The game is afoot! What we can learn about email marketing from Sherlock Holmes

30th January 2017

Whether you agree with the Guardian that the TV phenomenon that is Sherlock has become “an annoying self-parody” or you subscribe to the Telegraph’s view that the labyrinthine plotting in the final episode of the fourth series was an “exhilarating thrill-ride”, there is a great deal to be learned from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fast-thinking, deerstalker-toting detective.

Astute logical reasoning and the use of forensic science skills have enabled Mr. Holmes to solve the most difficult cases. That this applies to email marketing is elementary my dear reader. Here are some Financial Marketing observations and deductions for your marketing mind palace.

Focus on the little things
“You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.” (The Bascombe Valley Mystery)
Make a check list of critical factors such as a strong subject line, single-minded proposition, multiple links, spell checking, clear calls to action, scheduling the optimal times to send out emails, etc. Attention to detail is critical. By following an aide-memoire, you not only maintain control and consistency but you don’t miss anything in the heat of the moment.

Use trackable email and autoresponders to create cascading campaigns
“So all life is a great chain, the nature of which is known whenever we are shown a link of it.” (A Study in Scarlet)
Link tracking not only enables you to establish who is opening your emails but also the content or offers that are of greatest appeal to them.
Cascade emails can then be tailored precisely to match their specific interests and information needs.

Vary your content and keep it fresh
“Anything is better than stagnation.” (The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes)
It is important that your emails contain value to your readers and that they remain engaging. Vary your content and change things up.

Learn from those communications that haven’t quite cut through
“There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you.” (The Hound of the Baskervilles)
Just because the stats make interesting reading for all the wrong reasons doesn’t mean that there won’t be valuable lessons to be learned by looking more forensically. The most effective marketers will often glean more from the emails that didn’t take off than the ones that flew.

Dive more deeply into the data
“It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. One begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” (A Scandal in Bohemia)
Before you look elsewhere, base your campaign analysis on hard, cold facts. Even if you have a feeling about why a campaign may or may not have been successful, keep coming back to the numbers before you look again at the words. Drill down into the data set – the chances are that the answers are all in there.

Look beyond ‘accepted wisdoms’
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” (The Bascombe Valley Mystery)
It is easy to accept commonly held beliefs within the business as being true. Be wary of sweeping statements such as “we have tried this before and it didn’t work” or “professional services firms only respond to this kind of email”. It may be that these were executed poorly historically or that the data was simply out of date.

Split A/B test
“Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.” (The Sign of Four)
The process of elimination via split A/B testing is a vital email marketing tool. Select precisely what you are looking to test, such as your subject line or call to action, and compare these specific variables to determine your winning formula.

Learn from the best and create repeatable success
“There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.” (A Study in Scarlet)
Look at all of the marketing emails and campaigns that come into your own inbox over time. Create a ‘swipe file’, noting every aspect of the anatomy of the marketing emails you receive with a heightened awareness and assess exactly why they work in the way that they do.

Involve the agency more
“Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.” (Silver Blaze)
One of the major benefits of using an agency for your digital marketing is that they offer an independent perspective. Lean on their experience and analytical expertise – after all they will have worked on multiple campaigns across numerous clients and sectors and that depth of knowledge is invaluable.

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