Bulk vs. Targeted Emails — one size does not fit all.

Should you carpet bomb or slice and dice your customer base to improve customer retention? A case can be made for both.

Out of my 20+ years in the advertising and marketing arenas, 16 of those years includes email marketing. During this period, email marketing has evolved to become a major medium for engaging customers and improving customer retention. Most marketers will agree on that. However, since the dawn of B2C email, the arguments regarding email frequency, timing, and relevancy continues even till today. Why? Tests are not a clear indicator. When you perform an A/B test, whether it’s based on subject lines, email content, or time of day, there are still multiple factors that can influence outcomes.

E-mail marketing experts have developed, if not a science, a highly articulated superstition about the best and the worst times for sending e-mail.*

Do you take the path of bulk emailing or targeted emails for your customer retention strategy? Both approaches have their merits.

Leave no stone unturned.

One of the major benefits of bulk emailing is that it’s a numbers game, pure and simple. You’re taking a singular message and broadcasting it to your customer base or a leads list to acquire new customers. This is where we reach a fork in the road when it comes to bulk emailing.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it. — Yogi Berra

For reaching out to potential customers, the numbers game is the way to go. Much like the traditional telemarketers, you’re banking that 10 out of 100 emails penetrate and not end up in junk folders or boomerang back your way. Out of the 10, you might generate two new customers. Two doesn’t seem like much, but if you email a leads list of 100,000, you could hypothetically acquire 2,000 new customers. Of course, I must emphasis “hypothetically” since you’re most likely to achieve one-tenth of this projection — but you’re still in good shape.

Bulk emailing is cost-effective. Also, compared to targeted campaigns, bulk emailing for customer acquisition requires less effort and is the least time consuming. However, for customer retention, targeted emails are best. There are targeted bulk email campaigns as well.

Objection: Relevancy

For obvious reasons, targeted emails are more appropriate for churn management. Once you determine a customer’s probability of churn and probable reason for that churn, you can create a relevant, effective email stream to address the customer’s concern. Unfortunately, there could be a multitude of reasons for customer churn — lack of customer engagement, price point, product competition, you name it. Fortunately, using predictive analytics and machine learning, you can analyze historic buying patterns and identify customer churn before it occurs.

Rafael Scott is Chief Customer Experience Officer and cofounder at Spyglaz — a business intelligence platform that delivers key insights on churn and predicts potential customer loss before it happens.

*http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/weekinreview/25worstE.html