Archive for category Email – Best Practices
Let’s start with a little factoid; The average transaction amount increased by 15% over 2011 Christmas period.
So, great news for brands who offer online transactional capabilities to their users; due to seasonal trends your sales will soar. But also, with this in mind, it stands to reason why there is a correlation with sales organically increasing over holiday times and that months prior to these are when marketers starts focusing their attention on their brand presence, transaction rates and ROI.
Is this right though?
Isn’t this something that should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind all year round? For me the mid Year is a great time to review this process and ensure its perfect for the remaining year ahead.
With that in mind maybe our email brains need a lobotomy and our e-commerce ones need to see the light of day, because to have a truly balanced digital marketing strategy we need to ensure we are using all the information we have available to us to create one succinct marketing objective and ultimately guarantee our business makes money. What I’m talking about in this instance is integrating our web analytics with email marketing to help us gain a better understanding of our subscribers’ online habits and allowing that data to drive abandoned basket campaigns, in turn increasing website revenue generation.
Your ESPs reporting tool can only follow subscribers up to the point where they click off your email and land on a website. After that click, web analytics takes over; however, an ESP platform that can integrate with your analytics package can give you the complete picture of your subscribers’ behaviour. This is why it is so important to intertwine these two as the more you know about your audience; the more likely you will be to turn them into customers.
Using your analytics to track the page views of the subscribers that clicked-through from your email you can learn which subscribers then added a product to their shopping cart but abandoned it before finalising the purchase. It’s this information you need to create specific remarketing campaigns directly targeted to those subscribers that have shown interest in your email offer but failed to transact.
Abandoned basket remarketing is another great step-by-step process that opens the lines of communication between brand and subscribers attempting to bridge that gap between the two. As technology evolves, the complexities of segmenting, and managing your email lists and campaigns are becoming more sophisticated. The more data you have, the more accurate your trending reports will be across multiple campaigns and combining both your email tracking features and web analytics data, you’ll gain a complete understanding of your subscribers. Once you know this information, you can use it to create relevant email campaigns that are essential to your subscribers’ needs.
The more you know about your audience; the more likely you will be to turn them into customers. – Samuel Reynolds
Have you considered winning back your valuable lapsed customers?
Abandoned, dormant or unresponsive email addresses hurt your numbers and can play havoc with your deliverability. Advice you will often hear is that you need to get people interacting with your emails, opening,
clicking and most importantly not marking it as Junk or Spam. The reason for this is that ISP’s (Google, Hotmail and Yahoo etc) are taking this interaction into account when deciding whether your emails should go to the inbox or the spam folder in future sends.
A large number of unresponsive recipients tell the ISP’s that your emails are not worth sending to the inbox and are more likely junk. The importance of this interaction brings the associated risk with it as inactive subscriber numbers naturally grow. We tend to think of inactive data as a group of people who ignore our campaigns and are blind to our emails and if we send a gentle reminder they will be back on board as reactivated subscribers but this is not the case. The right reactivation strategy depends on your ability to identify the true causes of inactivity.
Has the recipient ever seen your email? If you are unsure of your domain or IP reputation or are aware of a low rate of inbox delivery your welcome email or the first campaign that is sent to a newly registered user may end up in their junk folder. Best case scenario the user will move this from Junk into their Inbox which is great for your engagement stats (especially with the Gmail Monster). As we know there are incentivised campaigns to get users signing up to receive emails from brands and these are more than often competitions or sweepstakes that are entered into by ‘Compers’ (Professional competition players). This leads to a false sense of overall success, interest and engagement. Most compers will have multiple unused email or social media accounts that are only used for entering competitions online and sending emails or posts to these addresses is a bit like burning money.
Why and where did they sign up in the first place? We need to identify what type of inactive we are dealing with before we can send them engaging or meaningful reactivation campaigns. Again this is down to the truth behind the sign up. If users have searched for your product and clicked on a search result which then led them to your website where they signed up to receive your marketing messages and gave you their permission; this makes them a very different inactive user to a comper that may have just signed up to be entered into a prize draw.
This example is based on the opposite far ends of the spectrum but if you knew where the inactive users have signed up for your communications in the first place this should enable you to further segment your inactive data and use different more meaningful tones when trying to reactivate them. You may even decide that it’s not worth bothering to reactivate some users at all.
The right reactivation strategy depends on your ability to identify the true causes of inactivity.
