Gary Thuerk’s Email Marketing Strategy
I started my digital career in email marketing. It was a natural transition for a traditional marketer who began as a copywriter. I’ve always had a soft-spot for email marketing and continue to champion its impact on customer acquisition, conversion, and revenue. That’s why I wanted to share Gary Thuerk’s email marketing story.
Back in 1978, Gary, a marketing guy at Digital Equipment Corp, sent an email blast to 400 recipients introducing the newest members in the DECSystem-20 family. Now keep in mind there was no Internet as we know it today, only the ARPAnet, which was used by leading research universities or institutes and U.S. Military labs.
Gary needed to connect with hard-to-reach West Coast ARPAnet * users and invite them to a product demonstration of the DECSYSTEM-2020, 2020T, 2060, and 2060T computers. So, he went through a paper directory of 2,600 users and highlighted 400 decisionmakers – one from each possible West Coast user organization. The user emails were added manually and deployed one at a time through the email system.
Now granted, it’s plain text and all caps with no personalization, but the copy spoke to the target audience, and the call-to-action was clear. There was no way to track opens, but Gary estimates about 200 folks read the email, and 40 attended the demos. Did I mention that even without tracking codes and dashboard reporting, Gary was able to show the email generated $12 million in sales? Not a bad ROI.
Gary is considered the “Father of Spam,” but his approach was much more defined and targeted than the usual spray and pray campaigns. He had an email marketing strategy – a plan of action designed to achieve a significant or overall goal. He didn’t have marketing technology or some kick-ass HTML email template, but he made the connection allowing the email to impact customer acquisition, conversion, and revenue.
Does your email marketing do that? If you lost your email marketing platform, had to rely on identifying your audience from a sheet of paper, and had to write a plain text email that resulted in direct revenue, could you do it?
You could if you followed Gary’s email marketing strategy:
- Have a clear goal
- Define your audience based on that goal
- Create a clear and concise message
- Use a single, measurable call-to-action
As email marketers, we tend to get caught up in the technology, the data, and the creative leading us to overthink what we need to do. Maybe we should think more like Gary…
“Now that I think of it, I just wanted to show our product to the market.”