This section, we look at some of the more advanced techniques to get more from your email marketing. We will cover:
Improving email delivery.
Tracking email campaigns.
Improving email marketing for mobile devices.
Using A/B split testing for email optimisation.
Improving email delivery
Q. Have our email delivery techniques been reviewed?
Email delivery arguably isn’t the most interesting part of email marketing for marketers. But since it can directly affect your results it’s worthwhile knowing the right questions to ask
What is it? Spam
There are differences in law per country about what is legitimate email. Unsolicited marketing emails are often also referred to as spam. But spam is these days defined in the eye of the beholder and not only by law, classifying unwanted, too frequent or too sales oriented emails as “spammy” even if they gave permission to receive them
How do ISPs identify spam?
In the case of the ISPs and webmail services, they define spam as emails that users don’t want. They filter email based on sender IP address reputation and increasingly domain reputation. A reputation score is defined from a variety of factors, including:
High bounce rates. This results from poor list hygiene. Often with limited ability or inter- est to receive and process bounces from botnets, bouncing addresses stay on spam lists.
High spam complaints. Users clicking the junk and report as spam button in their email client.
Spam traps. These email addresses that should not be on your list. The ISPs create these and watch for unsolicited email to the addresses. They most often get onto your list if you purchase data. As old email addresses may be converted by ISPs into traps, poor hygiene and data management can also result in spam traps.
Very low engagement. Low open rates and a high number of deletes without reading. No user will reply in response to a spam email.
Campaigns sent across hundreds if not thousands of IP addresses. The IP address- es rapidly change and come and go as spammers use a botnet of ‘zombie computers’. The email volume from each zombie IP address does not have smooth flow. It shows high peaks of activity.
Incomplete setup of technical criteria. These include correct DNS, SPF, DKIM and DMARC email authentication19 settings that show that your email software and IP ad- 7 dresses are allowed to send on your domains’ behalf.
Sending from a dynamic IP address. For example, those allocated to home ADSL con- nections.
Send volume and consistency. Because spammers don’t tend to have a consistent send frequency, ISPs look at how frequent you send your messages. If you suddenly start to send more emails than usual, this might damage your email reputation. In particular this is important when starting with a new email service provider or IP address. As Andy Thorpe explains20; ISPs monitor new IP addresses more closely and you will have to build up a reputation or warm up your IP-address.
So, to not be treated as spam by the ISPs means to not look like spam with the above char-
In the early days ISPs used content to filter spam, words such as Viagra were obvious
choices. These techniques were crude and easily circumvented. The ISPs are clever people
with large resources and have been moving closer and closer to measuring the metrics that
are fundamental characteristics of the spammers’ business model. This is shrewd as it is
something that spammers can’t fake.
So, what can we do to avoid being identified as a spammer? The factors today that are important to inbox placement are low bounce rates, low complaint rates, high engagement, correct technical setup, content validity and consistent email volume flow.
Assessing your curent delivery ?
Q. Has our email delivery optimisation been reviewed?
The delivery rate as provided by email marketing tools is the percentage of emails that didn’t bounce. If you are emailing at least weekly to each email address on your customer base and you have good list hygiene practices in place then your delivery rate should be over 98 percent, that is less than two percent of emails sent are bounced.
What is it? Email marketing Bounce rate
Bounces are emails that could not be delivered and in turn return a bounce message.
Commonly they are categorised into hard bounces and soft bounces. Hard bounces are
bounces due to a permanent error; whereas soft bounces mean a temporary error.
As an example, a hard bounce will occur if someone terminated their email account, whereas
a soft bounce example could be if the person’s inbox is full. ISPs may also send a soft
bounce as an initial warning that an email is seen as spam.
But delivery rate isn’t the same as inbox placement. This is why the statistics defined by the the Email Experience Council call it Email Accepted Rate21, not delivered rate. ReturnPath have recently reported an average inbox placement as low 88 percent, even when the mailer has a good IP reputation as measured by a SenderScore of over 91.
If your delivered rate is lower than 90 percent, then your next step is to review and change list hygiene best practice and reduce your bounce rate before moving on to the guidance in this post.
Deliverability, as opposed to delivery, is about more than just removing the bounces. It’s about arriving to the inbox. Before the rise of spam and aggressive spam filters to counter it, just knowing an email had not bounced was sufficient to be confident it was delivered to the inbox. Spam forced ISPs into additional filtering and the difference between deliverability and delivery arose.
An ISP will do one of four things for emails not bounced:
Place in the inbox.
Place in the junk folder.
Place it in another user specified or promotions folder.
Throw the email away.
Unlike bounce issues, whereby the ISP tells you that you’ve not reached the inbox, there is
often no notification to senders by ISPs if you are put in junk or deleted.
The challenge then, is given the ISPs won’t tell you, how do you monitor if your emails are placed in the inbox?
There are two main methods:
Delivery confirmation seed addresses. Delivery confirmation seed addresses are simply email accounts you create with the ISPs and include on your mailing list. Once the campaign has been sent, log into each of the seed accounts you created and check if the email arrived to the inbox. The inference is that if the seed address email got to the inbox you can expect the rest of the campaigns emails for that ISP to have reached the inbox. This is generally a sound assumption.
Campaign metric changes. Your open, click, bounce and complaint rates also provide insight to inbox deliverability and alert you to a potential change in deliverability. It’s not as simple as just looking at your average open or click rate and if it drops concluding there is a deliverability problem. There are so many other factors that could cause this that such a conclusion is nonsensical.
To use these campaign metrics you need to look at how these vary and trend per ISP like Gmail or Outlook.com. The key is knowing what is normal for your campaigns and looking at trends. Here the ratio from Hotmail to Yahoo is 1.82 (4.04/2.21). If this ratio changes significantly it implies the deliverability has changed between Hotmail and Yahoo. So ask your email service provider to do an analysis of this ratio.
Best Practice Tip 22 Review delivery variation by ISP
Email delivery will vary by platform such as Gmail, Hotmail, etc. If you see a much lower
delivery rate, then it may indicate a problem with delivery.
Tim Watson recommends keeping spam complaint rates below 0.2 percent to ensure a good reputation and the lower the better. However, dropping spam complaint rates can be a sign of trouble too. If your open, click and spam rates all drop together it indicates you are not reaching the inbox.
The spam complaint rates are dropping simply because no one is seeing your email and thus will no longer complain about it! Two more tools to consider are blocklists and Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) SNDS. All ISP filtering includes use of block lists. These are lists of IP addresses which are considered to be sending spam.
ISPs hold their own private lists as well as using the public lists. Use a service that will alert you if your IP address appears on a public block list. If you are using a good ESP they should be doing this for you.
Assess engagement ‘beyond the click’ through web analytics
Q. Has the effectiveness of email ‘beyond the click’ been reviewed?
For many years, it was difficult to track engagement of your visitors after they click through on your email through to the site. This is important, because great open and click through rates, don’t necessarily mean great conversions and we also want the email channel to receive proper attribution of the revenues generated. In more email systems you can tag the conversion page such as a sales or subscription thank you page oftentimes even fully automated.
Best Practice Tip 23 Integrate web analytics campaign tracking
You should define standard campaign tracking codes for different email campaigns to
enable you to review engagement against conversion to sale or other goals, otherwise
emails will be recorded within your analytics system as direct visits. If your site is a
transactional site with a clear sales conversion goal then success in conversion will be
shown by e-commerce tracking.
With the widespread adoption of web analytics and in particular Google Analytics for tracking pay per click AdWords campaigns, many email marketing vendors have made it easier for you to track after the click by automatically integrating Google Analytics campaign tracking into the hyperlinks in your email templates.
Integration with other advanced web analytics systems such as Omniture and Coremetrics is also possible.
For Email marketing the parameters (* are optional) I recommend are:
utm_medium – medium used for marketing, i.e. email.
utm_campaign – campaign name, e.g. EnewsNovember.
utm_source – this is usually the media owner, but for email marketing can be used to specify the source of email list, e.g. HouseList or the name of external list providers/ newsletter ads.
