The Long Tail of Email Marketing

Email marketing messages generally have an impact for a limited time.  This is generally a few days- while recipients receive, open and read their email.  There is an additional impact of email marketing that I think of as the long tail of email marketing.

In the world of website marketing, long tail distribution describes the distribution of many simple searches to the few more specific searches.  In a more general sense: “This is used to describe the retailing strategy of selling a large number of unique items with relatively small quantities sold of each (the “long tail”)—usually in addition to selling more popular items in large quantities (the “head”).” (via Wikipedia)

In the days and weeks after a marketing email message has been sent there will be a few extra opens and clicks.  Throughout my career as a digital marketer, I have seen opens and replies to emails up to 6 months after an email was sent, sometimes longer.

Why?  There are many reasons why an email will be kept and opened later.

  • Marketing emails serve as a reminder of a product or offer someone is interested in- and keeping the email in the inbox for a while helps keeps your company top of mind.
  • Keeping an email around can be easier than using an address book, etc.
  • Emails contain the contact information, website link and phone number of your company.

As marketers, how do we make the most of this effect?

Start by making certain that the reply to email address for every email you send is a valid email address that is checked frequently by a team member. It is best to have the reply to be a distribution list, or a shared email inbox so that it is never lost or forgotten during staff changes etc. People will reply to your emails both soon after they receive the email and months later- it is essential to monitor and respond to those inquiries.

Each email you send, no matter what the topic or function, should have a nice looking footer with a link and a phone number. When updating websites, changing website hosts, or changing marketing software be sure to check those links to ensure they will remain valid.

Clients and stakeholders will want reports of how an email performed immediately after the email is sent.  On average a wait of 7 days after an email is sent seems standard for reporting.  As a saavy marketer, I recommend refreshing and updating performance reports after a couple of months, and then yearly to capture the long tail of additional email engagement.  It is a great feeling to see a reply or web lead from an email sent half a year ago- and you wouldn’t want to miss it!