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Three Components of Optimizing E-Mail

The success or failure of e-mail marketing campaigns can hinge on the capability to analyze the results — true victory cannot be achieved by delivering the mail on schedule. It also must include a full understanding of past campaigns through such metrics as readership, click-throughs, gross and net response rates, and return on investment and recency, frequency and monetary value analyses.

Today, it is easier than ever to analyze each stage of an e-mail marketing campaign and produce successful, targeted results. Three key components critical to optimizing your e-mail campaign, all of which are available through Web-based interfaces, are:

* Querying — segmenting your audience.

* Campaign scheduling — reaching your audience at the right time.

* Analysis and reporting — uncovering campaign benefits.

Querying. First, quantify the campaign objectives so that later you have a mark against which to measure the results. For the most effective measurement, you need to ensure objectives are specific and have a time frame. If your objective is to target a universe of customers based on an age demographic for a cross-sell opportunity, querying helps identify and profile a segment of customers according to age. Segmenting customers allows you to target the individuals who would perceive the message as most relevant and valuable.

For subsequent campaigns, you can continually break customers into segments and profile them according to various traits or behavioral characteristics and then offer complimentary items and/or information based on the results. By querying your e-mail database, you have the ability to reach a level of personalization that is often too expensive to do using other mediums.

Campaign Scheduling. Campaign scheduling can be automated or ongoing, and knowing when and how to approach customers with an e-mail message is crucial. The e-mail channel's campaign scheduling allows you to quickly schedule your campaigns, including test campaigns with which you can refine your messages within a matter of days rather than weeks. You can schedule campaigns based on personalization, event happenings, serialized sends and cell testing.

For example, if you want to personalize a campaign by targeting homeowners, you might send a message to e-mail addresses on Friday because home computer users typically check their e-mail on the weekend. On the other hand, you may find that promoting products to business addresses yields the most response on Mondays. Knowing when to send a message enables you to optimize current and future campaigns.

If you would like to schedule campaigns around event happenings, you should first determine the goal of the campaign and the events to target. For instance, if you want to send a feel-good message to your customers on their birthdays, the campaign can be automated to send messages on those days.

Serialized sends are delivered based on a natural series of messages. For example, you can determine five messages to send to your new customers over the course of three weeks. These messages might offer tips on the company or additional products and services. Immediately, your customer is alerted to timely information from your company.

Cell testing is an effective campaign-scheduling method used prior to sending a message to an entire list of recipients. During cell testing, you can send a variety of messages to different groups to see which message gleans the most responses. You might also try varying phrases in the subject line. After the cell testing, the content with the greatest response rates can be associated to the entire list and sent. Through cell testing, a business can increase response rates.

Analysis and Reporting. The real power of e-mail marketing solutions lies in the sophistication of the reporting capabilities. You can understand the status of your mailings through accessing online reports to monitor a successful campaign. Reports must be easily available, so you can utilize the information to improve and strengthen campaigns. Through reporting you can determine if the campaign met its objectives. If not, where did the campaign break down?

From reports, you can find out the day and time the message was opened and conclude the best time to send a future message. Additionally, you can generate instant reports and immediately analyze whether your customers are taking action — such as purchasing products or services — and judge the effectiveness of the campaign. Based on reporting, you can revise the messages online to maximize present and future campaigns.

Such detailed analysis enables predictive modeling and scoring for the next sends. The more accurate the message the more likely to build customer loyalty by offering the right product or service at the right time. With each round of querying, campaign scheduling, and analysis and reporting, each e-mail marketing campaign becomes more powerful than the last.

Tom Detmer is president/CEO of e-mail marketing outsource firm Exactis.com Inc., Denver. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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