The “How Ready Are You?” E-mail Assessment

Regardless of the industry you work in, there’s a pretty consistent phenomenon with expertise columns that occurs each December and January. Every year at this time, writers focus on predicting what will happen in the coming year. Such predictions are usually interesting but rarely help create a marketing plan. This year, I decided to use this first column to leverage lessons from the past to help you improve your strategy for the future.

The three questions below were derived from predictions that came true in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, your strategy and tactics must address or support these key areas. Otherwise, you could find yourself lagging behind. How ready are you for e-mail success in 2008?

  • Do you offer an e-mail opt-in form or link on every Web page? In 2005, Forrester released studies stating the “end of e-mail growth” was near. The research indicated most people who were inclined to sign up for e-mail programs had done so, and new list growth would come from people switching from a competitor’s e-mail program to yours or adding more messages to their personal mix. This information, coupled with industry standard metrics showing the average house file will lose 30 percent or more of its e-mail addresses annually, paints a pretty clear picture: E-mail opt-in is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. In a digital world where search enables many people to drop into a site’s landing page or deeper content page, opt-in on the home page alone is no longer sufficient.
  • Do you have a welcome e-mail with content driven by the marketing group? In 2007, the Email Experience Council (EEC) released its second annual study on the growth of welcome e-mail usage across the retail industry. While the EEC found a 12 percent year-over-year increase, the plain fact is only 72 percent of retailers send a welcome e-mail. Many studies have shown that a confirmation/welcome e-mail’s impact and effectiveness are significantly reduced if the message isn’t sent within two hours.
  • Do you use response reporting data to help define future e-mail strategies? This is a tricky one, but it’s critical. Over the past five years, one e-mail prediction that continues to arise is that e-mail technology will enable better behavioral targeting, dynamic content, and even some level of predictive modeling. While pieces of this prediction have come true, the sad fact is many of us in e-mail still don’t leverage the basic results we get in a meaningful manner. If your open rate is 25 percent, do you use that data to gain insights into why the other 75 percent of recipients who said they wanted to hear from you aren’t engaged? Do you use that data to build a reengagement strategy?

These three questions are just to get the juices flowing. Next time, I’ll follow up with a list of the top 20 questions you should use to assess your e-mail efforts. If you have a question you think would be valuable to add to the list, e-mail your recommendations.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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