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December 14, 2012

Is Electronic Direct Mail a friend or foe for your sports brand?

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It wasn’t so long ago that householders were complaining about the amount of printed leaflets, flyers and brochures – Direct Mail – being deposited into their letterboxes on a daily basis. Inserts into magazines and newspapers also became more prevalent as this form of mass marketing reached its peak. While interesting to some, it really did stretch the friendship with many consumers, to the point where brand perception and reputation may have actually suffered for some organisations who undertook this practice.

Interestingly, the lessons of the past haven’t been learnt, especially when it comes to today’s iteration of yesterday’s fad – Electronic Direct Mail (EDM) – which now invades the inbox’s of consumers at an alarmingly increasing and constant rate.

While it is true that those who receive these EDMs, have for the most part, signed up to be on an organisation’s database and agreed to receive their advertising material, and are therefore seen as ‘interested targets’, the real question is are we marketing to each of these individuals as effectively as possible, or are we just using a scattergun approach hoping that they will be interested in transacting with us just because they have given us their details in the first place?

While the advantages of EDMs over traditional Direct Marketing certainly makes them an attractive option, especially for organisations with large databases – low cost delivery, no printing, immediate, personalised, better analytics – flooding your audience with a barrage of offers, news and information may not have the positive or desired effect intended.

One sporting organisation our company designed EDMs for, fell to the temptation of sending out almost one a day to their entire database. It wasn’t long before the analytics showed that not only were their click through rates diminishing, but the number of people, and more particularly club members, that were unsubscribing from receiving future emails was increasing rapidly…

However, the question is not as simple as “how often should we send an email or communicate with our audience?” People who are connected with a brand, and especially sports fans, are fans 24/7/365. So while it is important to maintain a connection with them outside of game day and even during the off-season, it needs to be done on their terms, not only to be effective, but also to not be harmful to the relationship.

Surveys tell us that 54 per cent of people unsubscribe from permission emails because they come too frequently, while a high number find the content to be repetitive, irrelevant and boring over time, and many decide to downsize due to the number of EDMs they receive from various organisations.

So obviously content is important – it not only has to be interesting, but needs to be perceived by the reader as exclusive or valuable – something that they can’t get elsewhere or an offer that saves them time and/or money. Timing then also becomes a factor, as it should not be a repeat of something they may have seen elsewhere already, as the email and possibly the organisation threatens to be thought of as time-wasting or badgering.

Further to this, when your audience opens their emails and when they click through must be tracked and taken into consideration. Research shows that 71 per cent of people check their emails first in the morning, while 17 per cent go straight to Facebook. Statistics also show that click through rates increase later in the day and evening, so sending out an EDM to busy professionals during normal working hours probably isn’t the best strategy nor to mothers/parents of young children during the hectic after school/dinner period. It will most likely be deleted, overlooked or forgotten about before it even has a chance.

By now you’re probably starting to realise that increasing the number of people on your database isn’t the only key to successful email marketing. You need to get know each individual subscriber intimately – not only their demographics, but what their interests are, what times of each day they open their emails, when are they most likely to click through, on what devices do they check their emails, what are their spending habits and history, family members, favourite players… The more you know, the better equipped you are to engage them.

This is why the big EPL clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City allocate extensive time and resources segmenting and analysing their huge databases. Their view is that sending an EDM advertising team merchandise to a long time supporter and email recipient who has never purchased anything from the Club’s store is not only optimistic and most probably ineffective, but also adds the potential to lose that prospect for good when it comes to marketing opportunities.

Another consideration when it comes to this form of marketing, is that users are increasingly opening emails on mobile devices nowadays and 95 per cent of emails are only opened on one device. So it is vitally important that your EDMs are designed and tested specifically to be viewed on mobiles as figures tell us 70 per cent of users delete emails immediately that don’t render on their mobile devices. And the most crucial component of your campaign when it comes to mobile users may have nothing to do with its design or content, given research suggests nearly 40 per cent of recipients decide whether to read marketing emails based on whether the subject line sounds interesting.

Segmenting your database allows you to market specific products to different people and develop a strategy which sees the right email delivered to the right person at the right time.

Otherwise the unsubscribe button becomes today’s versions of the “No Advertising Material” signs that increasingly appeared on neighborhood letterboxes in the height of the Junk Mail revolution. Being blocked by members of your target audience is surely one of the worst results any advertiser wants to face, so strategy, along with extensive database segmentation is essential when marketing in today’s over-saturated media landscape.

 


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