Email marketing guide: Step 2 Set your goals and build a quality list for email marketing

You probably know that interaction with email campaigns is measured through open and click-through rates. While it’s meaningful to review email response in this way, if this is all you measure, you’re missing the bigger picture of the value of email to your company and its customers.

The rich metrics in email are great. However, there is a distinction to be made between business metrics and email marketing performance and diagnostic metrics. Click rates may help you to understand how well you are doing with offer, content and targeting. Complaint 2 rates are important to deliverability management, but neither is a business metric. They are numbers useful to gain insight and manage activity only.

Define current value of your email marketing to customers

To assess how valuable email is to customers it’s best to measure the quality of their engagement – how engaged are they? How engaged do they need to be?

Q. How well do we measure engagement of our subscribers?

A review of campaign open, click-through and conversion rates is a natural place to start to improve engagement. Trends in overall response rates are a good starting point, but a capable email marketing system will give you more insight. For a more detailed analysis, you should review:

Checklist – measuring engagement with email marketing

  • Click to open rates (CTOR) – these will enable you to see how engaging your creative and offer is.
  • Open and click-through rates by segment – engagement will vary by segment depend- ing upon the targeting and relevance of your content or offers, so be sure to assess this.
  • Open and click-through rates based on delivery time time of day and day of the week or time in a month may make a difference so review to gain insight as to when to send.
  • Unsubscribe rate – check that particular messages or offers aren’t causing peaks in unsubscribe rates.
  • Complaint rate – as with unsubscribe, do particular messages cause a high number of complaints?
  • Engagement at different points in the customer lifecycle – it is natural that engage- ment will decline through time and some subscribers will become inactive. So you need to work to engage visitors through time, for example starting with a welcome series or, when necessary, emails geared towards reactivation.
  • Engagement with different types of offer and message – different types of promotion or message will also vary in popularity, so you need a way of tagging offer-type to analyse what is effective. Some email marketers tag specific types of links in different positions
  • Hurdle rates of engagement over a longer period – this assesses engagement over a six- or nine-month period to set goals to review how active your subscribers are mea- sured through open, click or purchase
Strategy Recommendation 4 Measure longer-term engagement through hurdle rates
To analyse longer-term engagement, you can use the type of analysis shown in the table below, which shows a diagnostic for longer-term engagement with email marketing.

This analysis often shows that over half of your audience is not engaged, so this gives you a hurdle rate to benchmark your engagement efforts against.

These types of hurdle rates should be used to set goals for list quality and engagement, and can also be broken down by subscriber segment or offer type.

Define value of email marketing activity to your company

Q. How well do we measure value generated from our email marketing?

In the previous section we looked at value to the customer. But what about company value? To assess this we need to know about the marketing outcomes generated and the influence on sales.

So we suggest you set these as primary goals for your email marketing and how to track them. You can look at the efficiency starting at emails sent, which shows you overall campaign effectiveness. And can focus on activity after the click to help you assess the efficiency of your web conversion.

Checklist – measuring value generated from email marketing

  • Size of contactable email database.
  • Size of contactable database as percentage of total customer database.
  • Growth of contactable database per month.
  • Outcomes (goals) per 1000 emails sent.
  • Revenue (profit) per 1000 emails sent.
  • When looking at outcomes and revenue per email sent, dividing by 1000 (or per 100) will normalise value and make it easier to interpret, but it’s not essential.
  • Total revenue from the email channel per month.
  • Revenue per email contactable customer per month.
  • Outcomes (goals) from email marketing per website visit from email.
  • Revenue (profit) from email marketing per website visit from email.

This will be tracked through your analytics package. To implement tracking you will need to tag your emails as described in Step 7. This will allow you to monitor check whether you have achieved these goals.

Best Practice Tip 7 Use a conversion funnel model to set goals for your email marketing

Through creating a simple conversion model for your email campaign you can set realistic goals for your email marketing. You can also set realistic expectations among colleagues since the multi-step response means that response may not be as much as they expect.

A conversion model/easy to use calculator is available for members.

Success refers to achieving the objectives set – does the campaign deliver the required outcomes? The success of direct response campaigns is often talked about in terms of click-throughs – the number of recipients who follow a link from the email through to the organisation’s website. But what really matters are results in terms of your original objectives – the number of recipients that click through and then take the follow-up action on the site such as purchasing a product, agreeing to attend an event, receiving a visit from a sales rep or entering a competition.

