The imperative of relevance: why and how to become more relevant

According to the countless studies that research companies have conducted along the years, consumers are mostly troubled by the senders’ failure to comply with the relevance criterion of the newsletters they send out. It is also research pointing out that consumers treasure those brands that integrate information about their preferences in their communication. We should only look at some data taken from “Social Inbox”, a November 2010 research study that covered a sampling of 1001 consumers.

- 72% of the consumers declared they deleted messages they had received from advertisers if messages were of no relevance to them.

-  59% of the consumers said they deleted messages that an advertiser had sent them because they had received too many emails from them.

-  49% of the respondents unsubscribed because whatever seemed to be interesting to them in the first place turned out to be irrelevant to them.

Although respondents were not too numerous, the results show pretty clearly that consumers react negatively whenever advertisers fail to send relevant messages or whether they send too many messages, too often.

In order to avoid that, companies have to start measuring the value of programmes depending on the experience of customers. One evaluation measure is to see whether brands that send relevantly targeted messages are considered valuable by the final user or whether they are as appreciated as the brands that send messages to all subscribers are. Which leads us to another result package, which derives – this time – from research performed among marketing directors… Well,

-   During the first research, conducted in 2010, when asked whether the company they represent had segmented the audience for their marketing campaigns again over the past six months, only 48% of the responding marketing managers said they had been actually using the results of the click-through behaviour study.

-   One year later, in 2011, the same research covered the same pool of respondents and the same methodology, but 42% of the responding marketing directors said they had been using the analysis of click behaviour as a segmentation criteria. And yes, the percentage went down indeed…

Nevertheless, we should only presume that all of the research activities have a +3% error margin, so that we can believe that this is not necessary a drop, but more of a stagnation. Nevertheless, what these figures are indeed pointing out is that marketing sophistication has not increased at all. Regardless of how we are looking at this data, they point out that 50% of companies using email marketing send the same message to their audience time and again without targeting receivers who interact with the newsletter different from the passive readers. Sending messages to an inbox turns into a reflex to load some latent email addresses. We cannot even define exactly who is passive and who isn’t – the subscriber or the advertiser – if companies using email marketing do not consider the outcome of whatever they send and if they fail to use such outcome in how they target their future communication.

So what is relevance, anyway? A possible useful definition is that relevance is the “intersection between content and context, whose pace is the frequency”. In action, this is about sending out correct messages, rightly timed, via proper channels. Or, what the dictionary defines as “pertinence”: “something proper, that satisfies the objective information requirements of a certain beneficiary”.

The segmentation of the audience is important, not just to make emails more relevant, but also to establish the value that email marketing programmes bring to the organisation and consumers.

And that can be measured in costs, incomes and profits. A study titled “The Value of Email Marketing” validated that statement and illustrated the fact that all of the costs that are spent to generate one dollar, even through the less costly channel of email marketing, is higher to advertisers who fail to run the proper segmentation in order to properly target their customers. That means that those 50% of the advertisers who use email marketing but never consider the relevance by means of segmentation and targeting, spend more on email marketing programmes than anyone may suspect. And the graph below illustrates that.

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Although clients could be highly interested in what you have to offer, you should always bear in mod that we – as individuals – are very different from each other.  So you will need different seduction methods before you allow a brand to stay in our lives. And we cannot do that without relevant, which can only be achieved further to efficient segmentation and targeting.

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