Think before you pull that e-mail trigger

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Jon Sisenwein
Jon Sisenwein

So your e-mail didn't convert as expected.

Well, now what do you do? Should you blast them again? What about using a new subject line? Or do marketers need to become even smarter about their tactics when communicating with an increasingly savvy e-mail user in full control of his/her inbox?

For example, take Client X. They've got a hot, new product they believe everyone will want. So they create an e-mail announcing a special “e-mail only offer” and send it to a list of over a million opt-ins. The conversion rate turns out to be less than they expected, so they send it again — only this time, they beef up the subject line with more details about the offer. Still, conversions remain low. Should they keep sending the same e-mail in order to drive incremental conversions? Or is this the point where they rethink their strategy?

In my opinion, the key to successful e-mail marketing campaigns lies in developing a touch strategy. Every time you send an e-mail with content not relevant to a recipient, you risk damaging that relationship. Send the same message to your uninterested recipients a second time and you have proven to them that they are nothing more than a name on your list, and perhaps they should consider — dare I say it? — unsubscribing.

No easy answers exist for building a successful touch strategy. At Merkle, however, we believe it's crucial to take multiple variables into account. These include the age and health of the list, how each record gets added to the list and how relevant the send will be. I've learned that it's not only how you formulate the touch strategy, but how and when you message recipients based on their actions. In other words, acknowledging engagement through triggered messages can be a key component to driving conversions.

If you think about it, e-mail — along with other Web technologies — gives us the ability to track engagement with great precision.

Yet, most e-mail initiatives stop at the send, measuring only the opens and conversions.

What about the folks who clicked? Where did they click? How many clicks? And what are the follow-up or triggered messages to all those click-throughs?

Marketers involved in leveraging e-mail communications often make the mistake of failing to pay attention to customer behavior post-send.

By tracking where recipients go from the e-mail, whether it's clicks to a particular link on the e-mail message or subsequent visits to other sections of a Web site, we can precisely determine what interests them.

Let's say, for example, that Client X sends out an e-mail where the “must have” product is a big blue beach ball. However, one recipient's clicks led to a pink inflatable raft. Should that recipient receive more e-mails for beach balls?

That's one idea. Another involves Client X sending e-mails which offer a variety of inflatable rafts — and the sooner those particular e-mails get sent, the better.

So before you pull that trigger, consider exactly where you should be pointing the gun.

Make sure you've thought long and hard about your strategy before you decide to make your move. After all, it only takes one miss to scare your target away.

Jon Sisenwein is associate creative director at Merkle Inc. Reach him at   


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