Thursday, July 10, 2008

Being Successful in e-mail marketing

Today's email marketing strategies and tactics have changed from a couple of years back. There's a lot more to a successful campaign than just looking at open and click-through rates. In this day and age it has become crucial for marketers to employ a well-rounded online marketing toolset, that includes everything from Web analytics to behavioral analysis of respondents to gain valuable insight into just how effective their email campaign is -- or is not.

To be successful in e-mail marketing here are the key components of your campaign:

1. Send
2. Analyze
3. Target
4. Resend

1. Send. Many marketers consider conversion the Holy Grail. If the email generates a lead or a sale, it's considered successful -- if it doesn't, it's considered a bust. But a lack of conversion doesn't necessarily constitute a failure. By using Web analytics tools that are tightly integrated with online marketing campaigns, users can examine key metrics such as visitors' average time on-site and campaign exit rates to understand where the conversion process needs improvement, and use those valuable insights in their follow-up campaigns. The first step in getting to marketing nirvana is to send, so marketers need to press the button, and then be prepared to refine their campaigns as they go.

2. Analyze. Analyzing data from email campaigns is the most important strategy for successfully improving email marketing. By taking a look at many metrics together, marketers will gain greater insight into the bigger picture of user behavior.
"Time on-site" measures the ability of a company's Web site to maintain visitor interest. It also indicates how well the site is meeting visitor expectations. If visitors are spending a reasonable amount of time on the site after clicking through, they've generally found -- and engaged with -- what they sought. Using average time on-site for "all visitors" as a benchmark, marketers can analyze the average time on-site for visitors that came in from an email campaign and can compare the two.
The Web can be a very transient experience. We may start in one place to purchase something but, as we all want to get the most for our money, it only takes a few clicks to move from store to store or to a review site to validate (or decide to rethink) our choice. That's why a higher than average time on-site is a pretty good indicator of interest.
If companies have large groups of visitors with high average time on-site but few conversions, they can examine their campaign and look for ways to create a sense of urgency and reason for quick action in a follow-up campaign - such as a 25% off coupon. Giving those lingering window-shoppers a catalyst to convert is key.
A campaign exit rate is a second effective way to gauge whether visitors' expectations have been met. For example, if an email message is sent out with a free shipping offer, the company's landing page should clearly restate the offer that got the recipient to click through in the first place.
If dealing with high exit rates, a first course of action should be to see how well the landing page reflects the promise made in your campaign. Using the same (or at least similar) graphics and promotion wording is a good start.
By analyzing average time on-site and campaign exit rate data, along with other metrics, marketers will be well on their way to adjusting and improving their marketing efforts.

3. Target. Segmentation is the key to gaining useful insight into any marketing activity, including email campaigns. However, segmentation can only happen if data is available to analyze for insights and trends in user behavior, which can then be grouped according to similar habits. Marketers need to focus on visitors who share common behavior when responding to a particular campaign, and in targeting future campaigns. Using Web analytics to segment campaign respondents will provide valuable information in formulating targeted follow-up campaigns.

4. Resend. The best advice to marketers is: Don't look at any one metric in a vacuum. Instead, take a holistic look at metrics -- including average time on-site, campaign exit rates, ROI, conversion, and visitor volume/response rate. Viewing key metrics together with the proper analysis will ensure an accurate picture of the value of each campaign and will enable marketers to achieve the best results when they refine and resend (but don't abuse your list).
Combining strategic email campaigns and utilizing Web analytics to analyze campaign metrics, marketers can better target and improve the experience for customers both in their inboxes and on their site. It's an important step, as the world continues its journey toward integrated online marketing.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

KPIs are:
  1. a metric that an organization measures to help determine its progress towards a goal;
  2. a reflection of the tactical performance of an organization;

It is important that as you manage your online campaigns that you are able to gauge success of your program by using KPIs here are some examples:

Percent Returning Visitors: percentage of retained visitors returning to your site
Cancellations: the likelihood your subscriber cancels their subscription through an unsubscribe form
Average subscription length - how long are users subscribing to your news letters or subscription based content?
Active subscriber base (based on different time weekly, monthly, etc depending on model)
Visits per month (or quarter or week).
RSS Syndication - how many people are subscribing to your feeds?
Blog Stats: (ie. Technorati, Digg etc)
Conversion Rate: the likelihood of successfully driving a visitor to purchase. You will need to track online purchase vs. offline as a result of visiting the site. The percentage of visitors that download white papers, sign up for mailings, subscribe to a newsletter, etc.
Cost Per Visitor: the cost of each site visitor to your business.
Average Order Value/Size: changes in the overall audience makeup and the affect on the online revenue patterns
Percent New Visitors: the number of potential new customers landing on your site each month. Are these visitors qualified? What stage of the buying funnel are they in?
Ratio of New to Returning Visitors: the ratio of new to previously acquired visitors as well as a measure of customer loyalty and repeat online business.
Page "Stickiness": the likelihood of successfully retaining a visitor who arrives at a key landing page
Customer Life Time Value: the likelihood that satisfied customers will tell their friends resulting in an increase in online/offline sales. This is more intangible and may be difficult to track.
Add/View: as well as cart abandonment
Effect on Offline Sales - how many offline sales were a result of an online engagement?
Unique toll-free numbers called
Store locator views
- how many times did users visit your online store?
Order printout
Conversion Path Analysis
: How are users converting on the site?
New Account Signups: how much time and money are these new account signups spending on your site?
Contact Us Form Completions: for products or services that are purchased offline and have an extended sales timeline, Contact Us Forms should be treated as a conversion
“Get a Quote” Requests: this can also be a conversion
1-800 Tracking: the number of calls to the (preferably unique) toll-free number listed on your site
Ratio of Leads to Close: the likelihood a lead will complete the transaction – this is an offline ratio
Length of Visit: the amount of time a visitor spends on your site in a given visit
Percent of Visits by Entry Page: measures the efficacy of your marketing messages at driving visitors to the site
Conversion by Campaigns
Ad Clicks: measures how successful your PPC campaign is; however, try to remember that CTR is not as important as Conversions/Click – I would rather have a 2%CTR and a 100% conversion rate because this indicates that my online marketing message is bang on; meaning I am driving both my sponsored and organic traffic to conversions
Site Abandonment
Information Conversion Rates
: In this case a "conversion" would be something like the likelihood that a user will successfully locate the information needed
Percent of Visits under 90 Seconds: you want to make the site efficient, but not difficult to use. Measure the percent of your audience that is unlikely to have found the information they sought
Percent Returning Visitors: percentage of retained visitors returning to your site
Top Internal Search Phrases: not a KPI in the "traditional" sense, but very important to identifying new trends in support needs. Tracking which phrases users type into your internal search will help indicate what type of information they are seeking.
Videos/Podcasts Accessed: including technical support videos or podcasts
Bounce Rate: Exits from the first page that the user arrives at when they land on your site. A lower bounce rate is better.
Customer Satisfaction/Engagement Metrics: determine if the site is successfully handling problems and engaging the user in a successful site experience.
Ad Clicks
Exit Surveys
- how many times has your "Thank You" page been served up?
Forum Logins - how many times have users logged into their accounts?

Identifying the proper key performance indicators can help ensure that you are accurately measuring what is important to your organization's bottom line.