Running an email campaign

So how should you go about conducting an email campaign? First, decide who you want to run it. You have three basic choices: you can do it yourself, license the technology through an application service provider (ASP) agreement, or outsource the campaign completely.

If you follow the DIY approach, you need to ensure you have both the IT and marketing staff who can come together to send out campaigns. This is typically reserved for either very small companies that have modest marketing needs, or very large ones with the staff and deep pockets to maintain their own email team.

If using an ASP, you rent the software but needs an understanding of how to manage the campaign and send it out. For full-blown outsourcing, an email partner will devise a strategy, integrate it with other online and offline campaigns if necessary, design the HTML, write the copy, send out the emails, manage the responses, and give analysis and feedback on the campaign.

Complete outsourcing is useful for large companies, which typically argue that they don’t want to be diverted from their core business, and those just starting out in email marketing, which want to learn how a campaign should be conducted.

Finding a partner

How should these companies find an email partner? First, know your campaign. Who are you targeting? What are your goals? Are you acquiring customers or retaining them?

Once you understand your campaign, E-mail Vision’s David Hughes says the next step is to research partners. You can get information from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), trade fairs and the trade press to see who’s picking up and who’s losing accounts. The next step is to draw up a shortlist and to send them a short, focused brief of your campaign.

Ask them to come back with ideas, not just a costing,” says Hughes. “If you’ll be sending out 100,000 emails a month, that’s a commodity market now and everyone will be offering around the same price. That’s not a big clue as to who to work with.”

He advises asking about how to manage the product and how they would add value in terms of thinking, strategy and hand-holding. Because many companies can offer similar levels of technology and cost, service becomes the key differentiator — which should show up in the quality of the brief. Are they offering the bare bones of what you asked? Are they offering support? Are they giving you alternative suggestions?

“Most clients won’t know the right, wrong or different ways of doing a campaign,” says Hughes. “It’s the role of the supplier to hold the client’s hand and guide them through what can be quite a daunting process if they haven’t used the medium before.”

Email marketing glossary


Open (view) rate: The number of people who opened the message. Seen as a less reliable figure, as an opened email doesn’t necessarily mean it has been read.

Click-through rate (CTR): The number of people who clicked through to your site. An individual CTR tells you the number of people who clicked on an embedded URL in your email message and were sent through to your site. An overall CTR tells you the number of clicks in relation to the total messages sent.

Conversion rate: Measures the success of your call to action: a purchase or a requested action.

Acquisition rate: The number of recipients of your email who became new paying customers. Can be used to tell you the quality of your list, offer and testing methods.

Bounce rate: How many names on your list bounced back because they were undelivered (hard bounce) or the recipient’s server was too full or too busy (soft bounce). Needs to be monitored to ensure the quality of your list.

Unsubscribe rate: The number of people who received your email but clicked the Unsubscribe link. Tracking this can help you refine your message, frequency and offer.


ROI: How much your campaign cost against how much you invested in it.

Cost per sale: How much it cost to secure a sale. Divide total cost of campaign by total number of sales.

Cost per response: How much each response cost. Divide total cost of campaign by number of responses.

Cost per message: How much each message cost to create and send. Divide total cost of campaign by number of messages sent.

Total revenue: How much revenue your campaign generated. Multiply the number of customers by the revenue generated per customer.

Recency, frequency and monetary value (RFM): Analysis technique that determines the customers most likely to purchase or frequent your site based on their past ordering history. Determined in part by how recently they ordered, how often they order and how much.

When marketing becomes spam

Marketing via email can often be a cheap and effective way of building brand awareness, driving traffic to a site and even selling online. Yes, that’s right, selling things.

The problem is, though, how do you make sure that your message stays on brand and isn’t lumped in with the various unenticing offers to ‘make your business explode’, or pornographic sites or services?

Elsa Weill asked the UK-Net Marketing list, “I’m currently looking into email marketers and am therefore wondering where ‘email marketing‘ ends and ‘email spamming‘ begins. What are your feelings about such email offerings – are they a good thing or a bad thing for the new media industry? All your thoughts are welcome.”

Andrew Petherick replied, “I can answer this one. Spain is effectively unsolicited mail where the recipient hasn’t requested the email the he or she is receiving; it’s even illegal in many places.

“Next up the ladder comes opt-out, where the recipient has decided to tick a box to say that they would like to be sent emails in the future about that company’s services and products. Giving permission here will sometimes allow that company to pass their email address on to other marketing companies.

“Finally comes permission based email, where a person will specifically ask to receive email on a certain subject until they no longer want it They then remove themselves from the list. With the opt-in method, the consumer is given 100% control of the mail received and the marketer will achieve extremely high response rates (up to 15%).”