Where you have very specific marketing objectives consider how you can measure against these too. For example, increase the number of subscribers who have provided preference information, or the average number of different product categories each customer buys.

Growing your list

Q. Do we have a structured process for growing our email list?

If you don’t have a plan to grow your email list then new subscribers will still opt-in, but not as fast as you would like since you will be missing opportunities from different touchpoints.

Lucky Voice set out to dramatically increase the size of their database and almost doubled it in 12 months. They did this by planning and using many different growth strategies across a variety of channels.

This pie chart shows the percentage of new addresses acquired by a variety of sources used.

percentage of new addresses acquired

A simple baseline for list growth is the number and percentage of current customers for which you have email addresses. You can then set targets for this metric and devise techniques to increase this figure. When devising these techniques don’t only think quantity, but also think quality. What procedures can you use to maximise the number of valid email addresses? Just one character wrong and the email address is no good to anyone, since you cannot reach the subscriber via a faulty email address. A further aspect of quality is opt-in. Just because you have obtained an email address from the customer doesn’t necessarily mean it is opt-in and you have permission to use it.

It is only opt-in if the customer has proactively agreed, and expects to receive email communications. Perhaps there are ranges of email communications available to the customer such as different e-newsletters or email alerts. Which have they agreed to receive or is there the expectation that they will receive all of them?

Control your email list acquisition costs

Q. Did we define an allowable cost of email address acquisition to help control the costs of list-building?

If you are using different channels and acquisition strategies for list growth then ensure you track the source of where permission was given. Use this to calculate the cost of acquiring an email address and to check the performance of the email addresses. Whilst one source might deliver email addresses at half the cost, if the performance of those addresses is only a third as good it’s actually a more expensive acquisition source. Tracking source is also useful should you ever be challenged by someone as to where you obtained permission to email them.

Strategy Recommendation 5 Set an allowable cost of email acquisition
It is useful to have an allowable cost of email address acquisition which is a target figure for addresses from new prospects since it can help control spend on media such as paid search. Examples include a B2B software company who places an allowable cost of email acquisition of £0.40 per email and a recruitment company who placed an allowable cost of email address (as part of a job application) at £0.70.

Define objectives for email list building and list quality

Setting SMART objectives for your list can help grow the list faster, giving more opportunities to generate sales.

Q. Have SMART objectives for our email list been set?

Checklist – email list size and quality

  • List size. Aim to increase the size of your list over a particular time period, e.g. add 5,000 subscribers to an e-newsletter in a year.
  • Email address coverage. Aim to increase coverage of email addresses in your customer base – you may have 15 percent of customers opted into an e-newsletter, but you want to increase this to 35 percent over the next year.
  • Email address quality – Aim to increase the proportion of valid or active email addresses on your list (i.e. those that don’t bounce back or the percentage of customers who are ‘email active’ i.e. they open or click through on emails within a defined period).
  • Email permission level. Although you may have collected email addresses, you may not have explicit permission to use them, which is required by law in many countries. Also, have you got permission to send the full range of e-communications, or just some, e.g. alerts and e-newsletters? Aim to increase the (average) permission levels.
  • List value – Aim to increase the value generated in total or per 1000 list members in terms of sales/leads in a time period.
  • Targeting quality – Increase proportion of subscribers qualified for your products who you have collected profiling information about.
  • Data quality – Increasing the proportion of specific, valuable, up to date and accurate pro- file fields held about individuals. The next section describes a range of offline and online techniques to increase email address capture and make sure that the accuracy is a high as possible.

Review touchpoints to improve email marketing

Q. Have all touchpoints for collecting and updating email addresses been reviewed?

It is important to have a structured approach to collecting and maintaining customer data. A good way for marketers to review all the possible methods of capturing email addresses is to brainstorm alternative methods for capturing email addresses. Opportunities for capture are:

  • Digital channels, websites, social channels, mobile apps, blogs, SMS.
  • Offline, events, in-store, customer service, all paper responses.
  • Existing customers.
  • New customers.

Best Practice Tip 8 Use a range of customer touchpoints to grow your list
Both online and offline contact moments are an opportunity for gaining new permission email addresses and adding valuable profile data to your current recipients.

Besides looking at new touchpoints and strategies, also review existing data collection processes. Very often the processes in place were created some time back and have not been optimised. Lucky Voice improved their online collection process and provided an incentive; this doubled the number of addresses acquired.

