Ten Resolutions to Make 2009 a Better E-mail Year

Maybe the best thing we can say about 2008 is that it’s over today. Was it a dismal year for you and your e-mail program? There’s no time like the present to resolve to do better, starting tomorrow.

If you don’t know where to start, any one of the resolutions on the list below will help you get your e-mail efforts back on track in the coming year.

Need more information to help understand any of them? Most of these resolutions come with a link to advice in a related ClickZ column. Nothing could be easier, and after you celebrate tonight, maybe that’s the best gift of all.

Here are the top 10 resolutions for e-mail marketers:

I Will Listen to Feedback

Feedback helps build better programs. When you understand what your audience wants, and what they don’t, you can deliver on those items.

These initiatives will generate more feedback. Don’t forget, though, to read what people tell you, and to respond:

  • Sign up for all ISP feedback-loop sources.

  • Monitor replies to inboxes, even those you tell readers not to e-mail.
  • Solicit and read reader comments.
  • Send surveys for direct comments on specific topics.

More information, go here.

I Will Give My Subscribers More Control Over What They Receive

Subscribers engage better when they get the e-mail they want. How to achieve this?

  • Provide meaningful choices during the subscription process (avoid all conjunctions).

  • Use a preference center to make personalization or customization easier.
  • Collect only data you need to complete the process at opt-in. If you want additional information beyond a name and e-mail address, explain why you need it and why your subscriber should give it to you (birth date for special savings, street address as a back-up, Zip code for finding a nearby store). Collect it later, such as during the welcome period. Keep it optional, too.

I Will Monitor More Than Open/Click-Through Rates/Revenue

Measurability is e-mail’s great advantage over other channels, but you have to measure the negative as well as the positive to get a true picture about how your e-mail program is doing.

Track unsubscribes, bounces, and spam complaints as well as open and click rates. Optimize your entire program from opt-in to opt-out and all the actions in between.

I Will Practice More Segmentation for Increased Relevance

Set aside one day a month as “segmentation day,” where your goal is to “do incrementally better e-mail.” Don’t overhaul your program. Instead, make small changes that add up over time.

For example, identify a subset of your list and tell an incrementally better story to it. You shouldn’t need complex data integrations. It can be as simple as dynamically changing a graphic or offer based on a profile field or click behavior.

For more information, here.

I Will Practice Good List Hygiene and Trim Inactives

Optimize your sign-up process to collect more accurate data. Accept that recipients tune out after a while and no longer want to receive e-mails but won’t act to unsubscribe. When addresses go dormant for longer than six months, let them go.

For more information, go here.

I Will Pay Attention to the ISPs

Visit ISP postmaster sites regularly to learn about changes that affect delivery and get information to make you a better e-mail marketer. Knowing that AOL plans to change its report cards, and what those changes mean, can reduce your anxiety if you suddenly get an unfamiliar notice about your e-mails.

For more information, go here.

I Will Work to Send Great Content

Not “great” as in “exciting,” although that would be nice. Instead, write content that works: no broken links, correct spelling, punctuation, and word use and images used properly. Content filters are not your key challenge. It is what readers think of your content and how they act on it.

For more information, go here.

I Will Make it Easy for Recipients to Know Who I Am

While authentication helps ISPs, it happens behind the scenes. Here, you want recipients to recognize you immediately in the inbox. No, simply having it in the “from” line is not enough.

More information, go here.

I Will Be More Careful About Whose E-mail Efforts I Emulate

Everybody does it: assume that companies with top brands, or brands we admire, also do e-mail marketing right. So, we copy what they do. However, you don’t actually know if an initiative worked or if their goals match yours. Honestly, most of them aren’t doing great e-mail, either.

For more information, go here.

I Will Banish the Word “Blast” From my Vocabulary

This is a pet peeve among e-mail veterans. When we continue to use this word, it means we pay no respect to our programs or the thought we have put into segmentation and relevance. We simply want to send the message and move on. For every one of the items on this list, this is one every single reader can make happen, no more excuses.

Here’s to a prosperous — and measurably greater — 2009. Until next time, keep on deliverin’!

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