Before You Meet a Send Deadline, Consider These Points

Truthfully, it’s not about the send.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in having a send schedule for your e-mail marketing efforts and making deadlines. But too often e-mail marketers are so focused on getting the e-mail out “on time,” they don’t stop to really think about what they’re sending. They forget the big picture.

They only things that really matter are:

  • Will the e-mail be effective?
  • Will it engage people enough to get them to open it and take the action we want them to take?

If it doesn’t, then even if you’ve gotten the e-mail out on time, you’ve failed.

A successful e-mail campaign takes time. It begins with an analysis of your past campaigns. What’s worked previously with this offer and/or this audience? The quantitative data, like opens, clicks, and conversions, is good; you also need qualitative analysis that takes those numbers and relates it back to creative – copy approaches, e-mail layouts, etc.

It’s not enough to say this past e-mail campaign was successful – you want to try to understand why it was successful. The same is true of past campaigns that weren’t effective – you can learn as much from failures as you can from successes. Sometimes you can learn more.

Once you’ve analyzed past campaigns, set a clear qualitative goal for your upcoming e-mail. What do you need the reader to do to meet your business goals?

Once you know what you need them to do, step back and ask yourself what information you need to give them in the e-mail to make this happen. This is probably one of the most difficult things as a marketer.

You must:

  • Put everything you know about your product, service, and company out of your head.
  • Think like someone on your e-mail list who has more limited information.
  • Put your e-mail in the context of their day – what else is in their inbox?
  • Consider, “What else is on their mind?” Then make your message compelling enough to grab their attention and motivate them to take the action you need them to take.

According to the latest e-mail marketing metrics report from MailerMailer, open rates for the last half of 2009 were 11.2 percent, on average. That means that a typical e-mail is only opened by about one in 10 people that it’s sent to. Average click-through rates were 1.6 percent for the same period, meaning that fewer than two people out of every 100 the e-mail was sent to clicked on at least one link. This data doesn’t even cover conversions, which is the most important e-mail metric – but logic tells you that when a click is required to take people to a conversion, your conversion rate will not be higher than your click-through rate.

The competition in e-mail marketing is fierce. These are averages, so some e-mails get higher open and click-through rates – and some garner lower opens and clicks. The key to engaging readers and getting them to respond isn’t getting your mail out on schedule – it’s sending e-mail that’s relevant, anticipated, and personal, to quote what is still one of the best books ever written about e-mail, “Permission Marketing” by Seth Godin. If you’re in this space and you haven’t read it, you should.

The next time you’re rushing to meet a send deadline, step back and ask yourself if the audience you’re sending to is going to be moved to action because of your e-mail. Be brutally honest with yourself. If the answer is no, then don’t send it. Take the time to rework the message so it will be effective. Because that’s what really matters.

Until next time,

Jeanne

Jeanne is off today; this column was first published Aug. 23, 2010.

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