Email Marketing Guide: The skinny on successful mail campaigns
Email marketing is a cost-effective and a robust way to approach business prospects. It’s no wonder so many vendors from iContact, ConstantContact, Campaigner, VerticalResponse, MailChimp amongst hundreds of others operate in this domain. But with some much attention, also comes confusion. To overcome this I’m including some factors I consider when rolling out my email marketing campaigns.
Which email marketing service to use?
If you are still short-listing service providers, then ask yourself the following:
- How reputable is this service? (e.g. waste of money if your service provider is blacklisted for spam.)
- How well does the service interface with your CRM system? (e.g. SalesForce)
- How closely can it integrate with your web-analytics (e.g. ActiveConversion, LeadLander, Snoobi, Enecto, etc.)
- How easy is it to know campaign metrics and performance? (e.g. almost instant, or do you get email reports at the end of the day.)
- How much effort is required to create and manage the email templates? (e.g. can your marketing specialist do it, or do you need someone with html skills?)
- Does the service only send to “opt-in” lists or can you also include unsolicited emails?
- Does it provide an automatic email nurturing cycle? If so, how easy is it to use?
- Depending on your annual email blasts, how much will the service cost (including fees, training and team-effort.)
What should my email say?
Your email can be a welcome note to a new service or it can be a thank-you note for a recent download. It can be a newsletter or an unsolicited email to a potential client. It can be any message that you want as long as it’s clear and has a purpose (i.e. call-to-action.)
The email design can be HTML based or in text format. Some techies prefer no-frills emails, whereas consumer market prefer graphic intensive emails. So make sure to purpose your content, as well as your design towards your audience.
How important are email lists?
The quality of the mail list is just as important as the mailing itself. So as you either develop your own in-house list or purchase a list from a reputable vendor, consider the following.
- Opt-in Lists: Subscribed/Opt-in lists are the most responsive since recipients have already committed to hearing from you. Most email marketing services only allow subscribed lists and don’t accept unsolicited email lists anymore.
- List Bounce rate: Good quality email lists have a bounce rate in single digits. This is the accepted norm and you should speak to your list vendor if you get worse bounces.
- Fresh recipients: For opt-in lists, the fresher the list the more responsive they are. Opt-in readers tend to lose interest if the email messages aren’t exciting enough.
- Vertical Focused: Different verticals/industry are more receptive to email marketing than others. IT/Geek recipients tend to have lower open rates because either they don’t read your emails (especially if unsolicited) or because they are overzealous with their security settings (preventing you from tracking open rates.)
- List Geography: Some geographic regions give better open rates than others. For example, I’ve noticed drastic differences in open rates within Scandinavia (Finland +60%, followed by Norway, Denmark and Sweden 20%.)
What metrics should I measure in my campaign?
This brings us to the next point, what to measure? Here are three stats that you should always monitor:
- Open rates: Open rates show when an email was viewed on the recipient’s computer. This is done by embedding a script/image in the email that “calls home”. Open rates indicate subject line effectiveness (was it exciting enough for people to peek at your email?) Do try out different subject lines to figure out what gives you most bang-for-the-buck. A poorly written subject line is a guaranteed fail. Also, do remember that open rates are not very reliable since most mail programs (Outlook, Livemail, Thunderbird, etc.) and webmail services (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) by default block these call home requests.
- Click-through: After viewing your email, if a visitor acts on any of the embedded links, then that’s a click-thru. This is very important because it’s an active action the recipient does. Click-thrus can be accurately measured and are more meaningful than open rates.
What other factors to consider?
At the end of the day, you should look at Open rates and Click-thrus together. Both these metrics together give good insight on campaign performance. But the most important are the actual conversions (what brings home the bacon.) Try different subject lines, creatives and marketing hooks to see how your email funnel maps out. Some other things to monitor are: time of day when campaign was sent, viewed and clicked, list-bounce-rate and graphic intense mailings vs. plain-Jane formats.