Ashley Pomeroy shared his thoughts on the specific makeup of spam. “Although technically spam is any mail that’s repeated over and over again, I think that dullness is the crucial signifier of true spam.

“Dull stuff is marketing, semi-interesting stuff (porn, pyramid schemes, ‘Help Save the Brazilian Rainforests’ and ‘Beware of Good Times’) is spam. I think people assume that ‘multi-level marketing‘ schemes, anything which has ‘THIS IS PERFECTLY LEGAL!‘ in the second line, and adverts for Horny Belinda’s Web-Cam are spam, although amusing to read. I delete this and add the sender to my procmail filter. I don’t know why they bother — perhaps it’s satire.

“A standard dull ‘Hello and welcome to the N newsletter — with lots and lots of promotional guff, plus a competition ‘email would be marketing.

“Does anyone jump for glee when they receive a mail from a company with ‘Dear [client-name]’ at the top? Do they then feel a wave of good cheer as they read about their opportunity to source and buy professional services and register for FREE!’? I doubt it very much.”

The line between irritating time-wasting spam and effective promotional emails is always going to be a difficult one. And this problem will only be exacerbated as companies try new marketing techniques in order to make their email marketing more effective.

Email marketing: people’s email inboxes are bulging these days

Sometimes simplicity really does work. Take email marketing, a form of new media marketing that has been around since the earliest days of the Internet. While banner adverts may be in one day and out the next, email has enjoyed a remarkable run as one of the most reliable and effective online marketing tools.

Its success, say supporters, is down to its cost-efficient and speedy delivery, especially compared to direct mail campaigns. Moreover, email marketing can enjoy response rates as high as direct mail or telephone marketing, but as its cost per message is significantly lower, it can have a disproportionately higher return on investment (ROI).

“Where it gets exciting from a strategic perspective is if you can service half your customer base at 2p to 3p per email, rather than 30p or 40p for each direct mail pack,” says David Hughes, client services director at E-mail Vision. “The implications for reducing costs and increasing ROI are massive.”

Claire Hewson, marketing manager at John Lewis Direct, adds that email’s ability to drive a call to action remains impressive. Recailing a recent John Lewis Direct campaign to drive online shoppers to its online flower shop, she says, “If you’re looking for a short-term campaign to drive traffic and sales, email is a very cost-effective and quick way to do it. We have an in-house design team that can put together an email for us in few days — a fraction of the time it would take to get a printed direct mail-out done. And email has an immediate effect. If we do an email campaign for 500,000 people, for example, we can see our order leveis going up hour by hour.”

The other advantage of email marketing is the ability to meticulously track campaign metrics and produce very detailed analysis from them. On the metrics side, you can measure the open (view) rate, the click-through rate (CTR), the conversion rate, the acquisition rate, the bounce rate and the unsubscribe rate. By doing so, email marketers can analyse the campaigns, perhaps the most crucial aspect of email marketing. They can learn their ROI, their cost per sale (CPS), cost per response (CPR), cost per message (CPM), total revenue generated by the campaign and even the recency, frequency and monetary value (RFM) of customers. “That’s the benefit of email marketing,” says Simone Barratt, UK MD of E-Dialog. “You can analyse campaigns on a level not available in other media.”

Email campaigns are used primarily for acquisition of new customers or clients and their retention.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of acquiring new customers via email is finding a list of names relevant to your campaign’s goals. Barratt says she has seen acquisition rates failing slightly because of the quality of the lists available. “There aren’t that many valid lists around, and those left are being quite heavily used. People are getting fed up with them,” she says.

Lists can vary widely in quality of data, age of the data and cost. But because there’s more competition in the market, more brokers are providing the ability to profile a specific audience. “We can select by level of income, by how many males and females we want to promote to, by what products people have registered an interest in, and so on,” says Hewson. “And the ability to do this is getting better.”


With acquisition, it also helps to be smart about when a campaign is conducted. Hewson says John Lewis has found success with seasonal offers. To drive shoppers to its online flower shop, it timed a campaign for just before Valentine’s Day. “We get much better response rates around seasonal events, and particularly as the event approaches,” she says, noting that the emails act as a reminder to recipients.

Once you’ve begun to acquire customers, you can ask them to opt in to more email communication. As you move into retaining customers, personalisation becomes vital, as this makes response rates substantially better than acquisition rates.

To raise them even further, Hughes says marketers need to start gathering as much personal information on recipients as possible. “As you develop a more personal one-to-one relationship with them, it’s then that email marketing becomes more interesting and valuable,” he says. “One size never fits all, and as email marketing becomes more relevant and more appropriate, response rates get better.”