Silverpop - Guest Q&A: Dela Quist Talks Email Frequency, Branding
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Guest Q&A: Dela Quist Talks Email Frequency, Branding

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
20 December 2011

Dela Quist, CEO of the email agency Alchemy Worx, and I have enjoyed many passionate conversations about email marketing over lunch, dinner and drinks. Dela doesn’t hesitate to buck the conventional thinking on email marketing best practices. He states his opinions and advice firmly and clearly but backs them up with research his agency has conducted on behalf of its clients. After our talks, I come away smarter and often with a new perspective on email marketing topics and practices. Below, in part one of a two-part interview, Dela takes on the conventional wisdom about email frequency and explains email's role in branding.

You’re known for saying that most email marketers don't send enough email. Many marketers, however, are having success sending less email. Straighten us all out, Dela. Why and how should marketers increase the cadence of their email programs?

[caption id="attachment_2827" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Dela Quist, CEO of Alchemy Worx"][/caption]

The challenge is not "How do I send less?" It's "How do I get my list to tolerate more?" Because the more emails you can get them to want to receive, the more money you'll make.

With all things being equal, if you have two lists that are the same size, the same quality and selling the same product, it's hard to imagine that one email a month will generate more revenue than two a month.

I challenge anybody to send me proof that they sent one email when they used to send two without changing anything else and got a better return.

Yes, diminishing returns will set in. But note that we are still talking about returns. If you're sending one email a month, two a month will be better. If you're sending two a month, three will be better, and so on.

But what about surveys that show the No. 1 reason people unsubscribe is "too much email"?

Certainly, you can get to a place where you're sending so much email that people are so annoyed with your emails that half of your list unsubscribes. But I don't know anyone who comes close to that.

Remember that I'm talking only about opt-in lists, where you send to your customers, and you work for a company that cares about its brand.

Email is a much more powerful branding tool than it is a direct response tool. Direct response makes each email stand on its own as a unique, singular event, with no connection to anything you did before and no connection to anything you're likely to do afterwards.

Email isn't about just one opportunity to make people buy. If you send a weekly email, you've got 50 opportunities to make them buy once, because most people buy only once.

What makes email work is ubiquity in the inbox. That's a very powerful branding tool.

Why do you think so many email marketers haven't embraced this branding value?

If customers have signed up to receive emails from a specific brand in one sector, the chance that they have signed up for other brands is very slim.

Very few people are promiscuous when it comes to brand, with an exception for fashion brands. This is why marketers spend millions to build their brands.

When you’re on the list of a consumer's accepted brands, you're in the VIP section of the nightclub.

It's hard for an email program to make someone hate the brand to the point of never buying a product again, but it's possible for someone to hate the brand so much that they would unsubscribe and never want another email.

We've done some research on this for our clients. The higher a brand's net promoter score is, the more likely the person is to say that brand sends relevant emails and the more likely they are to underestimate the frequency of email campaigns.

How they feel about the email program is actually driven by how they feel about the brand. Email is the tail, not the dog.

If most brands saw email as being a huge brand vehicle, it would transform the way they view email. They would do what banner and TV advertising have done and stop hanging themselves with the rope of response.

Email is a demand-generation vehicle with a direct-response component, not the other way round.

You've talked before about email's "nudge effect." Is that related to branding?

When you do the math, you're better off getting everyone on your list to buy once than to focus on the 5 percent or the 2 percent who open and buy every time you send an email.

You have five to 10 years of people being on your list, and whatever it is you sell, you have a long time to sell to them, provided they stay on your list.

You don't do anything to make them unsubscribe, but you keep up a gentle rhythm of nudging them to the point where they are ready to buy. And that's branding.

Watch for part two of our interview, in which Dela tackles subject lines, subscriber inactivity and the "fear and self-loathing" that keeps many marketers from achieving their highest potential with email.


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