* utm_term – in AdWords used to identify the keyword used to trigger the ad, can be used in email marketing to identify individual links (optional), e.g. Offer1, can be based on click text summary.
* utm_content – used to track an individual or segments response (optional), this could be based on any field in database, e.g. user-id, user email, etc.
If your site is not transactional, then you should define other conversion goals for engagement with the site. In both cases you can define an actual or nominal monetary value for conversion. In Google Analytics this will enable you to compare campaign effectiveness according to $Index value or total value.
Best Practice Tip 24 Review web analytics bounce rates
Compare landing page bounce rates (for the site not hard bounces for the email campaign)
for evaluating the relevance of the landing page content. If you find the bounce rate for the
landing page is relatively high, and conversion rates low, you can be sure you are directing
your visitor to a less relevant page from your email. You can also compare landing pages
on duration, number of pages subsequently viewed and conversion to goals pre-defined in
the analytics system.
Improving email marketing for mobile devices
Q. Has our use of email on mobile devices been reviewed?
The reading of emails on mobile devices and particularly on smartphones and tablets is an important part of email marketing with the concept of design first for mobile now a trend. Data from the Litmus Emailclientmarketshare.com shows the huge impact of emails being read on mobile devices24 like iPhone, iPad and Google Android.
Android stats are likely understated with respect to iOS devices, due to iOS loading images
by default and the Android blocking by default, leading to blocking of open tracking. Even
when taking this into account the biggest device for mobile opens is the iPhone.
We’ve seen the industry trends, you can check to see how important mobile email marketing is for you. The majority of brands now have mobile opens making up between 25 percent and 75 percent of their total opens25 open rates below 15 percent are an exception.
Best Practice Tip 25 Define the target platforms for mobile email marketing
You should decide which platforms your emails should work on and then take steps to
evaluate how these effectively should work.
To find your mobile usage levels take a look in your Google Analytics at Audience, Mobile Devices. You’ll be able to see your mobile audience and their devices to focus on. You can also set up an Advanced Segment for email visits only to see the relative importance of mobile devices. This B2B example shows that although iOS devices are dominant, some Android devices are increasingly important.
To better understand the behaviour of visitors on your site referred from email marketing you can create an advanced segment for email visitors once you have set up tracking.
Best Practice Tip 26 Apply Advanced Segments for Email in Google Analytics
The Advanced segment should be based on a medium of ‘email’ if that is how you have
labelled your links. This can help you see the devices people who click through to your site
specifically from your emails.
You select the advanced segment using the down arrow at the top left above the reports in Google Analytics, then choose “Create New Segment” and set the medium to “Email”.
According to research by Custora26, email marketing is driving 26.7% of sales on mobile and 23.1% of the sales were via tablet devices, compared to the 20.9% of all sales on desktop.
Mobile email experience reviewed and conversions optimized
Has the effectiveness of email marketing on mobile devices been reviewed?
The most common approaches are now to design a skinny email that gives good user experience on desktop and mobile or to use full responsive email design. Fortunately Inter- net-enabled phones now include browsers and email clients that are based on the WebKit rendering engine, which has good HTML and CSS support. This includes the iPhone, Android devices, webOS.
What is it? Responsive email design
With responsive email design, we use @media queries to code and designing the email.
Responsive design allows the email to adapt to the device and screen size used at the time
of viewing the email. The goal is to improve the user experience and increase conversions.
Using responsive design allows the best user experience to be presented for any device. Using responsive design allows an email to automatically adapt the device being used to view the email, allowing changes such as:
Change font sizes
Change the email width
Re-stack rows into columns
However, responsive design often also increases the cost of the template and ongoing campaigning. While some Email Marketing software offers standard mobile compatible templates, it often needs extra coding and design effort. So it may not be worth it for everyone. An alternative approach is to provide a skinny design.
Some guidelines to consider when creating mobile first thinking emails:
Use pre-header text. This is shown in the iPhone inbox view.
Reduce the use of large branding headers and banner images in the area above the fold.
Use larger fonts or increase font size, 12pt for the body and 24pt for headings.
Use even shorter and chunked content. Already good advice for email in general and even more important for mobile.
Only include images that add to the message, drop anything purely artistic.
Space out links so they are easy to touch without getting the wrong link.
Use buttons for calls to action, a 22 x 44 pixel minimum as this is the size of your touch area.
Favour single column design or side by side when displaying many products.
Keep the HTML size and image sizes down, readers may be on a slow 3G connection.
Place calls to action on images – there is no equivalent of the hand icon when ‘hovering over’ on a touch interface.
Drop content, removing calls to action, text and design elements that aren’t central to the email objective.
Q : Have our email templates been reviewed for effectiveness?
Effective email templates should balance the need for visual prominence of:
A main text headline.
Copy to engage (where relevant, like an editorial on an e-newsletter).
Different blocks of content and offers.
The call(s) to action.
Best Practice Tip 26 Employ a flexible and reusable email template By using email marketing software that allows you to re-use templatesand possibly copy and edit complete emails, a marketer can save a lot of time while keeping brand and design consistent. Some tools will have the option to add or remove pre-designed content block in a drag-and-drop fashion, allowing for more flexibility within one multi-purpose template.
Email marketing template examples
To guide good practice we have created these outlines which you can reference against the information in this section. These show the options of template sections to discuss with your designers, most often not all of these features are required.
Q. Have headlines been reviewed for effectiveness? Since most of the readers of your email will only scan them, it’s important to offer clear messages in the header and within the sub-headlines or section.
Best Practice Tip 27 Ensure the email is scan-able even when images are blocked Since images are still blocked by some email software, you will get a better response where the main headlines and headlines of sub-sections or containers are still clear with images off. This is particularly important for e-newsletters and business messages, but including some text or at least alternative text for images will give you a better response for consumer messages also.
Q. Are headings and text clear when images are blocked? This is an example from a previous non-responsive version of our e-newsletter with images blocked, you can see how we make use of tinted background colours to give focus to the different areas of the email.
This is an example of how not to do it. There are plenty we could have chosen, even in this time when mobile marketing is more important.
Visual focus or priority on a limited number of areas Q. Does the email have a clear visual focus? Although readers can scan quickly, a page will be much more effective if there are clear visual priorities on a limited number of areas. An e-newsletter offers the option to add a (visual) structure that indicates importance.
Use pyramid style copywriting
Q. Email effective if only first part of email “above-the-fold” displayed?
Sometimes we will only browse the first part of the email above the fold, so you need to make sure the first part of your email engages. It is worth testing if a call to action should be visible above the fold.
What is it? Above-the-fold A term derived from direct mail where this is the first part of a letter when it is opened. The equivalent in email is the top of the email. Starting with what appears in the preview pane before the user scrolls down.
Clear calls to action Q. Are our calls to action clear? Your call to action should describe what happens or which action is needed from the recipient clicks on it. This tells the reader what to expect. The clarity is either made directly (preferred) or because of its context. “Buy now” is an action oriented call to action, but only clear what you should be buying now because of the product description next to it.
Ensure images are effective
Q. Has effective imagery been used and is it consistent with the email? Some of the image issues to consider are:
Relevant to product or offer.
Quality effective to support message and offer.
Images linked rather than embedded to reduce weight of email.
Alt-text tag used to explain message when images are blocked by the email client.
Crafting effective copy
To write successful email copy, you need to start by thinking about how readers interact with email. When running win-back and welcome campaigns consider also the stage of the relationship. For example a more conciliatory tone with softer sell may work better in win-back. If you are familiar with writing copy for print, consider these three important questions you should ask.
Effective subject lines
Q. Are the subject lines effective?
The reality of email subject lines is that your readers aren’t waiting to lavish their eyes on your email, rather their fingers are hovering over the delete button waiting to assign it to trash.
Readers use the subject line to self-qualify the email to themselves. The subject line is not just about getting the email opened by the maximum number of people, it’s about getting the people most fitted to the offer or message to open the email.
