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How to assess your Email programmes against the competition

How to assess your Email programmes against the competition

By Loren McDonald, Vice President of Industry Relations, Silverpop.

In today’s hotly contested marketplace, savvy marketers are looking for any advantage they can find. But before you can gain a leg up, you have to know how you measure up.

Used correctly, benchmark data provides marketers with baseline scorecards to help gauge success and identify areas for improvement.

To that end, Silverpop recently performed an international email marketing metrics benchmark study, analysing 7,000 emails sent to 188 countries and digging beyond traditional metrics to deliver a deeper, more accurate picture of the playing field.

Here are three areas in which we unearthed key nuggets, plus tips for improving your email program’s performance

1. Message Activity

In addition to monitoring classic metrics like opens and click-throughs, measuring the average number of “opens per opener” and “clicks per clicker” can help you gauge how much activity each message generates.

Silverpop’s international study found that bottom-quartile performers saw fewer than 1.3 opens per opener compared to a 1.66 overall average.

In the clicks-per-clicker category, top-quartile performers (1.6 clicks per clicker) were 19 percent higher than the median (1.34) and 35 percent higher than bottom performers (1.19).

How can you increase message activity? One of the keys to getting subscribers to interact with your emails is a high level of relevancy.

That means delivering great content that respects your value proposition and subscriber preferences, with features such as:

- Well-written copy that's personalized and dynamic, using factors unique to each subscriber (buying history, preferences, etc.)
- A distinct style that reflects your corporate personality (serious, fun, hip) and sounds like a conversation instead of a lecture.
- Trigger emails based on clicks and other actions, such as content viewed at the Web site, purchases, etc.

Also, remember to ask for feedback through surveys, letters to the editor and similar channels. And periodically ask subscribers to update preferences to account for their changing needs and interests.

2. Unsubscribes

The unsubscribe rate measures reader disengagement. In general, unsubscribers are telling you that your program has missed the mark and isn’t matching what they expected when they enrolled. Or, they want to change email addresses but see no option but to leave.

While the best-performing companies have little to no unsubscribes, the unsubscribe rate for bottom-quartile performers (0.26 percent) is roughly three times higher than median performers (0.09 percent).

To reduce unsubscribes, create a well-designed, branded page that explains how to unsubscribe but also offers alternatives.

Many customers who click the unsubscribe link don't actually want to leave—but they do want some aspect of the relationship to change. Common alternatives to give include:

- Email address. Don't make subscribers opt out and resubscribe just to change their address.
- Frequency. Because overmailing is the main reason people unsubscribe, offer options such as a weekly or monthly digest of messages.
- Format. Let users switch from plain text to HTML or vice versa.
- Channel. Offer RSS feeds, SMS alerts, direct-mail catalogs or promotions.
- Other lists. If you offer multiple emails or newsletter tracks, present the options here.

3. Bounces

Bounce rate measures permanent delivery errors: how many emails were undelivered because the addresses either don’t exist or belong to closed accounts. A high bounce rate indicates problems with accurate data collection at opt-in as well as with email address churn among subscribers.

Silverpop’s study found that bounce rate highlights the difference between email’s top performers and its average or bottom performers. The average bounce rate overall (5.5%) was more than four times the rate among top performers (1.2%), while there were even greater disparities among the individual countries.

If your bounce rate is subpar, try the following methods to help bring improve it:

- Use address validation. Include a second email address field in your opt-in form that validates with the addresses match. Typing errors can then be corrected by the new subscriber.
- Include a longer email-address form field. If your form shows only 15 to 20 characters, someone typing in a longer address might miss an error.
- Consider switching to double opt-in. Because double opt-in requires users to confirm their subscription by responding to an email, false or mistyped email addresses will not be added to your database.

Benchmarking Against Yourself

Seeing how you measure up against the competition is important, but it should be just the beginning of your metrics analysis. You’ll also want to monitor “output” metrics such as revenue, leads generated, cost savings, order size and number of downloads.

Doing so will give you the best indication of whether your email program is meeting , exceeding or falling short of your business goals, and enable you to tweak your campaign to achieve higher levels of performance.

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