Rethinking the E-Mail Campaign Flow

E-mail marketers typically think a perfectly linear flow exists from list development to a sale. But it is not perfectly linear. And without the first two steps conducted effectively, the final steps will fail no matter what marketers try to tweak.

In a nutshell, here is how most marketers think of the e-mail marketing sales cycle:

List Creation? E-Mail Delivery ? Open Rates ? Click Rates ? Sales

However, the way these are listed, if either of the first two is not strong enough, the rest likely won’t happen at all, and will be reported erroneously. You lose sales and probably the ability to track metrics effectively.

Hardware-software equilibrium. IT managers are over-invested in e-mail hardware and under-invested in e-mail software. Our internal testing shows that by managing resources better, send rates of more than 100 times faster are attainable using existing hardware infrastructure. And new-generation business e-mail servers will free up existing resources for use in other applications.

Here is a new thought on the cycle:

List Creation ? Delivery ? Opens ? Clicks ? Sales

A weak list, aka purchased or old list, directly affects delivery. Poor delivery affects, or otherwise makes erroneous, the rest of the process. This is why I suggest treating these two line items as one solid item for a strong campaign foundation. Creation and delivery go hand in hand, as do open, click and sales rates. Getting the mailing into their hands is step one. Reaction to the campaign is a subset of getting it into their hands. Subset “a” cannot exist without step one, whereas any part of subset “a” can be altered to gain better reactions to the campaign.

Delivery perils and pitfalls include:

· Somebody, ANYBODY, at your firm might get your IP address added to a spam list. This might cause the message to be reported as delivered, but the e-mail is sent directly into a spam-type folder.

· It is highly likely you will be listed as a spammer, unfriendly or even hostile e-mail sender if your e-mail server does not respect the delivery policies of recipient companies, such as Yahoo and AOL. Recipient companies might dump your e-mails into a spam folder; remove you from their white (good guy) lists or take other negative actions. An e-mail diverted into a spam folder will show as delivered, but never show as opened, thus reducing your effectiveness and generating erroneous metrics.

· Spammers, or competitors, might spoof your e-mail address, use your e-mail server to send spam or even plant spyware onto your computer to use it as a spam e-mail server. Now you’re pegged as a spammer. In the final example, your IP address is placed onto a spam list by many people rather than just one. This can wreak havoc with your e-mail marketing.

Punished by each judge, jury and executioner. Punishment is usually doled out one IP at a time. This drives the necessity for e-mail servers that quickly shift IP addresses based upon delivery criteria. At some point, a valid customer who is a valid e-mail recipient will report you as a spammer. Despite safeguards to ensure your list is perfectly valid, 100 percent opt in and NOT in any way spam, you still will get reported eventually.

Unfortunately, at this time, every single recipient acts as judge, jury and executioner. A well-written offering sent to a strong list with a high assurance of deliverability should always produce higher-than-average open rates, click rates and sales conversions. Using these standards as a basis to ensure step one occurred effectively, you then could alter splash pages, tweak the Web site, etc., to further strengthen the next campaign or the next part of the existing campaign. Without a strong list and assured deliverability to an inbox, the campaign is doomed to fail.

There are several likely scenarios:

· Bad list. A new firm bought a list from a recently defunct company. The list was guaranteed to contain recipients who opted onto the list. Hint: It doesn’t. You can verify this by stating, “Then I can list the original company who generated the list with their mailing address and contact information, right?” There will be a higher than 10 percent bounce, meaning poor deliverability, low opens, clicks and sales.

· Good list – no assured delivery. You generated your list in-house by data mining, calling customers, etc. The main problem is that you are using a standard and freely available e-mail server and are not listed in white lists. In your very first e-mail campaign, the server sent too many headers at one time to Yahoo, AOL and Hotmail recipients. If the whole first list does get through, deliverability will be squashed on your next campaign and you might not even be aware that deliverability is low. Opens, clicks and sales will be artificially suppressed.

· Good list – assured delivery – low opens, clicks or sales. Once you make it this far in the process, you can interact with campaigns and possibly boost the results. You have a good list and are confident about delivery, but you still have a low number of opens, clicks or sales. Depending where your numbers go bad in this part of the process, you can interact to try to salvage the campaign.

If opens, clicks and sales conversions are all low, you might alter splash pages and try another batch. If opens and clicks are high, but sales are low, you might try altering your Web site, e-commerce interface, etc. You might conduct surveys to try to discover the disconnect between your mailing and the sales conversions.

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