The internet is awash with dubious claims from email marketers. It’s time to put these charlatans under the microscope and expose their lack of business acumen in eCommerce.
Yes, that’s a harsh introduction, but it’s warranted.
There are far too many email marketers in the ecosystem (now that ads are tougher, funnily enough) that are making quite frankly outrageous claims which need to be examined.
While these soundbites can sound alluring, they often expose a lack of fundamental business knowledge on the marketer’s behalf.
Look out for these red flags and protect your business from people who quite frankly, don’t understand it.
1: Obsessing over “30-40% of revenue” coming from Email
Why is this an issue?
An obsession over meaningless arbitrary percentages attributes to email revenue tell you little to nothing about the health of an eCommerce business.
An email marketer who wears this strapline like a badge of honour is likely fixated on their own ego rather than what works best for your company.
I’m embarrassed to say that I too was once guilty of donning this strapline until I realised how easy it was to manipulate email owned revenue inside Klaviyo and our philosophy changed towards helping D2C brands grow.
I wrote this post on LinkedIn a few weeks ago that summarises my thoughts on this meaningless strapline:
"If email & SMS marketing accounts for over 40%-50% of your revenue, it's likely that you're not scaling your business.
Be very wary of a marketer who is fixated on this figure when pitching you services.
There is a fine line between healthy "Owned revenue" and struggling acquisition for an eCommerce company.
A brand that is not efficient with ads or acquisition is likely to have a higher % of revenue from its owned audience.
This is because they turn to "milking their list" to mask over their acquisition deficiencies in their business.
And most email marketers encourage it because it "looks good" to have a higher % of revenue coming from email.
That's not what we do.
When email goes over 40% of revenue for a brand, I immediately ask questions and look at the data to see if the company is struggling on the acquisition front.
Our job as email marketers is then to leverage qualitative data through progressive profiling and analysing transactional behaviour to drive segments back to Facebook for retargeting, lookalike audiences and improved omnichannel efficiency.
If you're not doing this with the brands you're working with, you're not working in their best interests.
A strong CRM team needs to understand its limitations but more importantly also their role to play beyond revenue generation in growing a brand.
Don't silo your performance to revenue over email. Speak to the acquisition team, find out their challenges, and then work harmoniously to support their efforts.
A profitably growing company is far more important than nonsensical KPIs pulled from our asses in the SaaS echo chamber.”
So, when an email marketer starts to trumpet getting you up to 40% of revenue through email, ask them what else they can do beyond driving revenue over email.
As I’ve written repeatedly on this blog, email is much more than a sales channel, and its true potential lies in leveraging qualitative research, generating UGC, and distributing content. These are all areas neglected at the expense of your customers with a marketer fixated on revenue over email.
2: They want a Revenue Share agreement over Email
Why is this an issue?
If our previous point didn’t exemplify the issues with revenue as a benchmark for an email marketers skill, hopefully, this post I made on LinkedIn will drill down on why it’s set up to fail:
“A) You're appealing to the lowest common denominator of marketer who is incentivised to milk your list.
They'll neglect the power of email for creating UGC, qualitative research and content distribution and focus solely on quick wins.
They won't care for long-term business outcomes as they chase short-term sales, often at the expense of margin by using excessive discounting and codes.
B) Attribution over email is complicated and messy enough without factoring revenue share into the equation.
With iOS15 now also taking effect, things are only going to get more complicated with email opens (a key determiner in attribution for most ESPs) being more difficult to track.”
To further illustrate how stupid this agreement is and how easy it is to game it: I can create a batch of 50% off coupons codes and just mass-mail your whole database. It will be great for revenue, probably awful for your business. Yet so many email marketers actively encourage this approach as they look after their own interests before the brand.
If you’re going to go down the revenue share route, you better be damn sure you put some strong guidelines in place and also have a solid conceptual understanding of how email attribution works.
3: They want to start with a High Frequency for Campaigns
Why is this an issue?
Simply stated, it's a false economy that a higher email frequency results in better results for the business.
What is NEVER accounted for is the increased production costs of creating daily campaigns and the labour that goes into them.
An email marketer will often justify ramping up the frequency by pointing to email attributed revenue from relentless sends.
What they won't encourage you to look at is the:
A) Impact on profitability from the increased fees you have to pay
B) Whether a lower frequency would have generated the same results.
This is where Holdout Testing needs to come into play to ensure you're being economical with your business decisions over email.
You should always start slow with frequency and then ramp up based on incremental testing.
Starting in reverse leads to stress overproduction, increased marketing costs and often a poor customer experience as the focus is excessively skewed towards sales.
We usually find the biggest advocates for a big frequency increase right off the bat to be agencies who benefit from an increased retainer fee due to deliverables or advocating for a revenue share agreement.
Either way, both are wrong.
Start low, and then incrementally build-up to a frequency that makes economic sense to your business and proves to be fruitful from an ROI perspective.
Now you know the Red Flags… What should you look for in an email marketer?!
Okay, the above are my main gripes about email marketers you find currently littering LinkedIn, Facebook Groups and Upwork.
If you want to find good email marketers, I highly recommend reading the following threearticles:
- The Email Marketing Bible for eCommerce Brands
- Email Marketing of the past VS future
- How to create value with Email Marketing
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