Like Any Good Story

  |  October 24, 2012   |  Comments

To manage your email program effectively you must take care to address each part of the email communications story. Part one in a three-part series.

By now, anyone familiar with email will tell you that good deliverability depends on good list hygiene, good reputation, and good engagement. Good engagement comes from getting the right message to the right person at the right time, and revenue per email goes up in proportion to this. Any marketer worth her salt can tell you that to get the most revenue you must get your message in front of as many people as possible. But how do you develop a long-term strategy that combines these goals? One that can adapt to changing conditions and yet still maintain quality of list, quality of communication, and ROI over the long haul?

I liken the email communications lifecycle to a story or play. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end. To manage your program effectively you must take care to address each part of the story in a systematic, methodical way.

As this is such a broad topic, I'm going to break it into three columns, each covering part of the story. As with all good stories, let's start at the beginning.

Act 1: The Introduction

For your subscribers, the story starts when they join your list. This is the introduction, the opening act wherein you introduce the cast, set the tone, and the expectation. As with any story, if you fail to captivate your audience at this point, you may lose them forever. Our opening act has two scenes, address collection and welcome messaging.

Act 1, Scene 1: Address Collection

If you're like many enterprises, you collect addresses from a number of sources. The quality will vary from source to source, and how quickly you, as a marketer, gain access to the addresses will also likely vary. Some of these processes may be outside of your control, but there are a number of things you can do to ensure your story begins well.

Start by clearly understanding all the address sources that you have. Analyze them and understand their advantages and challenges. How high-quality are the addresses? Are they verified by the time you receive them? How quickly can you communicate with these people? What are the expectations of these new subscribers?

Then look for opportunities to enhance the experience. Can the sign-up process be streamlined? Are there ways you can automate? What about improvements to the error handling? Can you set better expectations? Are there sources that are more trouble than they're worth? You may wish to trial real-time verification or moving to confirmed (double) opt-in for some sources. All these options should be considered for each source. The opening scene of your story is critical.

Act 1, Scene 2: Welcome Messaging

The importance of a welcome message as both a list hygiene and expectation-setting vehicle has been known since email began. Andrew Kordek of Trendline Interactive argues that the welcome email is dead, killed by the behaviorally driven on-boarding program. He's not alone; Loren McDonald of Silverpop says much the same, but I particularly like Andrew's closing paragraph:

"Talking about relevancy is one thing, but letting the subscribers drive that relevancy in the beginning of the relationship is ultimately what organizations should strive for. Don't be complacent with static content about what you want to talk about, show them that you love them more by letting their actions dictate what comes next. The highest engagement in your program happens at the beginning, seize it."

While I completely agree with him, for many enterprises operational necessities can make this a challenge, but incremental optimization is possible. First, evaluate what welcome messaging you are currently sending, to whom, and how long after they subscribe. Work toward an effective, behaviorally driven on-boarding program. But don't let that goal prevent you from ensuring that there is an immediate and useful welcome message going out to all new subscribers right now.

Seemingly simple improvements can pay dividends. Ensuring the messaging is sent as soon as possible after subscription (i.e., in a timely manner), referencing when and where the recipient subscribed, immediately removing addresses that bounce, and setting expectations about what the subscriber can expect to receive can all go a very long way to ensuring an effective opening act to your story.

Coming next month: Act 2: The Meat of the Story.

Until next time,


Story Book image on home page via Shutterstock.


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Derek Harding

Derek is the managing director of J-Labs, Javelin Marketing Group's technology skunkworks, a role that draws on his 20 years of experience and leadership in the fields of marketing and technology. A British expatriate based in Seattle, Washington, Derek is perhaps better known as the founder and technologist behind Innovyx, one of the first email service providers later acquired by the Omnicom Group. An industry veteran and thought-leader, Derek is a regular expert author, contributor, conference speaker, and takes an active role in a number of industry and trade groups.

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