Whilst intrigue and ambiguity may increase open rates, it may not always translate to click rate increase. Clarity and specificity in the subject line can often be the most powerful approach to getting good click rates. We all know that subject lines are important, but do you know the part which is most important? For us it’s the first two words. By using a technique called ‘frontloading’, you try and craft subject lines that have the most important or most compelling words at the front of the subject line.
Don’t forget that characters also matter. Comma’s, slashes, lines, stars, capitals can have an impact on open rates. Also appropriate symbols like a heart (♥) can make you stand out in the inbox, so should be tested.
What is it? Pre-header Email clients like Gmail and Outlook.com and diverse on mobile devices display sender name, subject and the first line of the email in the inbox. This first line is called the Pre-header or “snippet” and can also influence your open rates and the user experience. Make sure your template allows you to adjust your pre-header text.
Make copy scannable
Q. Is the copy scannable? Jakob Nielsen reported on research that shows that in a test 79 percent of test web users scanned, while just 16 percent read word-by-word. Since we tend to read 25 percent slower from a computer screen, this behaviour is likely to be exhibited in all on screen copy, whether web or email.
One implication of this is that we should write less copy when writing for the web or email. Nielsen suggests 50 percent of the original for web copy. We can suggest that for email, which tends to be read in a smaller window, and in a different context, this should be even shorter.
To achieve brevity, Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think! suggests we should:
Omit needless words! He says we should remove half our original words and then strive to remove half again.
Marketing happy talk must die! Avoid that introductory text intended to make the customer feel comfortable or extol the virtues of a company.
Rather than rest on ‘best ever’, ‘market leader’ and other such unsubstantiated claims look to provide evidence. Such as a deal company might talk about
How many new deals they have per week.
The average saving.
How many customers buy more than once.
Customer feedback and ratings on deals and service.
3. Instructions must die! This refers to online forms rather than emails, where it is achieved through making the options clear without extensive text. For email we can argue that instructions are often useful to explain to the reader what they need to do to redeem the offer and to convert them to action. But we can certainly keep instructions succinct.
Of course the other implication of scanning behaviour is that we should make our emails scannable! Nielsen suggests these as approaches to this:
Highlighted keywords (we will look at different forms of highlighting for text and HTML emails later in this guide).
Meaningful not ‘clever or funny’ sub-headings.
One idea per paragraph.
The inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion.
Half the word count (or less) than conventional writing.
Make email style conversational
Q. Has a conversational style of email marketing been used?
Although we receive many unsolicited communications, many of the emails we receive are from work and friends.
So we are used to using email in a conversational, informal way with friends, family and colleagues. It follows that copywriters can be more conversational with email than other media, and this can help us get closer to our prospects and customers.
Some have said we should ‘Write like you talk’ – a good test is to ask whether you would say it to someone face-to-face. If not it is probably the ‘marketing happy talk’ we referred to above.
Other ways to make email conversational is to use simple words and use colloquial expressions.
Pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘you’, ‘they’ are also effective. Some talk about the ‘we-we test’ – reviewing the email to see whether the emphasis is on the sender ‘we’ or the recipient ‘you’. The example below shows an email that passes this test:
‘You already know how easy it is to get instant online insurance cover from Norwich Union. But did you know that Norwich Union can also offer you online access to low-cost life-cover. For example, £ would cost you as little as £Y per day.’
Connecting copy with readers
Q : Does our email language connect with our readers?
Professional email marketers have to work extra hard to establish credibility and prove their benefits to their readers. So, as you write, put yourself in the position of a cynical customer who is fed up with insincere and bogus offers – how are you going to prove that you are a credible supplier?
These are some approaches to overcome cynicism and build credibility through email:
Try to achieve ‘connection’ with the reader to show that you understand them by using customer language and their buzzwords.
Spell out the benefit the feature gives. For example a bulleted list could use different fonts or formats to emphasise benefits.
Backup with facts and numbers.
Build testimonial elements into your emails such as customer quotes, number of customers, client names and independent reviews and awards.
Q. Is the copy customer-centric?
It is often said that to write good direct mail copy, you need to write for your reader. In other words, to imagine the person who is reading your carefully crafted words. But to do this, we need to remember the different types of position that our readers are in. Write down how their backgrounds vary. These are some of the different aspects you should consider:
How well do the recipients know your company? Are they prospects, customers or first-time customers?
How well do they know your products? Have they bought single products or a range of products?
What style of communications will appeal? What will they expect from previous interactions with your brand? Do they like a direct approach or do they prefer a more involved dialogue? What is their age – they may prefer more or less formal communications accordingly.
How technologically literate are they? Some may have been using your website and certain online tools for years, while others are new to them. Make it obvious for the newbies, while avoiding patronising the old hands.
Do they scan or do they read? Depending on time available, and their character, some recipients will just scan the email body, others prefer to read more carefully. You need to provide copy and design that works for both.
Through using customer personas and asking these types of questions you can build a picture of the range of people you are writing for. If it is not practical to write for such a wide range consider separating your mailing, for example into recently acquired customers and established customers.
Effective email copy with CRABS?
Q. Does your email have CRABS copy?
In Emarketing Excellence, PR Smith recommends using the acronym CRABS to summarise effective web page copy. This is even more appropriate to email copy, since we have even less space and time to communicate. CRABS stands for:
Chunking – Chunking means that paragraphs must be shorter than in paper copy. Think one or two sentences. Three or four maximum. This helps scannability.
Relevance – With limited space, we have no room for fillers. Stick with what matters – the details of the offer and how to receive it. Personalise the email where possible. Remove content or offers that do not fit with the recipient.
Accuracy – Don’t get carried away with your copy; don’t set expectations so high that you overpromise and can’t deliver what you promised.
Brevity – Brevity goes with chunking and scannability. Write your copy, reduce the word count and then reduce it again. Give yourself targets and beat them without sacrificing good English and understanding. This also means that some information is more effective if moved to the landing page and removed from the email.
Scannability – This is reading without reading every word, just picking up the sense of each paragraph from the keywords. The eye will pick out words at the start of paragraphs and those emphasised in bold.
The title of Steve Krug’s book on web usability gives a useful guideline for copywriting for email – ‘Don’t make me think’. He also suggests that you should consider the amount of copy you have, halve it and halve it again.
If you have produced copy that follows the CRABS guidelines, you are only a part of the way there, since there are many issues of style to make successful copy.
As with any direct mail piece, the first paragraph of an email must:
Engage – when reading this, perhaps in the preview pane, recipients are deciding whether to delete or read (scan) further. So as for any creative, the opening needs to be powerful.
Add detail to the subject line or the headline – the recipient will remember the gist of the subject line, and it is always there at the head of the email, so reinforcement is the main objective of the message here.
Summarise the whole – the opening of an email is often compared to the opening of a press release which typically uses an ‘inverse pyramid’ structure to summarise the main points of the email message in decreasing order of importance, as briefly as possible.
Include a call to action – if the reader likes the offer or wants to know more, we shouldn’t make them scroll down to find an elusive hyperlink – it should be there in the first paragraph
You have a great offer, but have you supported the offer by writing enthusiastically to appeal to the reader’s emotions?
For the consumer you are offering riches, dreams and experiences – does the copy effectively communicate how your offer will improve their life?
For the business person you are offering time, knowledge and control – does the copy effectively communicate how your offer can help them ‘work smarter’? The copy also needs to excite from the outset – see Question 7 for tips on headlines.
Question 2. Does your copy convince?
You may believe that your service or your offer sells itself on its features. But the recipient is less likely to be a believer – they don’t have the interest or knowledge you have. Have you backed up your promise with enough detail to convince the reader that the offer is worthwhile? Is the unique selling point clear?
The style of writing also needs to enthuse about these benefits. This may be difficult if you cannot personally relate to the customer’s needs – sometimes difficult for technology markets for instance. The only way to succeed is to develop empathy with your reader by researching, maybe even living the role like method actors do.
Question 3. Is your copy natural?
We have said that email is a social, conversational medium – we mainly use it to chat to friends or communicate to colleagues. So we want to avoid our email sounding as if it was written by a machine.