Did they expect something else when they initially signed up? In some cases users can expect one email per month or possibly an email every 3 months depending on the type of business they are signing up to. In other cases users expect an email per day and if they don’t see it in their inbox they are surprised by that. Here we need to make sure that the user knows what they should be receiving in future. A great way to do this is by using a welcome email or a welcome programme that sets the expectation of what frequency or content they should expect (i.e. deals, vouchers, product info, etc) from the beginning of their engagement with your marketing communications or brand.
A first-class example of this is Groupon. Who would have thought that simply signing up to Groupon could mean that they will send you up to 4 emails per day, 28 emails per week or more than 100 emails per month? As some users may indulge this frequency just think of how many users unsubscribe within only a few hours or days of signing up. Set the expectation at sign up or by using a welcome series and users won’t be surprised when you start to mail them. Many users become inactive when they have not received what they thought they were going to receive within the first few mailings so make these count because first impressions definitely do last.
Are they really dormant customers or is there a channel shift in place? Are users now engaging or converting through search or social media leaving your specific marketing channel or communications which are no longer getting fairly credited as the influencer?
With the birth and rapid growth of social media, the up and coming mobile channel and not to forget search and the more traditional direct marketing methods, we find ourselves using multiple channels to communicate to our customers or prospects.
Some users may now be engaging with your brand via Facebook, Twitter or even YouTube and it’s not that they are inactive, they have simply channel shifted. It is a worthwhile exercise to try and match back your inactive email data to your active social media, direct or traditional marketing data before sending a ‘We’ve missed you’ or ‘Here’s 80% OFF your next purchase’ type of communication.
Are they calling into purchase or gather further info instead of replying/converting through your email and social pages? Unfortunately some users are more than happy to receive your emails or social media messages but choose to never open or click on them.
They may however choose to call in their purchases or head into “brick and mortar” stores to make the enquiries or purchases. It’s again worth matching back your inactive data to users who may have called into a call centre or may have purchased in store before sending a reactivation message. We wouldn’t want to offend an existing engaged (money spending) client now would we?
Right, so we have covered some of the ground work which should allow for informed decisions on the segmentation, personalisation and what tone the reactivation messages could contain. I would suggest at least three variations of the reactivation messages to allow for more relevant communications to be sent to each individual recipient. As it is my firm belief that relevance and rich demographic data drives the success of any marketing campaigns further segmentation can be achieved by finding answers and solutions to the following.
What amount of data would like to reactivate? Think about your inbox deliverability and domain reputation and ensure that you broadcast the inactive data at reasonably sized flow rated segments. Sending a colossal amount of inactive data all-in-one broadcast could damage your inbox delivery for some time and in future broadcasts.
How old is the data? Spam traps and Honey pots are created by ISP’s (Google, Hotmail and Yahoo etc) using dormant/inactive email accounts. They do this to sniff out algorithmic spam sends or outdated data lists which may have been previously stolen or sold. Your ESP should be able to feedback if you have hit spam traps as hitting these are not a good sign of data hygiene. There is also a question around ‘dead’ data, and this could literally mean that the recipient has passed away. Nobody likes to talk about it but in very large data files it is worth while taking this fact of life into account.
What demographic info do you hold per email address? How can the data be segmented? Rich data will help the cause, if you don’t have anything to work with besides an email address the reactivation process will be rather plain and have a low relevance so the amount of reactivated users from these campaigns may be a lot lower than it could have been. If you hold any additional demographic information about the currently inactive recipients you should find a way to use this to your advantage. A simple sign-up date, birth date or gender can hugely influence the message type and tone when trying to re-engage the inactive users.
Relevance and the use of rich demographic data drives the success of any marketing campaign
What we should have at this point is a segmented data file of your inactive users, for example:
Received at least 5 messages in past 3 months but have not opened
Received messages in past but have only opened once in the past 5 messages
Received messages in the past but have not ever opened
Age 18 – 25
Age 26 – 30
Age 31 – 40
I recommend at least 3 variations of messages and contents for the different inactive data segments but the reality is that the more segments and variations the better as this can only mean that the campaigns are created to be as relevant as possible. You might choose to set up the reactivation campaigns as recurring emails or choose to do occasional reactivation projects. This will depend on the churn rates relating to your marketing activity and data lists.
Test, test, test and when you think you have tested enough keep on testing the campaign contents, personalisation, time of send etc and make small changes to measure what works and what doesn’t. Trust in the science of A/B Split tests and keep on improving on what you are sending out.
Lastly but not at all least make an effort to find out why these users have stopped interacting with your emails or engaging with your brand and if the reactivation campaigns do re-engage a client or prospect; what will you do differently to keep them engaged this time around?
Abandoned, dormant or unresponsive email addresses hurt your numbers and can play havoc with your deliverability.
