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Email Campaigns Are Plagued by Volume
Harte-Hanks's report examined 2,626 B2B permission-based email campaigns--more than 17 million messages--in the telecommunications and high-tech markets.
Posted Feb 25, 2004
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A new study reveals that average B2B email response rates are steadily dropping. The report, "Building High Response E-Mail," from direct marketer Harte-Hanks, examines 2,626 permission-based email campaigns--more than 17 million messages--focused on B2B campaigns in the telecommunications and high-tech markets. The study is based on average click-through response rates, broken out by time of year and purpose of campaign. In early 2002 average click-through rates for email campaigns related to market research were as high as 4.7 percent. That dropped to 2.1 percent for late 2003. The decrease was across the board, with drops in nearly every type of email campaign, including general marketing, market research, sales, seminary invitations, and Webinar invitations. Click-through response rates for email campaigns for general marketing dipped to 1 percent in the second half of 2003, down from 1.3 percent in the first half if 2002. Sales-promotional email campaigns felt the pinch, slipping to .7 percent in late 2003 from a 1.6 percent click through rate in early 2002. To determine the reasons behind the drop in response, Harte-Hanks conducted another survey of 438 business and technology managers between September 2003 and January 2004. The company found, not surprisingly, that the number one reason for a decreased response rate is volume. Forty eight percent of survey respondents say they are receiving too many unsolicited emails at home, while 31 percent say they are receiving too many unsolicited emails at work. In addition, respondents claim that they receive more spam emails at work than at home. Actually, the volume at home is greater than at work, but receiving email perceived as spam at work just appears to be more intrusive, according to the Harte-Hanks study. However, there are some emails that respondents want to receive. Seventy four percent of business- and technology-manager respondents opted in to at least one email list during the past 24 months. Of that figure 14 percent have opted in to 10 or more lists, and 39 percent have opted in to between five lists and nine lists.
Another, and less obvious, reason for the drop in response rates is that email is much more a sales tool now than it was two years ago. In 2002, 53 percent of the campaigns in the study were sales oriented, but that jumped to 72 percent in 2003. Harte-Hanks offers some suggestions for email marketers: Messages must offer relevance and value, as well as permission; use data-driven targeting to match an appropriate offer to an individual based on available preference data. Most of all the report notes that email marketers should "never e-mail simply to broadcast a message." Marketers should consider an integrated media approach, which can lift response rates up to 10 percent.
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