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Boosting Revenue From Email

  |  May 14, 2012   |  Comments

Three takeaways from an e-newsletter event that will help make your email marketing more effective and profitable.

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at Niche Media's e-Newsletter World Unconference. It was my first time speaking at a Niche Media event and the way it was structured gave me a lot of time to talk to the attendees. I want to share a little about the event - including some of the key things that any business looking to boost revenue from email should be focused on.

This is, I believe, the first event I've ever spoken at that was 100 percent dedicated to email newsletters. If you've been following my column you know that I've been beating the drum for more companies to do email newsletters. Why?

Because only transactional messages beat editorial emails in terms of average open rates. And when it comes to average click-through rates, editorial messages are number one. Yet less than 1 percent of all messages sent are primarily editorial in nature. Make no mistake - editorial messages can and should carry promotional content; there just has to be enough value without a purchase (or even a click) to justify the email's editorial nature.

The attendees at this conference were laser-focused on generating more revenue from their email newsletters. I heard it time and time again when I asked what had brought them there. Again, if you've been reading my column, you know that I'm a bottom-line girl. Generating revenue is near and dear to my heart.

Most attendees were small- to medium-sized publishers, making email newsletters a natural for them. But even if you're not a publisher, there are simple ways to create and repurpose existing content to create a newsletter (more on that in a future column).

So what did I take away from the event?

1. Although many email newsletters are sent to generate revenue, many marketers still aren't fully leveraging metrics and analytics to track and test performance.

Opens and clicks are good. But you also need to look at return on investment (ROI), revenue per email sent, and the quantitative value of an email address to make more money.

ROI can be difficult to get a grip on. But revenue per email sent is easy - see my past column on this.

So is the value of an email address. Just divide your annual revenue by the average number of email addresses in your database for the year. Email addresses do have a "life" of more than one year (most of us estimate it at three years, on average), but using a one-year figure is a quick way to get a read - and any revenue generated in future years is icing on the cake.

Revenue can be direct sales for products, webinars, or other services you offer. Depending on your business model, it might also include advertising revenue; this can come from ads in or sponsorship of the newsletter itself or from your website (here you just need to estimate the amount of web traffic that came directly from the email newsletter program and prorate accordingly). You might also have list rental income or other ways you monetize your list; include them all.

If you aren't looking at your performance in these ways, you're missing the boat.

2. For many marketers, there are still gains to be had from testing creative if you do it strategically.

By strategically, I mean focusing your testing efforts on things that will have a significant impact. These usually include:

  • Optimizing the from line, subject line, and preview pane view to engage readers and pull them into the email
  • Making sure that your promotional content has tight feature-benefit-advantage direct response copy (true whether you're looking for a direct sale or just lead generation)
  • Removing exits and distractions from your landing pages to keep the readers focused on whatever it is you want them to do

While testing the shape of your bullet points (arrow or round, I was asked by an attendee) may provide some lift, it's unlikely it will impact your bottom line as much as the things listed above. The easiest things to test aren't usually the things that will provide the most impact. There's a time to test small things - it's after you've optimized the big things and are looking for an additional boost.

3. Most email marketers are concerned about deliverability, but few are taking effective steps to monitor and address it.

Big companies working with the top ESPs usually have this covered; but the small- and medium-sized folks, not so much.

It's a shame, when there are free and easy-to-use tools like SenderBase, SenderScore, and ReputationAuthority that can help you monitor your IP and/or sender domain reputation, which is a primary factor in deliverability.

Feedback loops, offered by AOL, Comcast, MSN/Hotmail, Yahoo, and most of the large consumer ISPs, are another free tool for email marketers. But many at the conference didn't even know they existed.

If you're looking at ways to make your email marketing more effective and more profitable, start with these three things. And let me know how it goes.

Until next time,


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Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.

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