Forrester Report Says E-mail Marketing Vibrant, Despite Well-Worn Practices
Forrester (news, site) made an interesting forecast on how US marketers continue to effectively use one of the oldest engagement tools: Good ol' electronic mail. The good news is that no more cash is needed to keep the channel competitive with social media. The bad news, on the other hand, is that nobody seems to know what they're doing. We've got the tasty lowdown.

The official Forrester report is called How US Marketers Use Email, and the numerical data essentially breaks down like this:

Who's using it:  88% of B2C firms currently use e-mail marketing and another 10% planning to use before December 2011. Though the majority of B2B firms (71%) also use e-mail, 16% don’t plan to in the next 12 months.

Flat budgets: E-mail budgets will idle in 2011 with half of B2C firms maintaining the same budget as last year and 65% of B2B companies doing the same.

Moderate adoption: One-third of interactive marketers currently clean bad e-mail addresses out of their lists. Meanwhile, only 22% delete users who haven’t recently opened or clicked on messages. Retailers and travel firms, which generally score well on Forrester’s e-mail reviews, are the least apt to coordinate email with search marketing or to allow users to select message preferences at registration. 

Increased effectiveness: Despite flat budgets and unimaginative best practices, 43% of marketers still think that e-mail marketing will become more effective over the next three years: 

forrester_email_2011.jpg

Getting E-mail Into Shape

With basically a fifty-fifty chance at staying in the game, honing e-mail campaign effectiveness is more crucial now than perhaps ever, but the razzle-dazzle of social media marketing has left many a method for dead.

Time to get back on the horse! Forrester's recommendations include: 

Analytics

E-mail analytics haven't gotten as much love as more expensive programs like direct mail or paid
search. Forrester recommends spending your hard-earned on tools and services that can help you find critical customer insights to improve message relevance, identify valuable e-mail customers, and forecast expected results for different communications.

In fact, Forrester's faith in e-mail analytics is so strong that they're predicting a 13% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) on email analytics spend between now and 2016.

Clean Data

Uncluttered lists drive better results, so maximize deliverability by doing some spring cleaning: remove fake, incomplete, or incorrectly formatted e-mail addresses; monitor bounces; separate nonresponders from your master list in order to change your approach to them specifically. 

Relevance > Rich Media

Throwing rich media in purely for the sake of razzle-dazzle isn't fooling anyone. Forrester says spend first to analyze customer data to figure out what  content your users value. Then, decide if rich media is the format that will best deliver that  value. 

(For example, JetBlue Airways e-mails flight deals from the subscriber’s home airport, but the Professional Golf Association increased click-through rates 142% with an in e-mail video that previewed the 2009 FedExCup.)

Optimization is Everything 

Consumers will abandon e-mails that can't be read on their mobile device, or that take too long to open. As the mobile world continues to grow at such an alarming rate, optimizing content to fit smaller screen sizes and different operating systems will be a necessity. 

Further, as Dave Lawson of iMedia Communication points out, testing e-mail effectiveness on on-the-go devices will help your overall mobile strategy: "...e-mail provides an excellent opportunity to begin sophisticating your overall mobile strategies and dialing up the return on the greater investment. The e-mail inbox isn't going away, but the concept of it and how consumers interact with it is rapidly shifting. Optimize your e-mail experience for mobile, and your customers will thank you."