CTRs and List Rental Practices: Readers Weigh in

For a change of pace, I’m devoting today’s column to issues raised in your mail. So, without further ado…

Brian from Colorado took offense at a statement regarding CTR. In discussing responses to an email marketing campaign, I noted in a particular campaign, 17 percent of delivered email registered a response. I further added,” This figure is not to be confused with the click through rate (CTR) on opened messages. Some marketers (incorrectly, in my opinion) count CTR on opens, instead of on all messages sent, in a bid to inflate results.”

Brian wrote:

To me, open rate is indicative of the quality of your list, the familiarity of the recipient with the sender, the quality of your targeting/interest in your topic, and your message header parameters (from, subject line) while a CTR based on opens is a measure of the quality of how well your presented message was received, how compelling it was and whether or not you succeeded in getting the recipient to take the next step. If you do not use CTR based on opens, what measure would you propose to judge specifically the quality/effectiveness of the message received? Instead of denigrating those that use the CTR measure based on opens, how about a useful and practical dialogue on the merits of the alternative measures, what they mean and how and when to best use them.

Let me clarify a few items. CTR based on opens is important. I agree with Brian that open rate typically is indicative of list quality. My statement had more to do with what goes on behind the scenes here at ClickZ. Marketers send me numerous pitches for columns (Please, keep ’em coming!). But sometimes the claims they make are misleading.

I’ll often receive messages from two different potential case study sources. Both make the same statement. Upon examination, I learn they’re talking about two different situations. Say both claim a CTR of 50 percent. When I question the results, it turns out one source was talking about the CTR of all delivered messages, while the other was providing the CTR of opened messages. The point I made in that column is it’s important to know exactly what data you’re looking at, otherwise results may not be what they initially appear to be. If you mean CTR, say CTR. If you mean CTR on opens, say CTR on opens.

As this column is devoted to case studies, I invite you all to create “a useful and practical dialog” in ClickZ’s Feedback section. In addition to publishing readers’ comments, the editors often forward your emails to the appropriate writer, so topic ideas are often addressed at greater length in columns.

Another reader named Jill also had some strong reactions, this time on a case study about Kayak Pools. An excerpt:

Since when did legitimate email marketing deliver to addresses from over 100 lists? Reaching a total of 800,000 emails through these many lists is almost guaranteed to reach a diluted population who have landed on these lists through the ubiquitous traps set by these list mongers hiding behind online contests, lengthy privacy policies written in legalese, and other tactics which continue to threaten legitimate online marketers’ efforts. To suggest that someone’s chance of getting an email as many as six times isn’t anything to be too concerned about because of “list churn” is just flippant. Let me ask you, did [consumers” have a legitimate reply address to which such complaints would’ve gone? I seriously doubt it, considering the email piece itself didn’t even include unsubscribe language.

Neil Berman of Neighborhood E-mail, the company that ran the campaign, responds:

I believe Jill’s perspective is based on her limited experience of using email as a retention tool only. This means sending emails to existing clients, much like an e-newsletter. The Kayak campaign, and many others that we assist with, are acquisition marketing efforts. This means we help our clients reach new customers, generate new leads and close new sales. In-house lists are completely different than list rental, which is a growing part of our business. The reason this part of our business is growing so rapidly is that it works. Our clients are not experiencing backlash, they are generating sales. We are very in tune with spam legislation and consumer advocacy concerns. That said, we are extremely careful with the lists we use, the messages we allow our clients to send and the practices that we employ.

Before you all fire off angry email, first I must apologize for a misleading statement. I had written Neighborhood E-mail works with 100 different email list brokers to identify appropriate lists for various campaigns. At least, that’s what I thought I’d written. The way the statement read when published made it sound like Neighborhood E-mail used over 100 different lists for this particular campaign. Not true! They used one list. Mea culpa!

That still raises the issue of knowingly addressing the same individuals in an acquisition campaign up to six times. Again, I invite you to head to the Feedback section and contribute to some meaningful dialog.

Unfortunately, that’s all there’s room for today. I received numerous comments on Rollerblade’s Flash campaign, which I’d hoped to address here. Instead, I’ll cover them in a future column.

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