1. How long have you been working in the Italian market and how has the email marketing landscape evolved during that period?
The Italian office was opened in 2000, at the same time as the French and English ones. In terms of the evolution of the market, there has been a growth - although not very fast – which has resulted in the development of major strategies. The likes of which include, the arrival of systems and know-how imported from markets such as the English one. And the fact that E-Circle is an international company, and thus able to exploit the knowledge of its European colleagues, is perceived in Italy as an added value. We are still, of course, at a developing stage.
2. Which types of companies turn to you for support? Can you give us a few examples of your customers?
We work alongside companies in virtually every business sector: from B2B to B2C, in a very differentiated manner. We have customers in industries such as automotive, fashion (where Italy is the leader, as well as at product level) and e-commerce. Some of the most important names include Ferrari, Maserati, Fiat, Diesel, and MonClick.
3. What in your opinion is the main advantage of email marketing compared to other forms of communication or advertising?
A better value for money, compared to traditional direct marketing, is an essential advantage. Another positive factor is the fact that it enables one to establish a direct dialogue with recipients, who are no longer regarded as passive but active users - whose responses can be analyzed. Another key aspect is of course the complete traceability of the message and the response, as well as the ability to personalize content.
4. What type of email marketing contracts do you typically work with - short term i.e. selling emailing packets or long term?
When customers choose to work with us, it’s difficult that they change direction, also because there are several technical aspects - especially in terms of reliability and trust. We like to build long-term relationships with customers, and it’s unlikely that they partake in brief collaborations or one-off trials. The prerogatives of both parties are to build an evolved strategy – also because it takes time to develop them.
5. Do you rent out or sell email lists? And if so, how do you guarantee value?
We’ve got an internal unit that is dedicated to list renting and database building. This service has become a win-win solution, as customers are able to receive a complete service, and at the same time it enables us to manage many campaigns and follow every trend possible in the world of email marketing.
6. Do you also offer support and consultation for creative content and graphics?
We also provide consulting services: the platform is only a base from which one is able to build true email marketing value. Our services aren’t limited only to graphics, we also analyze relevant content for each cluster.
7. What do you think is a good conversion rate in terms of delivery and open rate for an average company?
It's really tricky to define satisfactory percentages for every company, because there are variables that impact on them according to the sector or the target i.e. B2C or B2B etc and also depending on the data collection registration form etc. Each of these factors influences the results. I would tend to say that there’s no perfect number: each solution has its own parameters, which must be optimized.
8. What do you think the state of literacy is like in email marketing in Italy and abroad?
Definitely growing, but we're very far behind compared to other markets, even within Europe. The cultural development of email marketing has been slow, even for the limited support given by the media. But something more could be done by the industries trade associations, who favor above all classic advertising. The risk is that it becomes a niche that talks only to itself: more is required to transmit the culture.
9. What impact will the spread of portable devices have on email marketing?
We strongly believe in the positive impact mobile devices will have, provided that companies are ready for it. We’ve already prepared a number of templates in order to take advantage of the channel - considering it ad hoc, with it’s own methodologies (adapted texts, call to actions much more relevant) – rather than just as an alternative channel.
10. How will this world evolve, especially in regards to social networks? It brings to mind the various statements about "death of the email”, which in reality never occurred ...
Our study of six major European markets devoted to social network users has revealed interesting results: social networks offer diverse ways for integration with email marketing, and thereby strengthening the potential. So if one uses social platforms in the right way, they can become excellent sources for viral and database building.
11. What in your opinion is the most effective type of mail? And its characteristics?
Definitely an email that is made up of a number of factors: high-deliverability, a correct presentation of the message (sender and subject), construction of graphical content which is nice to look at, and in particular the content which must be relevant to the specific recipient. Transactional emails, for example, have an open rate five times higher than generic ones.
12. What are the key strategies for successful email marketing campaign?
The best type of strategy is always the one that starts with an analysis of the company's business model and its infrastructure. From here we begin to build a path, starting off with a simple email marketing strategy - the same message for everyone with little analytics - and leading to more sophisticated ones - with a genuine dialogue and broken down in terms of each cluster i.e. linked to registered information, the behavior to previous newsletters and purchasing behavior.
13. How long do users need to wait to get some returns on email marketing results? And specifically, using your system?
Speed is one of the strengths of email marketing: one is able to see results after the first mail-out, but as we said the development of any strategy takes time and attention. The optimization of the results should always be taken into account, because the market continually offers new opportunities and technologies. So one should never stop. As for us, our platform is upgraded every two months with new features so as to provide users with tools up to date and matching the markets evolving needs.
(Maurizio Alberti is Managing Director of E-Circle Italy)