Email Marketing 102: Make Reporting An Obsession

You feel like you are a one-person marketing team, you have revenue targets (hopefully) for the year that you have deemed to be near impossible, and you have fifty programs to execute and no bodies to do the work. How the bleep are you going to make reporting a priority?

Does this calamity sound familiar?

Here’s my answer: Just do it.
You know why the answer is so easy? Because if you aren’t tracking your progress in a timely manner, there is a very good chance you are wasting a % of your time and even more importantly, missing revenue opportunity.

Here are a few tips to getting reporting into your routine:
  1. When you design each program, make sure you build into the schedule 2 hours of “must do” work within 5 days of every campaign launch. That breaks down to:
    1. 60 minutes to analyze the report data
    2. 30 minutes to make modifications to the next round of campaign delivery. Use this time to make only 1 or 2 changes to the campaign content or data definitions – anything more and you won’t know what to attribute the impact to. 
    3. 30 minutes of additional testing
  2. Include metrics as a part of your weekly revenue reporting (or campaign success reporting) to your supervisor. This does three things for you:
    1. Makes sure you actually look at your reports
    2. Allows you to see trending over time on a weekly level
    3. Gives you an understanding of what your campaign cutoff should be based on an actual vs guesstimate slowdown on week over week trends
  3. Make Opt-Out Trending a part of your Quarterly MBO targets. Opt-out growth is an indication that your content is not relevant. It’s also an indication that you may not be targeting the right people in general. Negative or no growth are the best metrics here.
I hope I’ve convinced you to become a reporting maniac. If not, well… good luck?

Engage Subscribers: 6 Fun Email Ideas

AWeber’s blog post today gives six fantastic real life examples of how to engage your subscriber base. Try one of these ideas out in your next campaign, and see if your community reacts positively. Keep in mind – you know your customers and community the best, but don’t forget to TEST!

Using HTML symbol entities in email

Campaign Monitor, one of the many ESPs out there, differentiates themselves by having a fantastically technical blog – lots of examples, templates. Today is just a sampling of what to expect from them. Learn about how to design a better HTML email over time… because HTML for web and HTML for Email are two very different beasts.

Email Etiquette Tips fr: AMEX Open Forum – Can you commit to this in 2010?

Email Etiquette Tips
Dec 23, 2009

Email used to be charming – it was fun, it was easy, it was novel. Now email seems a lot more like a monster that we battle daily – one that gets hungrier the more you feed it.
To help streamline your communications in the coming year, we put together a quick cheat sheet of our own best practices for email etiquette. And, trust us, it’s not just about being more polite, it’s about being more efficient…

1. Communicate “action steps” first, not last.
It’s standard practice to begin an email by summarizing what happened at a meeting or during a phone conversation, then following on with any “action steps” that emerged. But this makes it easy for the most important information to get lost in the shuffle. By reversing this order – and listing actions steps first and foremost – you keep the attention on the items you want to draw attention to.

2. Use “FYI” for emails that have no actionable information.
Some emails need to be shared to keep everyone in the loop. But non-actionable correspondence should be labeled as such – so that it can be prioritized accordingly.
At the Behance office, we use a simple “FYI” tag at the top of all emails that contain information that you are not required to act on. It allows for easy filtering of non-actionable emails, whether by scanning visually or setting up a rule in your email client.
3. Never “reply all” (unless you absolutely must).
If you’ve received an email sent to a large group of people, do your best to avoid replying to all when you respond. If that person was qualified to send the email, typically they can be relied on to be the point person who collates the responses. Keep in mind: If using the “reply all” feature really seems necessary, you are probably having a conversation that would be better (and more efficiently) had face-to-face.

4. Tell them that you’ll get to it later.
If someone sends you an urgent email that you can’t get to that day, write them a quick note to let them know, specifically, when you will get to it. You’ll quell their anxiety, and save yourself a future nagging email from them.

5. Don’t make a habit of responding to backlogged email on the weekends.
Particularly if you are managing a group of people, choose your “email catchup” times wisely. While it might be convenient for you to respond to 10 backlogged emails from a team member on a Sunday afternoon, it may not be so pleasant for him or her to receive that email bomb from the bossman while they’re trying to relax. Always consider your audience.

6. Number your questions.
Like it or not, we’re all more distractible and information-overloaded than we used to be. If you’re not doing it already, it should be standard protocol to break out multiple points or questions as numbered items in all email correspondence. If you don’t, you risk having that customer or client only respond to the first question that happens to catch their eye. (And now you have to write another email to ask them about it again.)

7. Don’t send “Thanks!” emails.
If you don’t have anything substantive and/or actionable to say, don’t send the email. Refraining from sending the one-word “Thanks!” email is tough, because it can feel ungrateful. But at this juncture, we’re all probably more grateful for one less email.

