A very disappointing marketing campaign — and lessons for you

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I’ve been curious about large-scale opt-in email houses and what kinds of results those sorts of lists generate, and so I tried two campaigns. I’m very disappointed with the results.

First, the house I use is based in the USA and works with high-profile corporate clients — brands you would recognize. They get their names via opt-in sites. They meet Can-SPAM requirements, for instance by listing the sender’s name and address on the email. So they are as legitimate as these firms get (go ahead — post away about how this is still SPAM; the point of this blog entry is to share results, not get into what’s appropriate and what isn’t).

I tested two messages. The first shared information about a free social networking site I run. It targeted 2 million opt-in small business owners.

The second shared information about two parenting sites I run.

Both emails made a soft-sell. They were educational in nature. For instance, the email to parents notified the parents about two great sites for busy parents that make parenting easier. Each email was brief and to the point, and invited people to visit the site(s).

I purchased 2 million email addresses on the first (online business networking site) mailing. The firm guaranteed that 30% would be opened, and provides tracking tools. The price was $700. Of the 30% opened, .27% clicked through.

In the second case, I purchased 1.5 million parents with kids aged 0-6, making at leat $75,000 per year. My cost was $500. Here, the results were horrible. Only .1% clicked through. Google costs me a lot less, although it reaches fewer people. Waste of money.

In contrast, the company shared their clients in the gambling world can achieve as much as a 4% click through by offering $100 or $200 in free chips.

There are a few lessons I draw from this:

1. Sometimes you have to test to know for sure.

2. Even though the “soft sell” feels better, to get results and attention in cyberspace, you have to make a great offer. My educational soft sell did nothing vs. $100-$200 in free chips, and I didn’t have anything comparable.

3. It is important not to continue with marketing vehicles that don’t work. It is tempting to be able to reach millions of opt-ins for a low cost per thousand. Therefore, one might consider changing the offer around and testing again. But I can’t see an offer that will get me the results I want, and I tried with two different products. As the cliche goes, insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.

I’d be curious if anyone reading has had success with this type of mailing and what lessons you have learned. That’s a more interesting discussion than the moral/SPAM implications of this entry, so please stick to that subject if you don’t mind.

Andrew NeitlichAndrew Neitlich
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