The ultimate objective of e-mail marketing is to help marketers deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Perhaps the best way to achieve this marketing nirvana is to be obsessed with the principle of campaign optimization.
Understanding in-depth customer or prospect needs rarely happens overnight, but by following a few simple principles, you will ensure that your e-mail marketing campaigns get closer to delivering on the needs of individual customers.
Before you send out your first campaign, establish a learning objective. What can you learn about your customers from this interaction? What knowledge can you gain that will help you be more effective the next time you communicate with the individual? How does product placement within the message affect click-throughs or conversions? The learning objective should be clearly stated and documented in tandem with the campaign strategy, and once the campaign results are in, the newly discovered knowledge should be recorded, shared and acted upon.
E-mail marketing, because it is a digital medium, offers marketers a goldmine of data that is essential to campaign optimization. The most basic form of data capture can tell you how many people opened your message or how many people clicked through. However, advanced e-mail marketers can track conversion and transaction details such as items purchased in real time. Data capture efforts should also include a channel for interactive dialogue between you and your customers, allowing you to understand what works best for each of them.
Once analyzed, the data you have captured can help answer your learning objectives and form the basis for future strategies. Perhaps the most valuable and efficient way to analyze e-mail campaign data is to develop a standardized data-reporting framework. Although you may need to customize the analysis for each campaign, having a standard set of campaign metrics and reports ensures that a consistent analytical framework is applied across campaigns. Detailed campaign reports play a role, but it’s the analysis that turns numbers and server logs into intelligence and optimization you can act upon.
After you’ve established your learning objectives, implemented processes for capturing relevant data and instituted an analysis framework to answer your business questions, you’re on your way to an optimized e-mail dialogue with your customers. The next step is to use each of these underlying principles to begin the process. The three most effective ways to optimize campaigns are comprehensive tests, event-driven messages and data-driven segmentation.
Test-driven optimization can best be described as methodically evaluating which message factors affect the conversion rates for a given campaign. In other words, it helps the marketer get closer to the “right message” part of the e-mail marketing promise.
Sample groups can be tested as part of the campaign setup process to ensure that the majority of the message recipients get the most effective treatment. Tests can be developed for categories such as message, content, product, and offer. Message tests might involve determining which copy results in the highest number of conversions, while content tests may lend insight into the effect that a personalized salutation has on response rates. A product test may evaluate how product placement within the message affects conversions, while a test of the offer may indicate whether recipients place more value on 20 percent off or free shipping.
Event-driven optimization generally refers to the automated delivery of permission e-mail messages based on triggers such as a recipient’s behaviors or actions. Think of event-driven optimization as delivering the e-mail message at the right time. For example, an investment company may want to automatically deliver a message to a targeted group when the stock market fluctuate within a certain percentage range. Optimizing message delivery based on online events also can be effective. Messages can be delivered based on triggers such as a sweepstakes entry or an online purchase. For example, when an individual purchases a computer on a vendor’s Web site, the e-mail marketing system could evaluate the purchase details and immediately deliver a personalized offer that includes a calculated discount on relevant accessories, such as a printer, digital camera or a DVD movie. This type of highly optimized message was delivered to the right person at the optimum time, and the included message was tailored to the specific transaction.
The final form of optimization to keep in mind takes an even more data-centric, or needs-based, approach. Data-driven optimization focuses primarily on needs-based segmentation and targeting. Messages are targeted at recipients based on behaviors, demographics, geography, historical purchase patterns, etc. A marketer may optimize campaigns by sending messages only to those that are 85 pecent more likely than others to make a purchase of more than $100 and have bought within the last three months. Although data-driven optimization generally requires complex analysis and segmentation expertise, it will yield an extremely accurate picture of your customers.
As the flood of e-mail begins to fill consumers’ inboxes, people will naturally become more selective about which messages they read. Optimization is the way to continually and intelligently enhance your e-mail marketing campaigns and establish a meaningful one-to-one dialogue with your customers.