More for Less: Leveraging e-marketing for more effective results
（Original text of article found in Singapore Institiute of Management's (SIM) TODAY'S MANAGER (June-July 2010) issue
e-marketing has been around for some time but its effectiveness is now only beginning to be realised. With social media and more technologically advanced tools, we can do more effective marketing by studying the behaviour of clients and consumers rather than sending 1 million e-mails to have 10 opened.
With the advent of a seamless networked world, e-marketing – marketing of products and services over the Internet – seems not just the right thing to do but a critical strategy to stay competitive.
Does that mean we should all rush into e-marketing? The answer is, “It depends!”
It is of course gratifying to see one’s business information, products and services up on a Web site with the promise of getting millions of eyeballs around the world. The Internet can make a small business a global business by allowing it to be in front of a global audience.
But e-marketing is still marketing. Marketing, whether with an “e” or not, has to be relevant to the audience.
The Internet has been transformed into a tool to drive innovation through collaboration. Businesses have leveraged on the explosive growth of the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies to derive better results from marketing activities. e-marketing has gone through drastic transformation, from the early days when marketers dabbled with putting up a Web site and struggled to keep the information current; to the next stage of enabling an e-commerce engine to facilitate transactions; and to the present where marketers consider how they can effectively use of Facebook and social networks to drive more returns from marketing activities. Many are also using social networking sites to solicit feedback about their products and services and gather information to influence future product development.
The key point to remember is that the basics of marketing still apply. Understanding customer needs and answering them is still the primary driving force in making a sale. The advantage of the e-marketing engine is that it allows us to do it faster and cheaper. The catch, though, is you have to do it right.
Who to sell what to and when
Sending an eDM (electronic Direct Mail) is NOT the ultimate end, even though many list providers would incentivise with bulk discounts on increased number of names rented. The ultimate end of a marketing activity is sales. Why send out something about a product or service if you are not keen in selling it? Making sure you send information to the people who need it when they need it will increase sales.
More important is to recognise that the e-version of a sales catalogue has greater cost and time-to-market advantages especially if the direct mail campaign is to be repeated, or information about product or service benefits is to be changed in different campaigns to address different target audiences, for example, technical users vs a business audience.
The efficiency of e-marketing, however, is a different story. The effectiveness of e-marketing is not about increased coverage and costs of eDMs but has to start with the right success factors, not about just how many eDMs were sent.
One of the advantages of e-marketing which does not surface frequently is the advantage of institutional memory. All information available can be used repeatedly for new marketing campaigns; repackaged to address a different customer set and also be integrated into other parts of a new campaign with relative ease.
Many organisations and marketers do not leverage an integrated approach to re-using information. Many projects are developed to create more or less the same type of information because there is no process or system to manage this 'knowledge' repository.
E-measurements : Truth or fluff?
An eDM may cost $1,000 to develop and can be sent to as many people as you have e-mail addresses. Comparing this with the production cost of even $1 per DM piece makes eDM a worthwhile investment. However, this is not the truth of measurement because sending does not mean reaching. Reaching does not mean opening. Opening does not mean reading. Reading does not mean clicking. Clicking does not mean buying.
To ensure the end-in-mind is to sell more things to more people more often for more money, one has to focus on how to communicate with the right people with the right message through the right channel at the right time. If one’s product is at least to be given a chance to be successful, one should look at the audience you are communicating to by segmentation, for example, by industry, types of audience (C-level, IT managers, and to certain degree, gender depending on the products). From there decide on a list and measure receive rate (percentage of non-bounced email); open rate (open over received); click rate (click over open) and lastly buy rate (buy over click).
With this simple understanding, you can decide on the effectiveness of a list you rented or tweak the relevancy of messages (price or value) and begin building categories of audiences for future e-marketing activities with the intent to improve efficiency and yield better ROI.
This should also change the model of business between marketers and list vendors, moving from list rental to pay-per-lead model. This therefore forces the list vendors to ensure that they have the best lists and uses it to prove that the quality of their lists is what they said it is.
The upcoming trend in e-marketing is behavioural tracking and management. Within the confines of privacy rules, this is a very exciting and important aspect of how business goals can be achieved through profiling and living up to giving the customers what they want in a timely manner.
