Assessing Your E-mail Strategy
by Andreas Roell
Assessing Your E-mail Strategy
There are quantitative measures you can take to ensure effective electronic communication
Andreas Roell is president and CEO of Geary Interactive, a full-service digital marketing firm founded in 2000. With offices in Las Vegas, San Diego and New York, Roell has built a successful online company specializing in Web development, media buying/planning, search engine and e-mail marketing. He can be reached at (619) 239-5953 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series.
Now that you have created your list and decided on basic deliverability protocol, it is time to start digging down to the deeper levels of optimization. You have created the e-mail message, segmented your list, and are ready to send out your e-mail, but you have to remember a few key benchmarks along the way to ensure optimal deliverability and open rates.
Most marketers outsource their e-mail marketing, as the utilization of a quality delivery system can warrant a 93 to 97 percent deliverability rate. This is the key foundation to your e-mail marketing campaign, ensuring that your audience is receiving your e-mails and can act on your offers.
Choosing a delivery system
The first component to your e-mail marketing campaign is choosing the delivery system to deliver your message. This important decision can make or break your campaign, as the reputation and technical setup of a system can greatly impact the rate of deliverability of your message. There are a number of qualified choices out there based on criteria established by industry standards, but it is important to choose the right one for your marketing needs.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have developed a detailed spam scoring system that rates delivery systems both on reputation and on content when deciding to either deliver or block e-mail messages. The weight no longer lies on how large your e-mail contact list is, but rather the response the recipients have to your e-mail messages. Delivery systems build their reputation by faring well with ISPs on a number of levels. One component ISPs look at to gauge a marketer’s merit is the quality of their list. By getting valid e-mail addresses upfront, marketers will avoid having invalid, expired or unknown addresses, and will reduce the risk of hard bounces.
Another element ISPs score delivery systems on is the amount of negative responses the e-mail messages receive. Many e-mail recipients will mark unsolicited e-mails as spam, hurting the reputation score of a vendor. If a high enough percentage of the e-mails sent out are marked as spam by users, the vendor could be permanently blocked by that ISP.
Successful delivery is based on the combination of your reputation and your e-mail content. With respect to content, it is important to know which keywords will trigger spam filters, so you can avoid using them within your text and raise the likelihood of getting through to inboxes.
Once you have chosen your delivery system, testing and analytics methods will help you get a good idea of how your e-mail is performing.
Open Rates: The hot topic in testing e-mail marketing efforts is analyzing the e-mail’s open rate. According to industry standards, if you have a 35 percent open rate, you are doing well, but with the introduction of preview panes in major e-mail systems, problems with determining actual open rates are arising. Now instead of having to click to open an e-mail, it is opened automatically and marketers are left wondering whether the recipient even saw the message. In addition, many e-mail accounts automatically block images, hindering it from being counted when the server collects all downloaded images as opens. The combination of these issues has changed the meaning of an open rate, lowering its accountability in the scheme of the overall campaign results.
Click-throughs: When testing click-throughs on the e-mail message, it is a good idea to look beyond the overall click-through rate. Typically, industry standards for click-through rates as a result of acquisition e-mail campaigns range from 5 to 7 percent, with e-mail open rates holding a 32 percent industry average. It is important, however, to analyze clicks on a deeper level, as solely measuring the overall rate does not factor in the difference between an individual user clicking through multiple times versus multiple users only clicking once. It is also important to develop a click-through priority scoring system, as each click is not as equal in importance. If in your newsletter, for example, you provide room rates, but also have a player’s club offer and events section, you can see where people are clicking to analyze total activity as well as specific areas of interest.
Additionally, you want to look at where the users are going. If a recipient clicks on your e-mail, then visits your Web site, then continues to make a purchase, such as a hotel reservation, or refers a friend, then you know you have a highly-engaged user. If, however, the user clicks on the e-mail message and visits your site, but does not go any further, then you know your landing page is not doing its job. Analyzing data on a deeper level rather than surface statistics and testing multiple landing pages will help you gauge the effectiveness of your message to determine the best approach.
Remember the Customer
The use of these various strategic testing methods is a high-level approach to successful e-mail marketing, but you need to keep in mind that the most important part of your campaign is your customer. When creating and sending your e-mail messages, you need to set and fulfill the customer’s expectation of exactly what it is they receive. Provide fields for users to mark their areas of interest, a mixture of product information such as room rates and hotel news, and different types of messages to ensure that once the user clicks through to your Web site or offer, they are seeing what they expected. You need to think about the message and its delivery from the customer’s point of view, giving them relevant and useful information and sending them to the appropriate next step.
Including different types of content within your message will help you gauge whether a customer wants to read your e-mail for the latest product, a sale or promotional item, or to learn more about company or industry news. Once you obtain this information, you are then able to either reorganize the material within your e-mail or re-target different customers based on their preferences.
The third and final installment of this e-mail optimization series will take a look at how to build and grow your e-mail marketing database with quality leads.