If you can make copy conversational, write at the same level of your audience and make it flow naturally then you will get closer to the reader and predispose them to what you are offering. However don’t overdo the informality – some emails seem as if they are written by someone you have known from ‘back at school’.
Question 4. Is the copy length right
Let’s look at the extremes. Which is best – short copy or long copy?
There can be no right answer because it depends on purpose. Most people answer that short is best since the reader doesn’t want to read your carefully crafted words, just WIIFM –‘What’s in it for me’?
My view is that you can combine short and long copy in one email.
The short attention respond to short copy you can use the start of the main copy which is above the fold.
The scanners’ who scan through the whole email you may impress with detail, provided that detail stands out.
The readers’ who read every word and want the details you need the long copy, however this can be also pushed back to the landing page or website.
I would argue that the email cannot be too long provided it is relevant and entertaining and another call to action and summary of the total copy are included at the start.
Question 5. Did you repeat yourself?
This is a difficult one. Direct mail wisdom says repeat to reinforce. Email wisdom says the reader doesn’t have the time to see information repeated. However, I think some repetition is desirable. Reinforcement of messages is effective in any media. We need to repeat and build on what is available in the subject line in the headline. Then,because the reader has scrolled, repeating the offer in the final call to action makes sense.
Question 6. Which copy stands out?
You have satisfied yourself that you can answer the other questions, but now, looking at the big picture, what will the scanner notice – what techniques have you used to emphasise the key points in your email?
In HTML emails, we have a broad scope for emphasis through mark-up to make copy stand out.
The SPACE before and after words and between lines is powerful in highlighting offers or calls to action.
CAPITALISATION, but don’t overuse it.
Bulleted lists using asterisks or dots.
Text formatting – bold and italics. But take care since italics may be difficult to read in small point sizes. Never use an underline which looks like a hyperlink – readers will try to click on it.
Font sizes – large font size as headings or separate messages work well for scanners
Font colour – using a different copy from body copy using vibrant colours such as red and orange.
Graphical animations of copy – but make sure your animation doesn’t prevent the message being viewed by scanners
Hyperlinks – blue underlined or other formatted hyperlinks attract the eye online.
Whilst HTML does allow rich formatting, colours and images this does not preclude the use of HTML to produce a very simple plain text type of email, with the HTML just used to add simple text format and emphasis.
Question 7. Do we have a powerful headline?
Many emails do not have a title at all – online copywriters seem to think they aren’t necessary because that’s what the subject line is for. Not so! Headlines do help engagement if they build on the subject line to engage the reader.
In his excellent book on Online Copywriting, Bob Bly recommends the following approaches that can be used for email titles:
Get a terrific benefit up-front.
Appeal to personal self-interest.
Get the right sort of attention.
Offer to teach.
Ask a provocative question.
Question 8. Will our copy achieve action?
We finish our eight questions with the most important question – whether our email will achieve action. Arguably, this should be the first question, since the whole copy should be structured around the outcomes we want to achieve!
Approaches that can help achieve action are:
A text-based call to action in first screen (for the impulsive) and last screen (for those with the time to read).
A time-limited offer which uses copy to encourage the reader to act NOW!
Instructions such as ‘forward to a friend’ or ‘share to social’ can be other useful outcomes.
Using hyperlinks to highlight the offer at the right position in the paragraph.
As an example of highlighting the offer through a hyperlink, think of marketing to an IT manager to download a best practice guide. Which of these approaches do you think would be best?
A. Click below to receive your complimentary guide to reducing Total Cost of Ownership: FREE guide to reducing TCO.
B. Click here to receive your complimentary guide to reducing Total Cost of Ownership. or C. To receive your complimentary guide to reducing Total Cost of Ownership, click here. or D. To help you lower the costs of running your IT infrastructure we have prepared a complimentary guide to reducing Total Cost of Ownership.
In A, separating out the hyperlink on to a separate line does increase its prominence, but spoils the flow of the copy.
I prefer B rather than C since it is more direct and the eye will be more naturally drawn towards the underlined hyperlink at the start of the sentence within the copy as a whole.
However, approach C can encourage the scanner to read the copy before the end of the sentence.
Design practice for web pages would favour approach D, which makes the call to action part of the copy. While this may work best for web pages where we are perhaps not seeking the hard-sell. For simplicity and encouraging action approach B is best.
Think carefully about the colour of the hyperlink. It used to be that on the majority of web pages, users were used to seeing a blue hyperlink on a white background. But if other colours are used, high contrast is essential.
Rules of Thumbs : There is a fine line between being seen as a spammer who sends too much email and selecting a frequency which maximises returns. The next step involves selecting the best frequency for you.
Set best email frequency
Q. Has your email frequency have been reviewed lately?
Does we have an optimal email frequency? Is it one email a quarter, week, month or day even? Is less more or is more more?!
This is a basic question every digital marketer has to try to answer to maximise profit of email activity. We are looking to achieve the right balance between email overexposure and underexposure. With overexposure, the recipient receives email from the same company so frequently that they don’t have the time to read it or feel their email is being flooded. They become ‘emotionally unsubscribed’.
Worse than this is if they hit the report as spam or junk button, as this has deliverability implications. On the other hand with underexposure, opportunities and sales are lost since the customer does not receive emails sufficiently frequently.
Evaluating current email frequency and customer response behaviour
The first step to help decide is to assess the impact of your email marketing frequency on customer activity and perceptions. If frequency is too high, subscribers will tune out. Though this is not a one dimensional question.
Value and relevance play their part, sending irrelevant email less frequently doesn’t make them relevant – they are just less frequent irrelevant emails.
Providing value and relevance is a way to gain acceptance and emotional permission to send frequently. The obvious thing to measure is aggregate open and click rates and most email broadcast systems are good at this.
Best Practice Tip 24 Review your frequency and email types against competitors Look at the average number of emails you and your competitors send to subscribers per-week, month or year. This can be a good starting point for determining your own email frequency.
The growth of the daily deal sector has demonstrated that even a daily email may not be too much. If the customer expectation at sign-up is a daily email and those deals are truly deals which are relevant enough then daily is acceptable.
I can say It doesn’t need to be that every email is perfectly relevant, just that on balance sufficient interest and value is delivered that the customer is happy to receiving the mails.
Beyond this you must use statistics that most systems can’t report readily, so you need to do some more analysis to identify:
Average frequency of email received and plot profile by frequency for different list members to see the proportion of the list who are receiving too many or two few emails – see chart.
List activity – the percentage of your list that open, click and buy within a period, e.g. quarterly or annual.
Recency of response – what is the average for the last open, click or purchase – a good tip is to store recency in your email database as a field for analysis.
Break down list activity and recency measures by different type of list members – it may be that the frequency is working for some segments but not others.
Break down list activity by time on list – common sense dictates that the longer they are on your list the less responsive your emails will become.
Some e-mail systems do have statistics on per subscriber open and click activity or “engagement score”. If so, you should review if (combined) use of this functionality will be sufficient for your reporting needs.
Best Practice Tip 25 Review unsubscribe and email activity levels through time Graph the response rate and unsubscribe rate of your e-marketing campaigns weekly or monthly independent of campaigns. Try to maximise the number of clicks and minimise unsubscribe rates. Have a good look at total engagement as averages and percentages will always go down with higher frequency, but results probably will go up.
Testing options to decide on the best email frequency It’s not an easy question to answer by gut instinct, so testing is better. So how do you decide on frequency? Here are some ideas and examples showing how you can approach frequency testing.
First, you need to think about defining a random control group to test frequency changes against.
Here you continue with current mailing frequency for the control group and then vary the frequency for other groups and review changes in response and in particular revenue per 1000 subscribers. In one case a bank tried frequencies of 1,2,3,4 times per month and found the right frequency this way
If you have a single email newsletter as in the Toptable example, testing is relatively straightforward. It’s more complex if you have a range of different types of emails such as -newsletters, promotional offer emails and also individually tailored event-triggered emails. Different offers or creative to each segment will also have to be overlaid upon this.
