticipate when they were coming. This trick doesn’t work in the Internet world. Discount codes are posted online almost as soon as the send button is pushed. The few selected to receive the promotion are expanded to encompass the world. (FYI: If you are measuring response rates without match backs on these codes, your numbers are skewed. While a sale is a sale, if your traffic is coming from the posted code, why bother sending the email? Post the code yourself and save some time.)

Then there is the cost of profitability. Discounts cut deep into your margin. Offering new products without discounts to customers who have purchased from that category yield good response rates and great margins. We have tested it for many clients and the results are usually the same. The times that they weren’t are when the company has become known as a discounter instead of a quality brand. Those customers have to be retrained.

And, finally, there is the lost lifetime value. Email fatigue kicks in when customers receive one sale after another. Once it begins, they start ignoring your messages. As it progresses, they opt out or report you as a spammer. Instead of being engaged with a long lifespan, they become disengaged and alienated. It is a high price to pay for instant gratification.

The damage is reversible if you stop the sale onslaught and start sending relevant emails now. You don’t even have to take my word for it. Test it for yourself. Be sure to measure spam reports, opt outs, and return on investment in addition to the rest of the metrics. The results may surprise you.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Billings

    Hi Debra, great awesome insights there. I highly agree with you on the lost lifetime value thing. Unfortunately some big brands are guilty of this. I don’t want to mention names here but I get highly disappointed even when what they offer as free in their email still works out to be a sort of bait for a sale. Great article

  • Debra Ellis

    Thank you Sir. I’m disappointed in 97% of the emails I receive from brands I love. They could do so much more but don’t make the effort.

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