Anne Holland

SherpaBlog: New Email Rule: Nonresponders May Still Love Getting Your Email

September 8th, 2008

The old rule of thumb in email marketing was “the purpose of email is to get a response, such as an open, and a click.” So, most marketers measured their success rate by opens, clicks and, possibly, conversions.

If an opt-in didn’t click in a long time period (30 days for a daily, 90 for a weekly, 120 for a monthly), then marketers started to worry. Was the name a dud? Did the recipient think you were spamming them? Had their interests changed? Had your past content disappointed them?

Nonresponders are worrisome. It may mean you’re doing a bad job at relevancy. It may be because you may be flagged as a possible spammer by reputation filters, which then stop further email from being delivered.

New anecdotal evidence from MarketingSherpa’s own experiences suggest, however, that nonresponders may not be as big a problem as you think. Our editorial team conducted a test that every marketer should consider; we picked up the phone and called some nonresponders. “Why don’t you open anymore? Why don’t you click?”

The most common answer shocked us. “I do. I like your email. Don’t stop sending it. I may not always have time to read it, but I want it.”

Next we looked at our own response data. Online advertisers know that 40% or more of their responses may be delayed response “view-throughs.” This means the responders saw the ad, but didn’t click on it. Instead, they responded by going to the website (or using another media, such as phone) on their own from a few minutes to as much as 30 days later.

We wondered – doesn’t it make sense that email responders may behave in a similar fashion? They may not click on your email, or even open it. But they see your brand name in their in-box, as well as a subject line. Those two items alone may trigger a delayed response later.

When I consider my own personal use of email, that’s certainly true. I sign up for certain emails just as a reminder to go visit that brand’s site or retail store when I need something. It doesn’t mean I want to actually read or click on their emails all the time. Their presence in my inbox alone is enough for me.

I’m not saying you should ignore your non-responders. Given reputation-based filter concerns alone, you should be at least decreasing frequency to nonresponders so you’re not pinging them all the time. You might also want to survey them by email and/or by other methods. And, cross-reference your other customer records with email. Find out which of your “nonresponders” may actually be responding like crazy through other channels than the email links you send them.

The new email rule is: Don’t fire nonresponders before asking first. Until you know why, you can’t fix things.
Have you surveyed your nonresponders or run other tests with them? Let me know by commenting below.

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