When you’re promoting to a limited universe of e-mail prospects, it can be challenging to boost or even maintain response rates, particularly if you’re e-mailing that universe again and again.
Many marketers address this by increasing the value of their offers. The pitfall, obviously, is that this also increases their costs. Other marketers re-create their messages. I suggest that before you do either, look at your e-mail universe and your former offers and creative, then do an analysis of the types of prospects that have responded thus far.
There may be a universe within that universe that you haven’t yet tapped, simply because your messages have not taken advantage of appeals that resonate with those unreached segments of your audience and their unique wants and needs.
For example, my company recently was asked to consult on new e-mail creative for genealogy site Ancestry.com, a division of MyFamily.com Inc. This company has achieved tremendous success marketing online. It has more than 800,000 paid subscribers and is the fifth-largest paid subscription Web site.
In the past two years, Ancestry.com has regularly sent 130 million to 150 million e-mails monthly, which include e-mails to existing registered customers and e-mails to acquire new customers.
Since the company was e-mailing a finite universe of existing customers combined with a relatively finite universe of potential customers, it soon was re-mailing people. Ancestry.com saw a great opportunity in investing in new e-mail creative to keep its approach to both existing and new customers as innovative as possible. New creative and new promotions became the way to give its promotional messages a lift.
Ancestry.com refocused its marketing organization around becoming a “testing engine” with a goal of testing 15 new pieces of advertising creative monthly. For the past three months, the company has created 20 to 25 new pieces of creative per month, including five to 10 new pieces of e-mail creative.
Analysis of one control e-mail Ancestry.com was using when we began working together showed that though the message was clearly written, its main appeal was to consumers who were already dedicated genealogists, many already experts, with a strong existing interest in genealogical research. It was our belief that a segment existed within Ancestry.com’s external marketing (containing people with a potential interest) that might never respond unless the message was customized for their interests. To reach that segment, we needed to adjust the appeal.
The control focused on the 14-day free trial offer as well as the large amount of genealogical data accessible through Ancestry.com’s interface. The header of this control included the Ancestry.com logo along with a small image of what looks to be an early 20th century photo. The tagline read, “The No. 1 Source for Family History Online.” The 14-day free trial was showcased in the sidebar area located “above the fold.”
The rest of the promotion delved into the numerous features that Ancestry.com offers. The emphasis, as mentioned above, was on the number and types of databases to show how members can quickly and easily sift through a huge amount of data in a short time.
Based on the content of this promotion, it was clear that the audience it was reaching consisted of existing expert family history researchers who would be interested in features such as types of databases and number of records. The goal for the new promotion, however, was to create a new interest and target a presumably large group of potential consumers with a more basic interest in their family history and heritage who hadn’t yet responded to the trial.
The appeal needed to evolve into something more emotional. We needed to rework the overall message, which obviously entailed reworking the copy and the design. With an e-mail’s limited size, there is little time or room to develop a truly emotional appeal. We focused on attention grabbers aimed at those with a potential interest by creating three mini-headlines, along with their pictorial counterparts, within the sidebar: Did your great aunt sail on the Titanic? Did your great-great grandfather fight in the Civil War? Did your ancestor dine with George Washington?
The assumption? A market exists that may be interested in learning whether they’re related to a historical character, or at least someone associated with a historical event. Members of this target market may be unaware of the amount of information, and the potential data on their families, available to them beyond this initial hook that piqued their curiosity.
After developing the headlines, it became vital to launch immediately into the benefits of Ancestry.com and how it can help people quickly uncover their family histories. The service’s “four easy steps” were highlighted along with a clip of a testimonial from a satisfied member. This new promotion also showcased a bulleted list of database information that was highlighted separately for prospective members who needed to know as many details as possible.
Essentially, the more emotional appeal, along with the “valuable” trial offer and the advantages of the service, were the focal points of the new message. The database details, which were the largest part of the example control, were downplayed, though they were still components of the message. The design emphasized this new focus, and intentionally broke up these various components of the message in order for recipients to easily grasp them.
There were four separate calls to action (to get the free trial) within the promotion, and all images also included a link to the registration form for the trial. It was Ancestry.com’s experience (and our own) that the more opportunities recipients have to fulfill the call to action, the stronger the overall response.
As of this writing, the tests had not yet deployed. However, I will write an update about this campaign, complete with at least rough results, in an upcoming issue.
Bottom line: If you’re trying to acquire customers through e-mail, and you think you have explored all opt-in e-mail opportunities for your unique target audience, take a good look at your message. You may be able to reach new potential customers who have been ignoring your appeals.
Our goal for this column is to showcase more e-mail makeovers in the coming months. If you have an e-mail promotion that you’d like to contribute for a free makeover, please e-mail me at [email protected] so we can discuss the details.