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Strategy in Action: Evaluation Criteria

  |  September 3, 2003   |  Comments

Evaluating an e-newsletter: the scoring criteria.

Thanks to all the brave readers who submitted newsletters for critique. Response has been good. I will be in touch soon to learn more about your strategy. Watch this column for the critiques.

First, I’ll share my criteria for evaluating and scoring e-newsletters. If you have thoughts on how to improve them, please let me know.

I use a simple ranking system, like the ones used in school so many years ago: Four stars (****) represent an excellent score. One star (*) indicates a bit of work needs to be done. Below, what grades are based on.

What’s the E-Publishing Strategy?

  • Build brand

  • Drive clicks to corporate site

  • Position a new product or service

  • Up- and cross-sell existing customers

  • Sell products

  • Turn suspects into prospects

  • Retain customers

All these goals require conceptualizing and implementing a strategy. Building a brand is very different from making a cash register ring. An e-publishing strategy requires very careful, upfront planning to benefit from its capabilities. Planning demands a deep working knowledge of the targeted market.

How’s the List Segmented?

  • Are audience segments profiled efficiently?

  • Are recipients profiled by title, product/service interest or use, demographics, psychographics, sphere of influence, or characteristics that provide insights that influence strategic marketing decisions?

For example, your newsletter is mailed to HR professionals. In addition to title, the fields might include concentration or specialization, such as leadership development, hiring systems, and workforce retention.

Does Newsletter Content Match Audience Information Needs?

  • Do you include five to eight separate content categories to appeal to each audience-specific segment defined above?

  • Do you include content segments, such as company news, products, services, tips and tricks? Interactive elements, such as letters to the editor, surveys, and promotions?

  • Is content personalized?

  • Are you using dynamic content capabilities to serve specific content to each audience segment?

Are Permission and Privacy Policies Sound?

  • How good is your permission policy?

  • Do you use an opt-in or opt-out policy? A combination of both?

  • Do you use single or double opt-in?

  • Is your privacy statement easily located, front and center?

  • Does the email mention why the recipient is receiving it?

  • Can subscribers easily control their email subscriptions through opt-out and/or change-of-information options?

  • How easy is it to subscribe to your newsletter?

  • Do you have a proactive spam policy?

  • Do you actively investigate spam complaints?

What’s Measured Beyond Open Rate?

  • How do you measure newsletter success?

  • Do you track total clicks?

  • Do you track links clicked on?

  • Do you measure readership against the content model?

    • What type of content is most popular?

    • Which is least popular?

    • On average, how many articles do subscribers read? (The more they read, the more involved your audience.)

  • Do you use collected data to augment an existing CRM system?

  • Do you incorporate that data to enable new marketing strategies and brand connection, including subsequent communications strategies, new products or services, research and development (R&D), and business development initiatives?

  • Do you version incentive preferences?

The platform’s real power is its ability to publish dynamically. You can build personal connections within every audience segment. With sharper profiling, product-based marketing communications can be delivered with precision and at great savings. A reader who profiled her interests through her past reading histories can be served electronic copies of product literature in real time.

What’s the Newsletter’s Look and Feel?

  • Does the graphic newsletter template feature a hierarchical presentation of the content categories, generally a headline and an opening paragraph?

  • Does the entire newsletter cover page fit above the fold?

  • Does the sender line contain a "recognizable" name?

    • Company

    • Department

    • Individual

    • URL

  • Does the subject line communicate instant value?

  • Is the subject line related to the contained content and promotional offers?

  • Does it relate to your audience expectations?

  • Is it quick and easy for your subscribers to read?

  • Is there an archive of earlier content?

  • Must subscribers read the entire newsletter to get the message? Or is the email delivered in a template that makes it easy to pique reader interest?

An e-newsletter platform’s most powerful capabilities are available only to those who plan carefully and analyze strategically.

Keep your submissions coming. I’ll tackle as many as possible in upcoming columns.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathleen Goodwin

Kathleen Goodwin is the former CEO of IMN (formerly iMakeNews), specializing in customer acquisition and retention through permission-based e-newsletters. For nine years, she was vice president of marketing for Ziff-Davis' publishing division, where she oversaw the marketing of all print publications and their early online siblings. She also serves as an advisor to early-stage companies and has been responsible for several successful new-business launches.

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