It’s very easy to bore your customers to death with email: just send them the same type of message repeatedly and you’ll succeed. We’re often guilty of this when we send our e-newsletter and little else. Whilst a newsletter absolutely has a place as a staple in your email marketing program, it should be far from the only type of message you send your customers on a regular basis.
After your email newsletter (which is usually weekly, fortnightly or monthly depending on how much content you have), I recommend intertwining the below three message types into your email marketing regularly.
This is probably the number one under-utilised email message type by all marketers. Let’s put it this way, are you the bloody annoying friend who only calls when you need something? (i.e. the brand that only sends email when you need sales). Whilst the sales and marketing messages might lead the email program calendar for most, you will develop greater customer loyalty and engagement when you integrate content rich emails in between them. Content rich email gives you opportunities to educate your customers on your products before and after the sale, which in the long run increases customer satisfaction and the potential for repeat sales.
Slightly more sophisticated, but easy to automate in most email systems. To start you’ll need to scope the desired customer journey post purchase (so if you don’t have one it’s definitely time to create one). Bare in mind that people are more receptive to buying from you when they’ve already done so, so don’t miss the chance to use triggered email to make up-sell offers post-purchase. Ideally every product or service should have a natural follow-on product or service you offer next. For those who don’t convert on the up-sell offer, proceed to a down-sell (usually a lower priced, lower commitment than the original purchase).
Every new endeavour you conduct should have email associated with it. Anything with a looming expiry date, especially events, deserves deadline reminders. Don’t be shy about frequency either – most brands are definitely not actually sending enough of this style of message. For an efficient service campaign guarantee you give your recipients a heads up on what’s coming, when it’s coming and when it is due to end. For any behavioural engagement that may occur along the customer journey, a service email to confirm (sign up, opt-down, unsubscribe) is always positively received and highly interacted with.
Integrating these message types into your email marketing will give your program greater depth and diversity. As well as a fresh, unpredictable tone that emphasises relevancy and greater service to your recipients. After all, don’t they deserve it?
Whilst a newsletter absolutely has a place as a staple in your email marketing program, it should be far from the only type of message you send your customers on a regular basis.
In my opinion this is a lightly salted topic in the email marketing world. Seen as a must have but not taken too seriously as there will be many opportunities to make the desired impact in future.
Oh my, just how far off of the mark are we? When a prospective client consensually allows your brand or business to market email promotions and materials to them in future, many companies choose to let their first ever email communication simply trigger a text based, untraceable and most of all unprofitable email to the recipient. Many marketers see this as a time and cost saving process and choose to rather concentrate their efforts on the individually tailored marketing campaigns which the newly signed up recipient may receive in due time.
Keeping in mind that these prospective customers are now at the absolute peak of engagement levels the key components to a good welcome email or welcome series of emails is an honest representation of your brand and products as well as setting your recipients expectations of things to come from the very start of the digital relationship that they have entered into with your business. Essentially we want to drive them to a place of purchase and get them investing in your products financially, but also emotionally. An insensible text based welcome email will certainly not provoke favorable emotions.
The right mix of well designed and correctly targeted messages at the right time will give savvy marketers a hugely competitive advantage. Over the past years there have been various case studies and examples of just how essential this initial communication is as a key component of any sophisticated email marketing programme. When compiling your welcome email processes it is important to consider each acquisition source individually as this enables you to drive more relevant messaging which in turn should support recipients through the purchase process. The correct approach will not only drive the immediate wins in terms of converting to first time buyer, but will generally give you the insight to increase the lifetime value of each individual in your database. This is particularly important if you have an in-store segment which has the lowest online conversion/engagement rates as these should be contributing quite considerably to overall database growth as they sign into your digital communications.
A high-quality welcome series of emails will utilise dynamic content to provide the most personalised and relevant messaging to each acquired recipient, with a view to increasing interaction and conversion rates across the entire data asset. Testing of subject lines and content over time will create an increased understanding of the types of messages and content your users are most receptive to and most likely to engage on.
Many savvy email marketers have realised that a welcome series of emails can greatly assist with domain and sending reputation management by enabling the removal of incorrect or dormant data like hard bounced addresses before introducing the newest data to bulk mailing sends.
7 Key points to remember before creating a Welcome email or series are:
- Understand the different types of new subscribers and what they want or need from your communications
- Understand what you immediately know about your new subscriber and how this information will drive the content
- Make it clear to the user that they will be receiving further communications in the case of a welcome series.