The chart below offers a good starting point for a company to review all the possible methods of capturing email addresses and other profile information. Some examples are shown.

Online – Offline touch points

Here, we will consider online and offline opportunities for email capture separately. Many of these apply equally to potential and existing customers.

Here are eight online methods to help build a house list:

1. Direct from website – permanent incentives to capture leads should be one
of the main aims of a web presence, particularly for a B2B organisation. Design, structure and content should be devised to maximise conversion to sign-up. Be clear on benefits and where possible, give instant tangible benefits of subscribing. Keep the amount of data required to sign up low. Place the sign-up call to action across every page of the site in prominent locations. If very strong incentives to sign up are given use real-time verification of email addresses and/or double opt- in to gain the incentive.

2. Web response from offline communications. Here an offer is publicised offline and respondents are referred to a website to sign up (e.g. Dell offered a monthly notebook prize draw or offline ads (such as the former Chocollect promotion from Mars which was featured in TV ads).

3. Social networks. Social media can be a good place to start a conversation or rela- tionship but email can help monetise it. Make capturing email subscribers a part of your social media strategy.

4. Renting an email list from a third party – Recipients who click through to a landing page are encouraged to opt-in to your house-list.

5. Placing an ad in a third-party e-newsletter. This has the same aims as renting an email list, but may be more cost effective and can often be tightly targeted.

6. Using a third-party site, sometimes referred to as an ‘acquisition’ centre to provide offers with a view to sign-up (for example MyOffers).

7. Campaigns with social sharing or viral elements where a friend, colleague or follow- er is referred can also increase the size of the house list. Before further communications are sent, permission marketing and data protection law require you to get the referred person to opt-in himself so be sure to bring that option to their attention.

8. Any other forms of online traffic-building not mentioned above. Examples include online banner ads or Pay Per Click text search engine ads.

Offline opportunities for data capture encompass the full range of offline customer touchpoints. Here are eight to consider:

1. Any form of paper registration or order form. But be sure to check the wording on your form such that an opt-in to all forms of future communications is achieved.

2. Visit from sales representatives. Can be used for opt-in either on paper or through subscribing online.

3. A phone contact at a call centre. For example a bank could ask customers whether they have an email address during or at the end of a routine phone enquiry.

4. Telemarketing. This can be specifically to capture email addresses, but is more cost- effective if it is part of a telemarketing campaign.

5. Point-of-sale. Collect email addresses at the store in a retail context. This can be at the cash register.

6. Trade show or conference. For example from a prize draw collecting business cards (but take care to collect a proper opt-in).

7. Paper response to a direct mail offer. Traditional direct response.

8. Phone response to direct mail or ad. Again traditional direct response.

When email addresses are captured offline, a common problem is the level of errors in the addressed – this can often reach a double figure percentage. So plan to control this – staff should be trained in the importance of getting the email address correct and how to check for invalid address formats. Some call centres have even incentivised staff according to the number of valid email addresses they collect.

When collecting addresses on paper, often small practical steps can make the difference such as allowing sufficient space for the email address and asking for it to be written in CAPS.9

Techniques for list maintenance

Q. Are our options for list maintenance reviewed?

As with maintaining any customer database, maintaining a list can be a major headache. For

email or mobile-related lists the headache can be more intense since:

1. With permission-based email, the customer can opt-out or unsubscribe at any time.

2. Email addresses tend to change more frequently than postal addresses.

3. Subscribers often hold multiple email addresses, often to counter spam and inbox overload.

If your e-newsletter or email campaigns are good quality, then the unsubscribe rate shouldn’t be too much of a problem. A good rate for unsubscribes for a house list is 0.5% or below per broadcast .

All the ways of collecting email addresses online and offline that were mentioned in the previous section can also be used to keep email addresses fresh, since the most recent email address can be collected. This particularly applies to the offline methods where employees talk directly to customers and prospects. Since it is annoying to be constantly asked ‘is your email contact address still correct?’ it is best if this is only asked when an address becomes inactive as described in the section below.

It is advised to encourage self-service updating of the subscriber data through an online profile or permission centre.

Collecting the email address should be an in-built part of the sales process. Whenever a prospect or customer has to fill in a form this is an opportunity for gaining email addresses Direct mail promotions also gives this opportunity

Coming up Step 3 Defining your email marketing proposition

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