Five Questions to Ask During Your Mid-Year E-mail Review

I’ll be sitting down with one of my major clients this week to review their e-mail program — on its own and in the context of all their marketing efforts.

How about you? Do you have a mid-year review planned?

Here are a few areas, among others, that we’ll focus on in our meeting. Perhaps you’ll get some ideas for your own mid-year review from them.

1. Is it Time to Switch to Some New Metrics Beyond Open Rates and Click-Throughs?

I recently read a quote from Silverpop VP Loren McDonald, which summed it up for me. He said, “The open rate is a tired, flawed e-mail marketing metric that should be mothballed…It gives marketers little meaningful data to act on.”

I agree to a certain degree. While open rates are terrific for gauging the effectiveness of subject lines, their effectiveness as a measurement tool is on the wane.

It’s not just that the proliferation of image blocking, mobile devices, and the use of preview panes are impeding the accurate tracking of how many e-mail messages are being opened.

The bigger concern: open rates don’t measure the number of people who take the ultimate desired action.

While CTRs (define) are helpful because they show you how many people click on the trackable links in your e-mail message, they don’t tell the whole story. People who click through to your landing page may never complete the form because it’s too long or unwieldy; they get second thoughts on the price…whatever.

My recommendation would be to keep tracking open rates, but start calculating the response rate — the number of people who took the main action you desire divided by the number of people who received the e-mail message.

2. How are Your Landing Pages Performing?

A recent client saw their Webcast registrations were declining. While this is a common trend across industries now that Webcasts are no longer a novelty, I took a deeper look into the situation.

While the Webcast invitations warranted a bit of improvement, the problem became apparent when I clicked on the landing page. The page was dense with extraneous, distracting information, and the registration link was so buried that I couldn’t figure out how to register online and gave up.

Clearly, some landing page optimization was warranted. The client was constrained from making radical improvements because they had inherited a legacy registration system over which they had no control. However, I advised them to start tracking the abandon rates on the landing page — to make a persuasive case for a landing page makeover.

Landing pages seem to be the next frontier for testing these days — and for good reason. I remember back in the day when I worked in credit card direct marketing. The big banks put a lot of creative time and investment into getting those applications to be as consumer-friendly as possible.

We eventually created one that became the industry standard for years because we took the time to actually fill out the application ourselves and make it visually appealing. Now it’s time to work on that more in the online space. Don’t let the landing page be an afterthought.

3. How can you Increase the Average Purchase Amount and the Number of Purchases?

See if you can dial up your average purchase amounts by cross-selling, up-selling, and repackaging some of your products in new ways.

And in tough economic times, is there anything you can do to encourage a greater number of small purchases — the impulse buy. Can you break down big-ticket items into smaller pieces? And can you offer a monthly payment option to make the purchase easier to digest on a smaller budget?

4. Can you Make Your E-mails More Relevant to Your Primary Market?

For example, if your primary buyers are women, consider what this demographic likes — photos of real people with actual testimonials, ways to connect online, and customer reviews.

I can’t tell you how many e-mail marketing people have never met their best clients in person — and make assumptions about them that are inaccurate. Go to an event where your clients and customers go. See how many are women versus men, look at their age group, see how they react to trade show exhibits and promotions — and gasp, see if you can actually talk to some of them firsthand.

5. What Marketing Campaigns are on the Agenda for the Rest of the Year?

Most e-mail marketing departments are reactive. They wait for assignments to come to them — usually last minute. And as a result, the quality and effectiveness of e-mail campaigns suffer. See if you can get a plan for the rest of the year from your marketing colleagues and your internal clients so that you can create new templates now and put new e-mail features such as customer reviews in your e-mail creative.

The upcoming holiday season is likely to be a tough one. And that means that holiday marketing will probably start earlier and be more aggressive than prior years. So start brainstorming now and consider having a number of holiday and year-end promotions at the ready. Even if you aren’t in a business that normally offers a holiday-related product, you’ll find that e-mail inboxes will be getting more crowded earlier in the season. So your e-mails will have to stand out as something worth opening.

What mid-year course corrections and new plans are you considering? Share your plans and new B2B email campaigns with Karen.

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