Other options to solve the frequency dilemma include
Reduce email frequencies automatically for lower responding customers. Set a database field for activity or engagement level for each customer to help implement. Amazon is good at this and increases frequency through event-triggered emails sent in response to someone browsing, searching or buying – that is one of the smartest approaches.
Change frequency for different segments. One frequency size doesn’t fit all. So if you find that open or click response is lower for certain segments, then decrease the frequency when they are inactive and look to understand why the response rate is lower in that segment to correct the fundamental cause.
Give customers a choice on frequency. You do this through their profile page or ‘preference centre’. An alternative option is to provide opt-down as well as unsubscribe choice. Opt-down can offer a temporary pause option from emails or unsubscribing to certain types of emails and thus reducing frequency. Teletext Holidays found they recovered five percent of customers by offering opt-down in the unsubscribe process.
Increase direct mail for customers with a lower email response. This is sometimes called ‘touching’. To test the value of this use a holdout group. This small group, perhaps five percent of your list or a specific segment doesn’t receive the communication (for instance email or catalogue) at all.
Re-engagement campaigns. Re-activation campaigns use content or discounts to encourage email subscribers to become active again. Sometimes a preference update or a renewal of opt-in is asked. Permanently inactive email subscribers can hurt deliverability and can muddy the water in reporting.
Q. Have our strategic approaches to segmentation and targeting been reviewed and selected?
There are many different levels in the sophistication of targeting, some of which may or may not be worthwhile depending on the value the segmentation can add. This always relates to the size of your list as well. But it’s still useful to review the segmentation and targeting approach used by the top e-retailers to deliver relevance.
Typically, these are based upon five layered segmentation options used to develop a more effective targeting.
Marketing Automation Best Practices Guide Segmentation, Scoring and Life Cycle marketing form a large part of Marketing Automation functionality. Marketing automation
Best Practices Guide goes in deeper and among other answers these questions:
How can we best score our leads?
How should we nurture our leads to convert more to sale?
Which criteria should I use to select the best marketing automation vendor?
I have outlined the six segmentation and targeting approaches that you could use.
Checklist – six email targeting approaches
Customer profile characteristics. Demographics, geographics, and customer set preferences.
Customer lifecycle groups. Most commonly grouped in categories like new subscribers or prospects, active customers and lapsed or no longer engaging in an email.
Customer behavior in response and purchase (observed and predicted). This is the most powerful method, though also requires more technology to deliver it.
Customer multi-channel behavior. Targeting based on channel preference.
Customer value. The value a recipient represents at this moment and future expected
Customer personas. Personas provide a helpful way to target based on multiple dimensions. More complex methods in this area such as psychographics were created to control channel costs in direct mail and aren’t used in email marketing
The wider the audience and the product or service offering and the narrower the needs and preferences the more segmentation layers and sophistication within them are needed. This is how eBay manages this:
Best Practice Tip 14 Combining and layering your segmentation can offer the best combination of all the options A layered segmentation approach summarising the segmentation approach used by eBay UK is shown below.
eBay has a huge number of different products and a diverse set of members, calling for several segmentation layers to maximize response.
This example email from eBay shows how some of the content has been targeted based on behavior, in particular purchases and items on the watch list. The watch list has the auctions a particular eBay user has selected to bookmark or watch. The closest equivalent for a brand is a wish list.
A company with just a handful of related products will need relatively little segmentation since by definition anyone who subscribes is already targeted via self-selection. Simply choosing to sign up to such a list can by definition be enough to properly target and offer value.
There is also the possibility of wrong segmentation or, more likely, over-segmentation, in which case business performance may be reduced. Take, for example, a very tightly defined segment.
An offer may have a high take-up rate within that segment, but that is not to say that the offer would not have been taken up by a larger segment, albeit at a lower rate.
Best Practice Tip 15 Use event-triggered emails and dynamic content insertion to deliver highly relevant emails
To implement this level of email marketing a capable email marketing system that supports event-triggered marketing and dynamic content insertion is needed. Business rules are used to drop different offers and email messages into a container as described in this post alongside our mail sequence contact strategy template.
We also see eBay using triggered emails. This example shows the event that someone bids but do not win the auction. eBay sends a triggered email showing ‘Buy It Now’ options and more current auctions for the same item.
Q. Are the options for profile-based targeting used?
This is where most will start; with traditional strategic customer segmentation based on fields
of their profile that describes the type of customer and its.
For B2C e-retailers this will include age, sex, and geography. For B2B companies, this will include the size of the company, job role, and the industry sector or application they operate in. This example shows a female and male creative with the tone and style varying in line with their preferences.
Gender can very often be a good segmentation criterion, not only in the very obvious cases such as shoes but also less obvious, such as pizza. Spicy and hot for males vs. healthy eating for females.
Best Practice Tip 16 Test different targeting options Thanks to the low cost of email creative and broadcast, it can be very effective to test different targeting methods and increase the relevance of your emails for your audience as well as conversion rates.
Many B2B companies target according to the industry sector but do not also look at the job role. Different messages can be developed for people with a more strategic interest (e.g. for a senior manager the benefits of a new printer may be reduced costs, while for an IT manager it may be ease of administration or throughput).
Similarly, many B2C companies may conduct national campaigns, but with email can add a regional element – perhaps using the postcode to determine different parts of the country and then give different messages according to region or airport they will fly from (for a travel company).
The data acquisition source may also convey information for targeting. Here are a couple of examples when this is the case.
Offline data collection. A paper form based collection gives likely geography for future targeting.
Online subscribe forms. Where a sign-up form appears on multiple webpages or even on different websites, then the content of the page or site of sign-up provides an initial product or service interest.
Similarly, consider tracking the site behavior and capturing previously visited pages in their browsing session to get even more data on the new subscriber’s initial interest.
Best Practice Tip 17 Consider tone and style preference Some demographics will naturally have a heightened response to a certain type of message.
Some customers may like a more rational appeal in which case a detailed email explaining the benefits of the offer may work best. Others will prefer an emotional appeal based on images and with the warmer, less formal copy.
Sophisticated companies will test for this in customers or infer it using profile characteristics and responsible behavior and then develop different creative treatments accordingly. Companies that use polls and surveys can potentially use these to infer style preferences.
The most traditional way of gaining customer demographic and profile information for targeting is by means of a preference centre.
Since customer interests are not always so black and white, rather than tick boxes for choices. Amazon uses Like, Neutral and Dislike in this example. Note, too, how the user interface has been improved by use of pictures and headings. Providing an easy to use preference center can do a lot to improve the accuracy of completion and number of subscribers who complete it.
Where demographic information is missing one approach is to run campaigns to ask for the information. In the next example, the incentive of a birthday gift is used by Norm Thompson to get age information. Be careful with promising to give incentives on the recipient’s birthday though. Some users tend to fill in a date very close (not their actual birthday) to receive the incentive sooner rather than later.
Targeting option 2. The current and predicted value
Q. Are the options for targeting based on customer value reviewed?
Marketers work hard to understand their most valuable customers so that they can develop loyalty and retain this group. A useful way of thinking about customer value is these three groups, originally identified by Peppers and Rogers:
1. Most-valuable customers (MVCs)
These are the customers who contribute the most profit and are typically a small proportion of the total customer base as suggested by their position in the pyramid. These customers will likely have purchased more or higher-value products.
The strategy for these customers focuses on retention rather than extension. In the case of a bank, personal relationship managers would be appointed for customers in this category to provide them with guidance and advice and to make sure they remain loyal.
Often this strategy will work best using direct personal contact as the primary communication channel, but using online marketing for support where the customer has a propensity to use online channels. Alternatively, if they are identified as “sleepers” (people that are unaware of their product use, as can be with subscription based products) you can try to wake them up by communicating more or choose to communicate even less.
2. Most-growable customers (MGCs)
Customers who show potential to become more valuable customers. They are profitable when assessed in terms of lifetime value, but the number of product holdings or current value is relatively low compared with the MVCs.
