The Rules of Engagement, Part 3

Let’s move onto metrics, having discussed content in my last column. First (I have to get this off my chest), why do some people get their knickers in a twist over click-throughs?

A click-through is only the first response step in permission-based email. Next steps involve getting the recipient to take action toward your ultimate goal, building a relationship, and positioning yourself as a partner who can help solve their problems.

Sometimes this takes one step, sometimes many. It’s measuring all these steps that helps you understand your readers’ behavior. Ultimately, this will reveal how successful your campaign is. Luckily, there are lots of ways to collect this information.

Direct Mail on Steroids

E-marketing is center stage on marketing agendas. Its new primacy is well deserved, especially in a world where return on investment (ROI) must be justified for a program to survive. Think about it: E-marketing is direct mail on steroids. You can drill down right to the value proposition and understand who’s buying it, who’s not, and why. With this information, you can serve up strong, dynamic programs that build loyal, long-lasting relationships (with great ROI, I might add). If you don’t take the time to dig deeply to learn what your readers’ interests and motivations are, you’ll end up not only wasting a lot of money but also sending meaningless content. Guess what? That’s S-P-A-M!

Behavioral Metrics Rule

There’s a whole lot of data-gathering power in e-marketing, especially with e-newsletters. The result is a new calibration of behavioral metrics that help define, identify, and extract information on how your business can compete better in today’s dog-eat-dog business environment.

The right reporting, analysis, and data-mining skills enable you to measure things unimaginable just a few years ago. Here are a few forward-thinking metrics you can consider:

  • Who reads your newsletter? Who doesn’t? This helps determine initial usage benchmarks. Ultimately, it reveals who your best prospects and customers are.

  • What does each subscriber read? In what order? These stats provide insight on what marketing initiatives attract the most engaged, and possibly the most profitable, customers. You’ll get a hierarchy of readers’ interests and begin to understand what drives their reading and purchase behaviors.
  • How long are your readers’ sessions? Reader intensity translates into how interested and brand loyal your readers are. Shorter sessions could mean an unengaged subscriber. This should be a red flag that you may be one step away from being perceived as s-p-a-m.
  • What do they bookmark? If readers return numerous times to the same article or page, it’s likely they bookmarked it. Note what’s of enough value to make them want to come back repeatedly.
  • What’s the pass-along/refer-a-friend trend? Another indication of high personal interest, referring friends or passing an article along may help you develop a new channel you hadn’t thought about earlier. Find out what they pass along and to what type of people. Tap into the viral nature of your communications.
  • What was your reader’s click stream? Did readers open the newsletter, read one article, then come back later to read the remaining content? Or did they read the promotions first? Did they take an action, like registering for a seminar or buying? By understanding reader behavior as they engage with your newsletter, you can take your relationship with them to a whole new level.

Complete the Circle of Engagement

With this third rule of engagement, you can begin to close the circle of relationship building, bringing readers cycling back time and again. Here’s how:

  • Weave what you learn from the above metrics into your evolving, living database to build a more effective communication strategy and interactive brand connection.

  • Sharpen your profiling for better, more granular segmentation that becomes the cornerstone of strong, personal, one-to-one brand connections.
  • Continually mine data to find new insights into evolving trends and reader interests. Use this to align content with readers’ preferences and needs. Create stories and articles that are meaningful to subscribers.
  • Publish content in a hierarchy built on individual reader history.

Remember, even the most powerful capabilities and technologies are only as good as you make them. Plan carefully, analyze strategically, and when you publish the next edition do it all over again.

What metric has been most helpful to you in your newsletter program? Share your findings at

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