8. Never write an angry or contentious email.
Email is a severely limited medium when it comes to conveying tone, which is why angry emails are never a good idea. More often than not, they just create more anxiety – and more email. Occasionally, writing an angry email can be therapeutic. If this is the case, get it off your chest, and then delete the email. When a confrontation is brewing, a conversation in person or on the phone is always best.

9. Be concise.
Initially, I had this point as: “write everything in the fewest amount of words possible.” So you see what I mean. We’re all crunched for time. Keep it short, and get to the point.

***This post by J.K. Glei is based on research by the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think thank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.

Do You Know Who You Are?

Sounds like a strange question to ask. Of course you know who you are – you are you.

But throughout the day, every day, you are speaking on behalf of your family, your company, your significant other, your friends, your customers, your employees, the shops and restaurants you patron, and maybe a dozen others. When you go out of your way to make a recommendation based on your personal experiences or when you respond to an email representing the voice of your organization, you are not just you. You have now become a guerrilla marketing extraordinaire.

Has that establishment – perhaps unbeknownst to you – equipped you with the information to effectively communicate the right message?

It’s not just about the deal train that is passing through on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Underneath all of the craziness there is a message – a look and feel, a reputation of quality, something – that is being passed along with every piece of communication that reaches your TV or computer screen. Did you get that message?

As a marketer, what underlying message are you trying to communicate to your constituents? Let’s be honest – it’s not about the killer Cyber Monday deal you were able to work out. Consider how many first time shoppers are coming back a second and third time. How can you convey your message so they know who you are and want to come back to get to know you a little more?

Back to Basics for Email Marketing Metrics… Show Me The Money

Lately I’ve had several conversations with email marketing acquaintances about what is considered a “good” open rate, what people should be looking out for in their reports, how they know their email campaigns are doing well, what about social media reporting, etc.

Depending on the type of business you are in, your priority metrics will be different. For several years, Open Rate, Click-Thru Rate, and Forward to a Friend were king in email reporting land no matter what business you were in. You simply cared about engagement – Is this email recipient reading my messages? Do they care about what I have to say? ….. and the indirect line to profit.

In all reality, having a high open-rate has absolutely nothing to do with if your recipients care about what you have to say. Technology has gotten to the point where Open Rate and Forward to a Friend border being irrelevant – hence the onset of tools that help marketers understand engagement and yes, revenue.

Of course, there were a ton of variations on these three depending on which Email Service Provider you were working with as a value-added report metric. In the end however, most marketers ended up sticking to those three simple metrics (if at all – you’d be surprised how many email marketers never read their reports).

Today however, if you are in the business of email marketing, you are definitely also in the business of generating revenue for your company. So I ask you – Do you know how much money each email campaign you send generates per recipient?

The “per recipient” puts an interesting spin on your metrics as it gives us a tieback to engagement across the entire recipient database. It’s fine and dandy to say that this email campaign generated $100,000 – but if you had to send the email to 3 million people to get that $100,000 dollars and the revenue came from 1500 conversions (and btw you had to spend $21,000 to get it), you’re looking some ugly engagement numbers and probably getting some Spam reports.

Yes, I know that not everyone is going to bite every time. Yes, I know that times are tough. But, what if you targeted your campaigns to send less and make more per recipient? Overall costs go down, and overall engagement goes up. Think about it.

If the answer to my question is no, then now is THE time to take a step back and run through this 5 Step Plan:

  1. Know What You Spend: List out all costs associated with an average campaign, including human asset, time spent in reviews, etc.
  2. Calculate Recent Campaign ROI to Benchmark: Now that you know how much you spend, you might be able to take recent campaigns and create a benchmark. Don’t compare yourself to others just yet – just get a number that you know is accurate. You may need to skip down to #3 and come back if you send a lot of campaigns and have no idea how to tie purchase back to a specific email campaign.
  3. Connect Email to Web: If your company does not have a partnership with Omniture, Coremetrics, or some other web analytics firm, sign up for Google Analytics. Then, work with your web team to get your site to play nice with whatever tool you end up using. This is not a requirement for understanding return by campaign if you are sending only a few campaigns a month – but if you are sending several per week to segmented audiences, you will need to know where that email recipient is coming from for which purchase to effectively calculate revenue by campaign.
  4. Segment Your Database: You may need to send out several short surveys over time with a coupon to get responses. You probably already have a lot of information in your transaction database. Take a look around and figure out which are the right segments for you: Seasonal Shoppers, Clearance Bin Buyers, Make Me Feel Special Buyers, Only Buys Photography Electronics, etc. Create some simple segments to start with so you can build a use case for getting some help.
  5. Test Segments for ROI Comparison: Send at least a dozen campaigns over the course of at least 2 months to different segments. Make sure you are watching sending frequency and stay minimally within your current range. Calculate ROI per recipient and compare. What did you find?

I guarantee you that you will generate more revenue per recipient. I can also say that with 100% confidence, your management team will find this one simple metric per campaign to be infinitesimally more useful than open-rate, for one. It’s worth the effort, I promise.