Data: The Critical and the Important

The latest stats are in: According to Forrester’s January 2000 Email Marketing report, “Marketers that outsource the delivery and list management of their email have higher conversion rates than those that keep email operations in-house.”

Forrester interviewed email marketers across various industries and found that companies that outsource are seeing a six percent buy rate, compared to 1.4 percent for companies that don’t.

Why? Among other things, outsourcers make it easier for marketers to streamline the details of their segmenting and reporting processes.

So what does that mean for you? And what does it have to do with your data?

Well, it means that if you’re currently managing – or planning on managing – ALL of your email marketing functions in-house, you MAY be doing your data gathering and tracking efforts an injustice.

A good portion of the data that’s collected in an email campaign IS absolutely essential… and, luckily enough, fairly easy to track in-house. However, there’s a slew of other components that can enhance your future campaigns dramatically; yet they are often more difficult to implement and track on a continual basis without the help of an outside solutions provider.

Let’s start with the critical, though obvious, data points first, and you’ll begin to see what I mean.

  1. Click-through rate (CTR). If you’re going to track campaigns effectively, you have to assign unique URLs (links) to each promotion and track them. And often you’ll have several of these links within every promotion, each with its own unique tracking device.

  2. Unsubscribes. You’ll also find it necessary to keep track of your unsubscribes after each campaign. The reason is obvious: You want to keep the lines of communication open with only your satisfied customers and prospects.
  3. Invalid email addresses. Along those lines, you’ll also want to keep track of and purge any invalid email addresses from your file.

OK, you say, it’s easy enough to implement and track the above. With or without the help of an outside resource.

Where it starts to get tricky is where the REAL fun begins…

  1. Buy Rate. For e-commerce marketers, this almost makes the “critical” category. You can and should track not only which of your click-throughs have purchased, but also WHEN in the campaign each individual made his or her purchase. The combination of cookies and unique links creates an entire range of possibilities to track.

  2. Personalization. Again, it may not be critical to personalize your messages, but mark my words: It’s going to become increasingly important as time goes on. And I don’t just mean beginning your messages with “Dear Joe Smith.” Mentioning in your messages what your customers last purchased – or such nifty tidbits as their loved ones’ birthdays and special occasions – will go a long way toward turning those customers into valuable allies. Not to mention strong responders to your future promotions.
  3. Pass-along. Sure, it’s important to track which of your original recipients forwarded your message to others… especially when trying to determine your overall response. This will also help your future viral marketing efforts due to your ability to flag your house file with those that “frequently forward.”
  4. Previous history. As I’ve mentioned before, buying patterns and other historical data can be used to lift response. But keep in mind that searching for these enhancements manually can often be like looking for that proverbial needle in a haystack.

Which brings us full circle, back to where we began. Sure, you can manage all or most of the “critical” components in-house. However, when you’re talking about consistent acquisitions and retention campaigns that regularly utilize or track any of the above (which fall more in the “important, though not critical” category), you’re talking about a ton of time. And resources. Especially if you’re striving for perfection every time. An outsourced email solutions provider can help simplify the entire process.

So then the question might be: Which outsourcer to go with? Following is a list of some of the most reputable companies in the industry:

Avenue A
Bigfoot Interactive
Digital Impact
General Interactive
Post Communications

So, if you’re at the point where you feel like you’re running windsprints before, during, and after every single campaign and yet you’re STILL not gaining momentum or learning a ton of new things about your responders, it may be time to look beyond your doors and explore the services of an outside provider. You may just find that your job becomes a whole lot easier. And your future promotions will benefit as well.

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