By Carol Meyers, head of marketing at Unica
Email marketing shares a number of characteristics with direct mail and other forms of addressable media. Thus, it should be treated with the same care and tried and true techniques for test and measure that are used for direct mail.
In fact, with the rapid and often “on-line” response mechanism of email, testing is even easier, less costly and more feasible than with direct mail.
Here are some “best practices” to follow:
1. Remember that email is NOT free. Email is easily deleted by the recipient and doesn’t carry the same visual impact as direct mail.
Consumers and business prospects expect a higher standard for email than direct mail – email must be opt-in and it must be relevant – any perception to the contrary can mean immediate lost opportunity for a marketer. Your emails may be quickly deleted or relegated to the Spam list with the click of a mouse!
2. Your “from” address and subject line are the equivalent of your direct mail envelope or exterior creative. Those two elements must work very hard!
According to recent survey, 60% of users rely nearly exclusively on the sender’s name and 54% of the subject line to determine whether or not to open an email. Use a clear “sent from” address such as the name of your company or an individual if your customers know their sales reps.
Test subject lines prior to rolling out your campaign full-scale. Subject lines are also a key culprit in identifying which messages will be automatically sent to the “spam” folder! According to research issued by ClickZ in 2005, 30% of legitimate opt-in email is deleted or redirected to spam folders, and the marketer never knows.
3. Make special note of what appears “above the fold” in your emails – over 50% of business to business email users regularly use the preview feature of their email client to determine which emails warrant further reading.
Make sure the text, messaging and graphics used in the space typically allotted for “preview” is effective at getting recipients to read on. Put important information here and test results prior to roll out.
4. Email should be just part of a multi-channel approach to customers. Customers rely on many different sources of information and points of contact to learn about our companies, products, and reputation.
Test whether overall response and purchase rates increase when email is used in conjunction with (before or after) direct mail, advertisements, etc.
5. Implement strong processes for cleaning email lists. About 30% of email lists decay each year, meaning individuals change their email addresses, change jobs, and so forth.
Be sure you are capturing bounce-backs and automatically cleaning your email database. This is important to good testing and email practices.
6. Use multi-channel campaign management tools to automate the process of creating valid test and control groups, as well as closed-loop measurement.
The best of breed solutions enable unlimited personalisation, and ensure valid test and control cells for your email campaigns, so that you can confidently test subject lines, from addresses, creative, offers, and timing of your emails to consistently improve results.
7. Capture your best practices. Use enterprise marketing management software to track all of your marketing initiatives, creatives, offers, and results creating a “marketing system of record” for what works and doesn’t work for your business.
8. Use seed lists to ensure your email campaigns are being delivered and to validate testing campaigns
9. Pay attention to your creative elements and test them. Many email clients, especially in the B2B markets, automatically block images in emails, drastically reducing the effectiveness and return on your investment of your beautiful graphics.
10. Use email to get critical feedback to improve your campaigns. Most marketers focus on the offer, rightfully so. And include a response mechanism to enable interested buyers to act immediately.
But what about those who aren’t interested? Use email as an opportunity to find out why or to find out more about your customers. Provide alternate response mechanisms and incentivise customers to provide you with information to help you serve (market to) them better!
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