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Ten Point Email Marketing Review

Published by Charles Brodeur

Hopefully this guide provided information, tools and ideas for your email campaigns that you can implement right away. But even with a new focus on strategy, list building, content creation and analysis, there are still tactical things that should be periodically checked to ensure email programs are working. See how well your email program performs against these essential diagnostics:

Test your opt-in process

Take a minute to walk yourself through your opt-in process, especially if it has been a year or more since you designed or tweaked it. Your first questions: Do all the links work? Do they send you to the pages you expect, such as a registration or confirmation page? Next, how many clicks does it take to complete the opt-in, including clicking a confirmation link in a follow-up email? Usability rules say the fewer clicks required, the more likely the user will complete the process. Two clicks is ideal, three is reasonable and four or more means you're more likely to see users abandon the optin. Be sure and do this for all working opt-in points including your main opt-in page and all landing pages that are active on your site.

Who's monitoring your incoming mailboxes.

It makes sense to automate your email marketing or newsletter program as much as you can, to reduce the need to supervise opt-ins, opt-outs, registration changes, targeting and segmentation, etc. However, remember that there's a human being behind every email address on your list, and they’re capable of just about anything. That includes not following directions for opting in, opting out,  sending feedback or otherwise contacting you. That's why you need to designate someone, either in your department or in your company's IT department, to monitor all email mailboxes associated  with your outgoing messages to watch for misdirected opt-outs, complaints and comments. Most especially this includes the email address you use to send your messages. No matter how many times you tell people not to reply to messages or how easy your feedback or unsubscribe process is, subscribers are going to hit «reply» anyway. Someone must monitor that mailbox to catch and route personal replies. If you haven’t designated someone, now is the time to do so. If you have, check in often and find out what type of traffic and feedback is coming in.

Review message performance across platforms and email clients.

The way your email is received has definitely changed in the last 12 months, and it will continue to do so in the future. When was the last time you tested your email message to make sure it renders correctly across all email clients? You may regularly check test messages in your inbox, but have you checked them in Outlook, on a Mac, in AOL, Yahoo!, Hotmail and Gmail? And don’t forget, you have to add in mobile devices like iPhones and Blackberries and other smartphones, which don't handle HTML and rich text well. If you use an email solution provider to manage your email programs, it might offer a testing service that can do this for you automatically. If not, take the time to check it yourself. If your emails don’t look exactly like you want, change your designs so they work more effectively.

Optimize both ends of the email relationship.

When was the last time you looked at your unsubscribe rate – and the reasons for unsubscribes? New names grow old quickly on the typical mailing list. Interest, as judged by opens and clicks, starts to drop off as early as the first couple of weeks after opt-in. You need to act fast to get newcomers engaged enough to continue opening your messages and clicking on your offers. It isn't enough to nurture newcomers, though. You also need to do more than just say good-bye to people leaving your list, especially if they take the time to unsubscribe properly instead of merely fading away or hitting the spam complaint button in a misguided attempt to quit. Although you must stop emailing as soon as the owner asks to unsubscribe, you should confirm the unsubscribe in a followup email or on the landing page. Include in it a link to a short exit survey, directions on how to re-subscribe if the unsubscribe was a mistake and maybe even an offer to sweeten the pot. This learning will help  you refine strategy for the future.

Review all co-registration sources, and monitor by source to see how they perform.

Co-registration, in which you cross-promote your email offerings with third parties, can be a fast and inexpensive way to build your list, especially if you don›t have a lot of resources. However, co- registration has two big downsides. First, you can't always control what other businesses listed along with you in the co-registration deal do. Second, the people who sign up for your program may not be as motivated as the ones who sign up directly. How long has it been since you checked out your co-registration? Examine the opt-in page to see what other companies and offers are being listed  with you. Make sure the registration page still works and contains your branding, that the permission level has not changed and that the registrations are properly being fed into your database. You also need to monitor how well these names perform and whether they are responsible for more than their share of either business or problems, such as bad addresses and spam complaints. Segregate the names into a sublist and compare them on key metrics with your general database. If the numbers are bad, discontinue the co-registration partnership.

Test all links in all email messages

One of the key provisions in CAN-SPAM, the U.S. law regulating commercial email, is that you must include a working unsubscribe mechanism in each commercial email message. Do you know if yours is working? There's a good chance it might not be. As simple a step as unsubscribe might be, check each time to make sure your process is working. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of compliance. You should test every link in every campaign message you send to make sure each one works. More than one time is even better, since things do break down. But with the unsubscribe process, follow it through to the confirmation. Using a seed address, one that's on your list specifically to track rendering and deliverability, unsubscribe the address and take every required step to complete the process. Then, check the database to make sure the address has been either deleted or moved to an internal do-not-email list.

Review your deliverability.

Emails that are well targeted with great creative and compelling offers don’t do your company any good unless they are actually delivered. When was the last time you reviewed your rate of delivery? Test your content against spam filters and see how many of your emails are blocked. If you aren’t pleased with the results, optimize your email for inbox delivery by creating good headers, writing content that doesn’t look like spam and cultivating good industry relations. If your current email solution doesn’t have a component to rate your delivery success and help your company avoid spam filters, consider finding a service that can analyze your content and help you improve deliverability.

Review message frequency and sending schedule.

Are you sending too frequently, or not often enough? This is a hard call to make, because it›s often not clear whether you would gain ROI by increasing mailings by one or two a month or lose it because you would aggravate recipients into unsubscribing, hitting the spam complaint button or going into hiding to escape you. However, it›s time to review your email program›s performance over the last 12 months. If you›re sending less frequently than weekly or even bi-weekly, your list might be going to sleep in between sends. Consider stepping up your frequency by one or two mailings in a cycle to see if it will bring you added revenue. While you don’t want to lose subscribers, you also don’t want to leave money on the table. Understand that you have to be careful when you move mailings up beyond the level you promised subscribers. Moving from a weekly to a daily schedule could create havoc, but moving from a monthly schedule to bi-weekly might not have the same effect. How will you know? Test first and watch both the positive indicators – opens, clicks, conversions, sales, order size per sales, etc. – and the negative ones, such as spam complaints and unsubscribes.

Keep your list clean with periodic removal of inactive addresses.

It's true: half of your mailing list, maybe even more if you don't email it often enough, has gone inactive on you. They're still out there, but they aren›t opening, clicking or buying. And you need to either clean out the dead wood or find a way to wake them up. First, you need to find out how many addresses have not responded in a certain time period. Segment your database by addresses that generated no clicks or opens in six months. Create a special message inviting recipients to opt in again, update preferences or take advantage of a special offer. After a period of time, go back into the segment and delete any address that hasn't responded.

Review your resources.

Do you have the right partner for email marketing? One that can also help you integrate email with Web analytics, social media and mobile marketing, and enhance delivery? And one that can provide content and support for you to continue learning about email marketing? Consider learning more about BigTurns. We offer tools such as a Blacklist Checker for Email that can enable your company to determine if you are blacklisted with any of the seven major service providers. We also offer free HTML templates and basics, plus quizzes, white papers, Webcasts and more.

Charles Brodeur
eCommerce Consultant
BigTurns Professional Services Ltd 
Vancouver, BC V6E 4R1

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