Strategies for these customers center on the extension, through making recommendations about relevant products based on previous purchases. Encouraging similar re-purchases could also be part of this.
Online marketing offers great opportunities to make personalized recommendations through the website and email.
3. Below-zero customers (BZCs)
Below zero customers are simply unprofitable customers. The strategy for these customers may vary – they can be encouraged to develop towards MGCs, but more typically expenditure will be minimized if it is felt that it will be difficult to change their behavior. Again, digital media can be used as a lower-cost form of marketing expenditure to encourage these customers to make repeat purchases or to allow them to self-serve online.
When considering loyalty-based segmentation, it’s useful to compare current against future value, and it’s best to visualize this within a matrix. Here’s an example presented by Chris Poad of retail group Otto to an E-consultancy Masterclass.
Here’s a creative for a VIP mailing sent to highest value segment. ESP eCircle shared that the average performance was five times higher than the regular newsletter:
Targeting option 3. Customer lifecycle groups
Q. Are the options for targeting based on customer lifecycle or relationship used?
As visitors use online services they can potentially pass through several stages, often known as the online loyalty ladder.
Once you have defined these groups and set up the customer relationship management infrastructure to categorize customers in this way, you can then deliver targeted messages, either by personalized on-site messaging or through emails that are triggered automatically due to different rules.
Once visitors are then registered or identified by means of an email link click and resultant cookie, they can be tracked through the remaining stages. Two particularly important groups are customers with a one-time purchase versus customers who have purchased multiple times.
A customer is sometimes not considered to be loyal or repeat customer until they have purchased two to five times, in which case the single purchase segment is more akin to a warm prospect than a loyal customer.
For many e-retailers, encouraging customers to move from the first purchase to the second purchase and then onto the third purchase is a key challenge. Specific promotions like a discount for next purchase can be used to encourage further purchases. Similarly, once customers become inactive, i.e. they have not purchased for a defined period such as three months, further, follow-ups are required.
The actual period of inactivity should reflect the product or service. Holidays are purchased less frequently than shoes. Analysis of customer transactions should be used to determine the average and variation in re-purchase frequencies.
Here’s an example of the lifecycle segmentation approach used by e-retailer Tesco. com which they call a ‘commitment-based segmentation’ based on recency of purchase, the frequency of purchase and value. It’s used to identify six lifecycle categories which are then further divided to target communications:
‘Logged-off’ (the aim here is to win back).
The next example of what we think is an excellent branded welcome email from Clinique ad shown bellow :
As emails should be typically kept short there may be too much to say than possible in a single welcome email. The welcome should be made into a welcome series, providing a mix of offers, brand offer education, information about other channels, service channels, mobile apps and so forth.
The most sophisticated brands make these welcome series behavioural based. So what comes next in the series depends on what engagement, if any, occurred in the previous welcome emails, sometimes combined with their buying behaviour.
Here’s a nice low-tech, but often effective email activation creative where the attempt is to win-back a lapsed customer.
A more polished win-back example here from Audible, a subscription service targeting previous service subscribers with a coupon to get them to subscribe to the service again as example bellow:
Best Practice Tip 18 Use behavioural email marketing
Rather than manually planning email campaigns, use automated event-triggered
messaging to encourage continued purchase.
For example, Tesco.com has a touch strategy that includes a sequence of follow-up
communications triggered after different events in the customer lifecycle.
In the example given below, communications after event 1 are intended to achieve the objective of converting a website visitor to action; communications after event 2 are intended to move the customer from a first-time purchaser to a regular purchaser and for event 3 to reactivate lapsed purchasers.
Trigger event 1: Customer first registers on site (but does not buy)
Auto-response (AR) 1: Two days after registration an email is sent offering phone assistance and £5 discount off first purchase to encourage trial.
Trigger event 2: Customer first purchases online
AR1: Immediate order confirmation.
AR2: Five days after purchase an email is sent with link to online customer satisfaction survey, asking about quality of service from driver and picker (e.g. item quality and substitutions).
AR3: Two weeks after first purchase – direct mail offering tips on how to use service and £5 discount on next purchases intended to encourage re-use of online services.
AR4: Generic monthly e-newsletter with online exclusive offers encouraging cross-selling.
AR5: Bi-weekly alert with personalised offers for customer.
AR6: After 2 months – £5 discount for next purchase.
AR7: Quarterly mailing of coupons encouraging repeat sales and cross-sales.
Trigger event 3: Customer does not purchase for an extended period
AR1: Dormancy detected – reactivation email with customer satisfaction survey (to identify any problems) and a £5 incentive.
AR2: A further discount incentive is used to encourage continued usage to shop after the first shop after a break.
The next example shows an excellent option for visualizing these types of campaigns – we suggest you create a before and after version mapping emails across the customer lifecycle. To see the full size visuals see this post on the case study
Targeting option 4. Current and predicted behavior in response and purchase
Q. Are the options for targeting based on response behaviour used?
site are captured, we’ll be able to build up a detailed response and purchase history as customers progress through the lifecycle.
Browse and cart abandonment emails
A classic abandoned shopping cart email is an example of targeting based on customer
behaviour. This form triggered messaging is triggered by a web visitor that places a product
in the online shopping cart, but not completing the sale. By encouraging the visitor to return
to their cart and finishing the process, the chance of conversion increases,
Statistics13 say that by employing abandoned shopping cart mailson average sales are increased by 8 to 10 percent. Combined with browse abandonment (based on search and browsing behavior on the site, an additional 2 to 3 percent can be achieved.
Best Practice Tip 19 Develop a scoring method to show levels of customer activity
Here each customer is scored according to their response whether it is the number of opens,
clicks, leads or purchases. Different communications can then be sent to list members
depending on their historical level of activity. Customers who don’t seem to be responsive to
online messages can be targeted through other channels such as direct mail and phone.
We advise you to take the length of the (email) relationship into consideration when
analysing email activity. Epsilon suggests splitting your file into 5 activity groups which they
call EASE or Email Activity Segmentation Evaluation.
The ease analysis first breaks down the email file into two categories: New and Mature. New represents addresses that have been on a marketer’s file for less than three months. Mature are those addresses that have been on a marketer’s file for over three months. Each category is then further segmented based on customer email activity
The New segment is broken into two categories:
Rising Stars: Subscribers who have both opened and/or clicked on an email
Question Marks: Subscribers who have been inactive for the previous three months
The Mature segment is broken into three categories:
Superstars: Subscribers who have opened or clicked within the most recent three months
Nappers: Subscribers who have opened or clicked emails more than three months ago
Dormants: Subscribers who have been inactive for the past 12 months
Rising Stars, Superstars and Nappers are considered active segments. Question Marks and
Dormants are considered inactive segments.
The new segment will have other communication needs and therefore should be handled
than the mature segment. This split can also give an indication of the effectiveness of your
email communication during the ‘honeymoon period’ of the email relationship.
A more sophisticated method of understanding behaviour is to categorise customers
according to the details of their recency, frequency, monetary value and category of products
purchased (RFM analysis). The RFM technique is quite involved, so we will cover that in
more detail in a moment.
Using these RFM techniques in combination with the other targeting techniques it becomes possible to use predictive modelling and identify the ‘Next Best Product’ for particular customer types. With the right system of tracking and web analytics, it should be possible to see not only which types of links in an email a customer has clicked upon, but also which types of web pages they have visited recently.
A database selection for a wine promotion could be used to target customers who have been to the wine section of the website in the last three months, but have not purchased wine.
No matter how enthusiastic you are about online channels, some customers will prefer using
online communications channels while others will prefer traditional channels.
You will want to deliver the perfect message for each customer, we call this ‘Right
Touching’15 – this is the holy grail of digital marketing. Just one aspect of this is determining
which customers prefer email and then upweighting email activity more for them, while
using more traditional communications for contacts who prefer these and at the same time
reducing frequency in other channels like email and direct social media contact.