Example: This is Part 1 of 3
- Boast about the benefits of being subscribed to your emails and deliver on the promise
- Only decide how many emails you will include in a series once you have mapped your content
- Ensure that the user is not sent your regular communications until they have moved through the welcome series.
- Use this opportunity to educate, set expectations and assist first time conversions.
The right mix of well designed and correctly targeted messages at the right time will give savvy marketers a hugely competitive advantage.
Every good email marketer appreciates that to improve their email performance they need to test! test! test!
What time of day deployment works best for your audience? Test it!
Should your friendly “from” field reference your company’s name or a recipient’s name for better open rates? Test it!
Easy right? Wrong! Too many marketers cannibalise their testing by trying to do too much at the same time and not being thorough, giving them misleading statistics and conclusions. Realistically it is the small, incremental alterations to your emails that have a surprising influence on success. The best place to start testing your emails is to run A/B subject line split tests.
Studies show that 35% of recipients will open an email purely because of the content of the subject line; so it is critical to understand what style of subject line your recipients prefer. After all, time spent on creative testing, CTA placement, incentives etc. are irrelevant if people aren’t opening your email. Divide your contact records into three pots and send two different subject line versions to two of them. The last pot should receive the email with the subject line which had the greatest open rate.
Start with a 10/10/80 split approach.
Send subject line A to 10% of your list and send subject line B to a different 10% of your list.
Based on what metrics are most important to you (unique open % as a standard) send whichever e-mail performed the best to the remaining 80%.
After tracking your results in this method you should be able to tell exactly what works and what doesn’t within your subject lines. This style of behavioural testing (measuring what people actually did) provides much better intelligence than surveying people about what they would do. The benefit here is that you can apply the results immediately and optimise your campaigns on a real-time basis. The cost of execution is minimal, especially relative to the potential results that can be achieved by better understanding what works best with your own target audience and is by far the best place to start in your testing process.
To clarify the three types of digital opt-in procedures when communicating with recipients and prospects the following is a layman’s term guide which should cover off any confusion around this area. Starting with the all essential signing up of new recipients to receive future digital marketing communications there are two well known procedures known as SINGLE opt-in or DOUBLE opt-in. Another form of opt-in which I will cover in this article is the SOFT opt-in.
SINGLE opt-in relates to a prospect indicating that they would like to receive future digital marketing messages from your brand or organisation via your supplied channels. They are then added to the relevant data file or segment for future broadcasts. Best practice procedure is to send them a welcome email or confirmation message to indicate their inclusion and offer them an opportunity to adjust their preferences and indicate what their key interests are. You should use this opportunity to cross sell, up sell and drive the user to your website for a possible first purchase. The use of a welcome discount or special offer is very common in these types of messages.
DOUBLE opt-in involves following-up the previous step to authenticate the user’s details. This is done by sending the new subscriber a further communication preferably in real-time with a confirmation link. They will then need to click this link before their opt-in is accepted and their email address is added to your data file or segment. This is an essential step to completing their registration as this eliminates the risk of fraudulent and 3rd party registrations. The DOUBLE opt-in process is often noted as a best practice however; it is not at all a legal requirement. To outline a further benefit of this, when a user is notified that they will need to respond to your confirmation email it should prompt them to retrieve your email. If it has been directed to their junk folder by their spam filter or settings you could benefit your future inbox delivery based on this engagement.
SOFT opt-in is a muddy waters topic for most digital marketers but can apply in some circumstances as an exception to the rule in digital marketing. This type of opt-in has usually been collected during sale negotiations or at the time of purchasing of goods or services. These messages should only contain the marketing of similar or related products and can only be sent on the basis that you have given the recipient opportunities to object to receiving future marketing communications when their details were harvested. You should also include the opportunity to unsubscribe (opt-out) on every future message and should only continue to send to the recipients if they do not opt-out. The opt-out should be as easy and direct as possible and should allow the option to STOP or UNSUBSCRIBE from any future marketing communications.
The term opt-out refers to several methods by which individuals can avoid receiving unsolicited product or service information. This ability is usually associated with direct marketing campaigns such as telemarketing, e-mail marketing, or direct mail.
UNSUBSCRIBE/opt-out law states that you are obligated to allow recipients of your communications to opt-out or unsubscribe at any given time that they may wish to do so. Regardless of which digital marketing channel you are using it is highly recommended that that you comply with any opt-out requests as soon as possible. This begs the question, why market to an audience that are not interested or engaged with your offering?
You may send a confirmation message to confirm the completion of their unsubscription from future marketing messages broadcasted by your your brand or organisation.
If you have anything you would like me to add to this or would like any additional information with regards to this please comment or send me an email on: email@example.com