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The MurkyGrey blog

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Talking to people about technology

Blast it like Google!

A tiny case study

Start talking about email blasts and people get very emotional. Some marketers swear by them, they will tell you that if you do it right an email blast is a great way to reach a whole lot of people and track their response. Other marketers hate them, saying that blasting thousands of emails is a waste of time, most people don’t read them and worst of all: many will consider it spam and hate you for it.

When Google blasted a Google Ads email promotion last month to their customers I got an unusual glimpse at their blasting strategy. You see, I own no less than seven Google Apps domains and so, over the course of the day, more and more emails from the same blast found their way into my inbox. It looked like this:

3 emails

The thing that should jump out at you is that although we’re looking at three emails from the same campaign, each offering is different. We’ll get back to that in a second, but first let’s talk about the mailing list.

The mailing list, obviously, makes or breaks an email campaign. Blasting a bunch of random strangers is probably the best way to waste your time and money, and ruin your reputation all in one go. Targeted lists of people you’re not directly affiliated with are a grey area, but the sure bet is your list of existing customers. Your customers expect to hear from you, they should be happy to hear from you (unless they hate you, in which case you should not worry about email marketing — you have much bigger problems!). Google is making a very safe bet by emailing current customers and you can do it too. If you’re uncertain about email marketing and you’re looking for a place to start, your list of current customers is a safe, natural choice. By the way, if you’re looking for an easy way to increase this list, offer something for free!

Now back to content. It is no accident that three emails from the same campaign contain three different offers. In our case the three offers were:

  1. Spend $25, get $100 free
  2. Spend $50, get $150 free
  3. Spend $100, get $300 free

The clear trend here is “the more you spend, the more you get for free”. This is true in absolute terms while in relative terms it is actually the lowest offer that yields the highest bonus (400%) while the other two are slightly lower (300%). What does this mean to us? Not much, except the knowledge that someone is playing with the numbers and trying different options. Which one of these is the most attractive? Who prefers the lower offer and who prefers the higher ones? We don’t know and neither did Google, until they ran the campaign. But you can be sure that responses to the campaign were tracked and analyzed to death and the marketing folks at Google now know exactly which offer appeals to different segments of their target demographic.

And that is the real takeaway here: It is good to craft your message carefully before you deliver it to your audience. But when delivering a marketing message to a broad audience, it is always better to have at least two variations of your message, deliver both and measure the response you get with each one. Choose the one that worked better as the base for your next campaign and repeat, or conclude that different demographics respond better to different messaging and split future campaigns accordingly. Just be sure to follow the rules for statistical significance before you make your decision. (If you need help designing a statistically valid test drop me a note, I’d be happy to help.)

Category: Marketing

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