The question that needs to be answered before deciding on e-marketing is how committed are you to maintaining the infrastructure. Yes, you can outsource the hosting. You can even outsource the marketing in utilizing search engines etc. But the information, the plan, and the execution that is relevant to your business cannot be closer to anyone else than to your organization.
Many organizations rushed into setting up Web sites and the information stays the same from the day it was created, 10 years ago. The worst case is that the Web site is not even up because the ISP that the job was outsourced to during the dot-boom era has gone out of business. The sad part of this is many businesses think they have entered the foray of e-marketing with this. True, but for the wrong reasons and it erodes the brand. Couple this with Internet user behaviour of short attention span and spoilt for choice, returning to your site may be something that will not happen ever again, that is losing a prospective customer forever.
Some organizations continue to test the privacy rules of countries. Most did it without understanding of what it is. Spamming is still a prevalent problem. This again brings us back to the argument about sending eDMs as a measurement and not about selling.
The advent of e-marketing also allowed companies to save costs through below the line marketing in the form of readiness. Many successful organizations include enablement of their sales force – around the world – through training and briefing on the Internet.
However, this requires investment in media creation and course creation. In line with institutional memory, these assets can be used and re-used, impacting hiring schedule and providing flexibility to the recipients to learn on-demand, where and when they can.
What is even better is that it can track who has taken what course and for how long he/she went through the course and even take online quizzes and provide feedback. This can apply to 10 or 10,000 without increasing costs.
With this, the sales force will be more ready than previously to provide the necessary information to customers, expediting the sales cycle. Surely, this is a good ROI for the business.
Self-service has been introduced in many forms. ATMs to replace bank counters, automated phone service through voice-recognition and now information search on portals and some even offer customers to configure their own products and price. This is all good from an efficiency angle. However, it takes away the human touch.
E-marketing provides information availability across the globe. Information is available across the globe, 24x7, 365 days a year. The challenge is that it has to be available 24-hours; in all languages; meets all local requirements, and at the same time open to scrutiny, in an accelerated manner.
Any problem, no matter how small, will become a global problem in no time. A wrong update may force your company to sell a product for $2.50 although you intended to key in $250.
That is part of the bad and the ugly.
There is definitely goodness in providing self-service. If it is done well. A good self-service must start from understanding customer needs – languages, ability, relevancy. It must be backed up by escalation processes to help, which need to be operating around the clock. This goes back to the infrastructure requirements we talked about earlier.
When done well, e-marketing becomes an avenue to delight customers. It becomes a way to drive effectiveness and efficiency. It becomes a framework for growth globally.
e-tools: What are available
E-tools abound today. Some are good, some so-so, some bad. But it depends on what you want to do.
In Website tracking, one can use free tools available on the Internet to track traffic. You can outsource the task to a gamut of Web hosting companies or e-marketing agencies. You can also use applications now available on the Cloud, from Web site publishing to e-commerce engines.
Social media has sprung to the forefront of discussion in recent years. Social media can be used to provide a view into one’s social behaviour that may be of consequence in closing a deal. Examples are often repeated of how commenting about the soccer game of the son of a client has helped to open doors to his office. Development of social media for e-marketing is still at its infancy and there is little concrete data about its usage and effectiveness.
Another important aspect of e-marketing is behaviour tracking. Marketing is about behaviour management i.e. changing your decision to delay a purchase to one that buys now with promotion; changing the decision of not buy a competitive product to buy yours with better perceived benefits. Above all, it is about relationships. E-marketing is the very platform to make this possible.
The end-in-mind is to have an intuitive engine that will drive towards the holy grail of 1-on-1 marketing through ultimate relevancy based on the customer’s needs and time he/she needs it.
This can certainly be done through careful back-to-basic planning and mapping the right tools to reach the end-in-mind of ‘selling more things to more people more often for more money’ with the understanding of ‘communicating the right message to the right people through the right channel at the right time.’
Daniel Ng has been in IT marketing for over 25 years. He has worked with many multinationals in the IT industry. Currently based in Singapore, Daniel continues to build successful marketing programmes companies across the Asia Pacific region. Daniel is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.