Rather than asking explicitly for channel preference Orange tested the same message sent in different channels, including email, MMS (mobile messaging service) andDM to test cells to determine the best channel to use based on return on investment (ROI). The situation was found to be complex and that whilst email was generally the better performer the type of message made a difference. Messages that require online action work better in email than DM, whereas calls to action to text to a short code or download a mobile app work fine within a DM.
Best Practice Tip 20 Use a right touching approach to channel preference
It is useful to have a flag within the database which indicates customers’ channel preference and by implications, the best channel to target them by.
To deliver relevance also requires a plan specifying the number, frequency and type of online and offline communications and offers. This is a contact or touch strategy which is described in a later section.
Targeting option 6. Customer personas including psychographics
Q. Are the options for targeting based on customer personas reviewed?
Once we have reviewed and selected from the five targeting approaches above, a final step to think about is to design personas for typical customer types.
Best Practice Tip 22 Use digital customer personas
Personas are a powerful technique increasingly used to improve the usability and customer centricity of a website and other communications.
What is it? Digital customer personas Digital customer personas are a summary of the characteristics, needs, motivations and access platform preferences of different groups of users.
These have the benefit that they characterise segment types in the context of the targeting
options mentioned above such as stage in lifecycle, demographics and style preferences.
We can also include psychographics which summarise the mental attitudes, motivations and
opinions of customers, for example:
Impulsive or rational decision maker
Risk-taker or conservative
Willingness to share information or participate socially
View they want to project of themselves.
The persona concept can also be used for e-newsletters and other forms of communication.
Personas are essentially a ‘thumbnail’ description of a type of person. They have been used for a long time in research for segmentation and advertising, but in recent years have also proved effective for improving website and usability design by companies who have applied the technique.
I have not heard about personas being used that much in an email context, but they can
be usefully applied, particularly for e-newsletters. The American National Football League
(NFL) used personas and identified three types of scenarios – one following a particular team
who wanted to check upcoming games, another who was very interested in the statistics
associated with the fantasy league and another who tended to be more interested in the
position in the league.
These are some guidelines and ideas on what can be included when developing a persona. The start or end point is to give each persona a name. The detailed stages are:
1. Build personal attributes into personas:
Demographic: age, gender, education, occupation and for B2B, company size, position in buying unit.
Psychographic: goals, tasks, motivation .
Webographics: web experience (months), typical usage location (home, work, while on the run), usage platform (broadband, mobile), usage frequency, favourite sites and online channels.
2. Remember that personas are only models of characteristics and environment:
Avoid over stereotyping.
Three or four usually suffice to improve general usability, but more needed for specific behaviours.
Choose one primary persona whom, if satisfied, means others are likely to be satisfied.
What is it? Primary persona
A primary persona is the most important persona summarising the typical characteristics,
needs, motivations and preferences that will be leading in your communication efforts.
Once different personas have been developed who are representative of key site visitor types or customer types, a primary persona is sometimes identified. Wodtke (2002) says: ‘Your primary persona needs to be a common user type who is both important to the business success of the product and needy from a design point of view – in other words, a beginner user or a technologically challenged one.’ She also says that secondary personas can also be developed such as super-users or complete novices. Complementary personas are those that don’t fit into the main categories, which display unusual behaviour. Such complementary personas help ‘out-of-box thinking’ and offer choices or content that may appeal to all users.
To summarise the approaches described in this section, the example of Euroffice is a good one.
Euroffice targeted email marketing case study
Euroffice (www.euroffice.co.uk) is a large online office supplies company which targets small and mid-sized companies. This description is adapted from the company website press
Releases and Revolution (2005). According to George Karibian, Euroffice CEO, ‘getting the message across effectively required segmentation’ to engage different people in different ways. The office supplies sector is fiercely competitive, with relatively little loyalty since company purchasers will often simply buy on price. However, targeted incentives can be used to reward or encourage buyers’ loyalty.
Rather than manually developing campaigns for each segment, which is time consuming, Euroffice mainly used an automated event-based targeting approach based on the system identifying the stage at which a consumer is in the lifecycle, i.e. how many products they have purchased and the types of product within their purchase history.
Karibian calls this a ‘touch marketing funnel approach’, i.e. the touch strategy is determined by customer segmentation and response. Three main groups of customers are identified in the lifecycle and these are broken down further according to purchase category.
On this segmentation is a breakdown into buyer type – are they a small home-user, an operations manager at a mid-size company or a purchasing manager at a larger company? Each will have heightened response to different promotions.
The first group, at the top of the funnel and the largest are ‘Group 1 Trial customers’
who have made one or two purchases. For Group 1, Euroffice believes that creating
impulse-buying through price-promotions is most important. These will be based on
categories purchased in the past.
The second group, ‘Group 2 The nursery’ have made three to eight purchases. A particular issue, as with many e-retailers, is encouraging customers from the third to fourth purchase, there is a more significant drop-out at this point which the company uses marketing to control. Karibian says: ‘When they get to Group 2, it’s about creating frequency of purchase to ensure they don’t forget you.’ Euroffice sends a printed catalogue to Group 2 separately from their merchandise as a reminder about the company.
The final group, ‘Group 3 Key accounts’ or ‘Crown Jewels’ have made nine or more orders.
They also tend to have a higher basket value. ‘These people are the Crown Jewels and will
spend an average of £135 per order compared with an average of £55 for trial customers.’
They have a 90 per cent probability of re-ordering within a six-month period. For this group,
tools have been developed on the site to make it easier for them to shop. The intention is that
these customers find these tools helps them in making their orders and they become reliant
on them, so achieving ‘soft lock-in’.
Through using fields within the database to identify which segment customers belong to we can target them and then using mass customisation and personalisation to tailor offers to these customers as described in the following section.
RFM analysis is potentially a powerful technique for email marketers, particularly in transactional businesses such as catalogue retailers, knowledge.
What is it? RFM The classic use of RFM is to analyse customer purchase behaviour typically falls into three key areas:
Recency of last purchase, e.g. three months ago.
Frequency of purchase, e.g. twice per quarter or twice per year.
Monetary value of purchase(s), e.g. average order value of £50, total annual purchase value of £5,000 .
We will see that considering just Recency and Frequency can be used by businesses of all types whether they are transactional or not.
Note that an alternative for assessing audience purchase behaviour is known as RFM or a similar equivalent FRAC, which stands for:
Amount (obviously equivalent to monetary value).
Category (types of product purchased – not included within RFM).
These approaches have not been limited to retailers though, they have been a staple approach for many years for some marketing applications such as: catalogue and mail-order companies; grocers and other retailers with loyalty schemes; charities who can track donations; and car manufacturers who can track car purchases or services through time.
With online the advent of web and email marketing, there are ma ny more opportunities for applying this behavioural customer information to use RF analysis in virtually every market. This is possible since recency and frequency can be used to understand and respond to other types of tracked transactions and interactions, for example visits or log-ins to a website or interaction with emails such as opens o r clicks. These types of interactions apply not only to e-retail sites, but also rela tionship-building websites, brand-building sites and portals.
Traditional channels such as catalogue and mail-order have particularly high channel costs which drove those companies not to develop models which are customer centric per se but in which they deliver sustainable ROI. Catalogue companies simply can’t afford to send to customers with lower propensity to buy.
Best Practice Tip 23 eRFM to reduce customer marketing fatigue
The business purpose behind using the RFM model in email marketing is quite different than traditional RFM, it is not to control channel costs, because they are typically very low, but rather to analyse and avoid customer marketing fatigue.
The business purpose behind using the RFM model in email marketing is quite different than traditional RFM, it is not to control channel costs, because they are typically very low, but rather to analyse and avoid customer marketing fatigue.
The goal is to segment based on subscriber activity, therefore this is common called eRFM or Engagement RFM the two extremes are the active and involved email segment which have a high level of Engagement and the non-responding and inactive part, the Non-engaged.
We will now give an overview of how (e)RFM approaches can be applied in online marketing, with special reference to email marketing. Note that the major difference between eRFM and RFM is mainly in the focus on activity and engagement versus purchase behaviour. Traditional RFM is biased towards purchase activity.
