“We don’t think our emails are getting delivered.” It’s a complaint we hear all too often, usually right out of the gate when we’re being asked to take a look at an organization’s email strategy. The first “take a look” call always starts with a lot of questions, because we want to thoroughly understand the problem that really needs to be solved. And boy, oh boy, did one recent call ever pinpoint some issues! And we know that particular company isn’t the only company living through this same situation. Keep reading…

The first thing we learned is that they’re using an expensive marketing automation solution, with full capabilities to do the kind of email marketing that we coach and train people to do. Excellent, right? Except… they are wasting nearly every cent they are spending. It became obvious that, if their email strategy didn’t change, they could get the same results from a far less expensive email sender like Constant Contact or MailChimp.

So now the question becomes this: can they change their email strategy? And what strategy will serve them the best?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the current state here…

They have 20,000 people on their list, and half of them have already opted out of their emails. Emails sent to the 10,000 that remain get a tiny open rate and nearly zero clicks. It’s starting to look likely that their emails aren’t delivered to inboxes, isn’t it? This is bad, and the situation is trending downward.

So what is happening? Our next step was to review the types of emails they send. Here’s what that looks like:

  • Once or twice a week – sales promotional emails to leads and prospects
  • Twice a week – webinar invitations to the entire list including their customers
  • Twice a week – “rewards” emails (a loyalty program) email to their customers
  • Monthly – a very sales-oriented newsletter
  • As needed – in-person event announcements to location-specific lists

We’ll do the math for you. Most of the people on their list get at least ten emails every month, and some could get as many as 20 emails every month. Every.single.month.

And they were not seeing any increase in sales as a result of all of this email activity. Yes, even more likely that their emails aren’t delivered to the inboxes – they’re landing in other folders.

It became clear to us that the marketing team is frustrated with their results, concerned about the lack of responses, and determined to find a way to get better results. They already have an expensive marketing automation platform that could help them with this, so what was holding them back?

It turns out that the company CEO has a heavy hand in the email strategy. He’s a believer that “we must always have a sales promotion in market” and that their emails should all be selling selling selling. He is driving the frequency of emails as well as the content, and the marketing team is stuck executing his vision. And it’s not working.

Rather than educating the CEO, proposing new ideas, or even trying some testing, what the marketing team really wanted was to “fix” their email deliverability issue – without changing their email approach. Sorry, but that would be like sitting on the couch, eating a bag of chips, while asking a trainer to help us stop gaining weight – without ever intending to get off the couch or give up the chips! Not going to work!

Let me ask you a question. If I ask you to buy today, and you say “No thanks” or take no action at all, will it make any difference if I ask you every single week, or twice a week maybe? If I just keep giving you coupons, or offers, or discounts? Likely not. (Are you ready yet? How about now? How about now? Now? See what I mean?)

People don’t engage with messages they aren’t ready to hear. They’ll either opt out (as half of this company’s list did) or just delete the emails when they arrive. Since there’s no engagement with the emails – few if any clicks, no replies or responses – the companies who decide if an email is “inbox-worthy” (think Google and Microsoft) are going to increasingly drop the emails into the promotions tab or even the spam folder. Sending more emails that get no engagement virtually assures that more emails will not land in the inbox – a downward spiral that has no hope of stopping without a change to the strategy.

There was a time when this sort of email strategy worked. That time is long past. For this particular company, the only way to get better results is to evolve the strategy from a promotion strategy to an engagement strategy. It’s going to be tough for them to do with their CEO dictating how things will be based on how he successfully built the company. His heart is in the right place, but his knowledge isn’t current. Unfortunately, the testing-and-proving a new philosophy will take a long time, as they have basically killed off one of their biggest assets – their list of potential customers.

Are you gradually killing off your list, too? I invite you to take a quick self-assessment and see how what you are doing measures up. You’ll get a list of recommendations at the end. And, while we hope you will, so we can offer you some additional resources, you don’t have to put in your name and email address to participate. You can find that assessment right here.