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Database Guru Eyes E-mailers

Arthur Middleton Hughes thinks he may be able to teach e-mail marketers a thing or two.
And he could be on to something.

Combine Hughes’ status as a longtime database consultant with e-mailers’ well-documented lack of attention to key metrics, and indications are that what Hughes has to offer may be just what many e-mail DMers need — that is, if they ever get serious about metrics at all.

Hughes recently signed a part-time deal with e-Dialog to consult with some of the e-mail service provider’s clients.

E-Dialog is aiming to leverage Hughes’ expertise to create a few case studies that can be touted to the rest of its customer base.

“We’re hoping to pick two or three clients who will try some of [Hughes’] direct marketing approaches on our dime, and if we can get a success story from one or two we’ll have the ability to deploy it across [the company’s client base,]” says Arthur Sweetser, chief marketing officer at Lexington, MA-based e-Dialog. “We have two clients who already have put up their hands and said, ‘We want to talk.’ ”

Theoretically, there’s little doubt that some face time with a respected DMer like Hughes could help most e-mail marketers. But there is also solid evidence that most e-mailers need more basic information than what a database marketer can provide.

For example, according to a survey published by JupiterResearch in March, when given a series of fairly obvious success-gauging metrics to choose from — such as revenue per subscriber, average order size and click-to-conversion rate — and asked which ones they use monthly, 50% of business-to-consumer and 56% of business-to-business marketers picked “none of the above.”

Moreover, an earlier study by the Email Experience Council concluded that there’s no consensus on even such simple metrics as delivery rate or number of e-mails sent.

So essentially Hughes is lending his database skills to an industry that apparently measures very little and can’t reach a consensus on the definitions of what it does measure.

Add that there are metrics unique to e-mail — such as spam-complaint and opt-out rates — that make it a fundamentally different channel than traditional direct response marketing, and you’ve got an interesting experiment where old-school database marketing meets new-school electronic messaging.

Clearly, success isn’t ever a sure thing. Sweetser concedes that Hughes isn’t necessarily an e-mail expert, but adds that where Hughes’ knowledge may fall short, e-Dialog’s staff can fill in.

“We have a young, talented work force,” Sweetser says. “None of them went to a direct marketing school. They grew up on the Internet, laptops and viral communities.”

As for how immersed Hughes has been in e-mail lately, he says: “Not as immersed as I’m about to get.”

He believes e-mail offers the ability to speak to customers as individuals like no other medium and therefore delivers on some of the one-to-one hype that’s been associated with database marketing for years.

“All of a sudden, the things we’ve been saying we should be doing are now possible with e-mail,” Hughes says. “We talked about one-to-one, but we never were able to do it until e-mail.”

One of the first tasks Hughes aims to tackle in his new gig is helping clients use database segmentation strategies. “Let’s put [customers] into segments and try to make the messages relevant,” he says.


Arthur Middleton Hughes, vice president of The Database Marketing Institute, has presented 28 seminars on database and email marketing.  Arthur has also authored several books includingStrategic Database Marketing 4th Edition (McGraw-Hill 2012). He and Andrew Kordek, chief strategist and co-founder of Trendline Interactive, are hosting a two-day Email Strategy Study Group in Fort Lauderdale  March 26-27, 2013, featuring group competition for email marketers responsible for subscriber acquisition, lifetime value, ratings and reviews, boosting their email budget, and doubling their ROI.  To learn how to attend the Study Group,click here

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About Arthur

Arthur Middleton Hughes has published over 200 articles on Database and E-mail Marketing. Click Here to read them.

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