Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The rise and stumble of e-mail.

I can recall 6 or 7 years ago, a former loyalty client at Frequency Marketing telling us about their grand plan. They were going to do away with paper mail and move all their customer communications to e-mail. The savings, by eliminating the costs of print production and postage, were going to be tremendous.

To the best of my knowledge, it never happened. Because, as a lot of companies have discovered, a funny thing happened on the way to the all-electronic communications plan. E-mail, after reaching a zenith as the communications medium of choice, has seen its popularity slip.

E-mail click-through and open rates are down. Spam is up. So are enhanced security firewalls that block even legitimate e-mail. And on top of that, many in the younger demographic are now more likely to communicate via social networking devices like Facebook wall postings and ignore e-mail altogether.

So what’s a savvy marketer to do? According to a recent survey in DMNews, 52% of consumers 18-39 say they receive greater enjoyment receiving mail through the US postal service as compared to e-mail. And it’s no surprise, really. These days the relatively empty mailbox has a distinct advantage over the crowded inbox.

So, whenever possible, let your most valuable customers have the choice of communications channels—paper or digital. Or let them choose both. But if, due to a tightening budget, you can only send e-mail, make sure your messaging is as personal and relevant to the person receiving it as possible.

Treat your loyal customers with the same recognition, tonality and respect, as if they had just walked through the front door of your business. Because when you treat a loyal customer just like everybody else, with sales pitches that are impersonal or irrelevant, you risk being ignored—or worse.

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