Recency: Recency shows the number of days since a customer completed an action. Jim Novo stresses the importance of recency to catalogue-style purchases when he says: ‘Recency, or the number of days that have gone by since a customer completed an action (purchase, log-in, download, etc.) is the most powerful predictor of the customer repeating an action.
Recency is why you receive another catalogue from the company shortly after you make your first purchase from them.’
Online we can measure a lot more than days elapsed since last purchase. We can assess many actions that monitor the level of Engagement:
Visit to site or particular type of content (using web analytics).
Log-on to a site (more accurate than cookies provided user ID is not shared).
Opening or clicking through on an email or e-newsletter.
Online applications of analysis include:
Monitoring through time to identify vulnerable customers.
Scoring customers to preferentially target more responsive customers for cost savings.
Out of R, F and M recency is arguably the most important of the three in email marketing.
It refers to the number of times an action is completed in a period. Examples are similar to those for recency, for example, but with reference to a time period:
Five purchases per year.
Five visits per month.
Five log-ins per week.
Five email opens per month, five email clicks per year.
Online applications of analysis include:
A combination with recency for RF targeting.
Adjusting email cadence and email pressure.
Event driven email via sense and respond within a certain period.
Monetary value is the amount spent in the period. The amount could be per month, per quarter or per year depending on the type of application. For an e-retailer, average order value would be appropriate also.
Generally, customers with higher monetary values tend to have a higher loyalty and potential future value since they have purchased more items. One example would be to exclude these customers from special promotions if their RF scores suggested they were actively purchasing.
Assessing the characteristics of these customers on the database to understand factors which may make them more valuable is often insightful. These customers could also be surveyed to find out these factors.
Frequency is often a proxy for monetary value per year since the more products purchased, the higher the overall monetary value. It is possible, then, to simplify analysis by just using recency and frequency of purchase. Monetary value can also skew the analysis for high value initial purchases.
Values could be assigned to each customer as follows:
Dividing customers into different RFM groups
The rigorous approach to RFM analysis is to use an approach which places an equal number of customers in each quintile of 20 percent (10 deciles can also be used for larger databases). This approach is shown below.
The diagram also shows one application of RFM with a view to using communications channels more effectively. Lower cost e-communications are used for the most loyal customers and more expensive communications are used for the less loyal customers.
It is also possible to place each division for Recency, Frequency and Monetary value in an arbitrary position. This approach is also useful since the marketer can set thresholds of value relevant to their understanding of their customers’ behaviour. For example :
0 – Not known.
1 – Within last 12 months.
2 – Within last six months.
3 – Within last three months.
4 – Within last one month.
This could be purchase frequency or, as here, recency of a visit to the website.
0 – Not known.
1 – Every six months.
2 – Every three months.
3 – Every two months.
4 – Monthly.
This could be purchase frequency or, as here, visits to the website.
0 – Less than £10.
1 – $ 10–50.
2 – $ 50–$100.
3 – $100–$200.
4 – More than $200.
This could be total purchase value through the year or, as here, average order value. Another example, with real world data as is shown in the next diagram.
You can see that plotting customer numbers against recency and frequency in this way for an online company gives a great visual indication of the health of the business and groups that can be targeted to encourage greater repeat purchases.
Another example, which shows how RFM can be applied in non-retail settings shows how a theatre group uses these nine categories for its direct marketing:
Oncers (attended theatre once):
Recent oncers attended <12 months.
Rusty oncers attended >12 <36 months.
Very rusty oncers attended 36+ months.
Recent twicer attended <12 months.
Rusty twicer attended >12 <36 months.
Very rusty twicer attended in 36+ months.
Current subscribers Booked 2+ events in current season.
Recent Booked 2+ last season.
Very rusty Booked 2+ more than a season ago.
This approach shows how the full RFM analysis approach doesn’t have to be applied. Three or four RF groups can be sufficient to greatly improving targeting.
Most relevant to publishers and communities, is shown in the next figure where online community provider Magicalia has categorised its audience to assess the volume of members in different categories (denoted by the size of the circles).
Personalised messages are then developed for each group to encourage customers to migrate to higher recency/frequency categories.
Two extra measures of your customer behaviour that can be used to understand and set targets for retention marketing. These are latency and hurdle rate.
The average time between customer events in the customer lifecycle. This can be applied to these events as follow:
Second and third purchase.
Use of channels like mobile apps.
Online applications of latency analysis include:
Put in place triggers that alert you to behaviour outside norm – increased interest or disinterest
Manage behaviour using e-communications or traditional communications.
For example, a B2B or B2C organisation with a long interval between purchases would find that the average latency increased for a particular customer, then they may be investigating an additional purchase (their recency and frequency would likely increase also).
Emails, phone calls or direct mail could then be used to target this person with relevant offers according to what they were searching for.
A Hurdle rate refers to the percentage of customers in a group (such as in a segment or on a list) who have completed an action. It is a very useful concept, although the terminology doesn’t really describe its application. Its value is that you can compare groups or set targets to increase engagement with online channels as the examples shown on below.
Online marketing examples of hurdle rates
20 percent of customers have visited in the past four months.
Five percent of customers have made three or more purchases in a year.
60 percent of registrants have logged on in a year.
30 percent have clicked through on email in six months.
Online applications of analysis of include:
Use for objectives to deepen relationship.
Use for targeting communications on particular groups, e.g. reactivate those who are less engaged.
Use for monitoring impact of communications, i.e. how the change in (average) hurdle rates as a result of tactics.
Approach to RFM analysis does propensity modelling which is one name given to the approach of evaluating customer characteristics and behaviour, in particular previous products or services purchased, and then making recommendations for the next suitable product.
Best known to recommending the ‘Next Best Product’ to existing customers. A related acquisition approach is to target potential customers with similar characteristics also called lookalikes through renting direct mail or email lists or advertising online in similar locations.
Lifetime value calculations
An appreciation of lifetime value (LTV) is key to the theory and practice of marketing and customer relationship management. However, while the term is often used loosely, calculation of LTV is not straightforward; so many organisations do not calculate it.
Lifetime value is defined as the total your email benefit that a customer, or group of customers, Here is the the relationship with a company.
Modelling is based on estimating the income and costs associated with each customer over a period of time and then calculating the net present value in current monetary terms using a discount rate value applied over the period.
There are different degrees of sophistication in calculating LTV.
Lifetime value modelling is vital within marketing since it answers the question:
If online marketers try to answer this from a short-term perspective as is often the case, i.e. by judging it based on the profit from a single sale on an e-commerce site, there are 3 problems:
We become very focused on short-term ROI and so may not invest sufficiently to grow our business in the long term.
We assume that each new customer is worth precisely the same to us and we ignore differentials in profitability between differing types of customer.
Endless supply of potential customers, leading you to the case and work on customer loyalty is needed.
Lifetime value analysis enables email marketers to:
Plan and measure investment in customer acquisition programmes.
Identify and compare critical target segments – strategies usually involve preferentially targeting the most profitable customers and minimising communications with the least profitable customers.
Reduce the amount of communication to un-engaged customers more usefull to deliverability rather than channel costs.
Measure the effectiveness of alternative customer retention strategies.
Establish the true value of a company’s customer base.
Make decisions about products and offers.
Check value of introducing or replacing CRM and marketing automation systems.
Q. Have we defined how our email communications offer differential value?
Discussions of how to engage email audiences often start with reviewing creative or the offers presented to subscribers, but in our view, a better starting point is the customer’s needs. Email is like any other digital channel, whether it’s a social media presence like Twitter or Facebook, AdWords in Google or mobile marketing. Consider the customer’s emotional needs.
Be admired by friends. Impress a boss.
Get something exclusive.
Have fun and be entertained. Save time and be efficient. Maintain good health.
Care for family and friends.
To be successful in integrated communication, each channel like email marketing must offer its own unique form of value that is distinct from other channels. This defines how the digital channel supports the core brand values. Every channel needs a distinctive online value proposition (OVP) to succeed in adding its own unique value in combination with the other channels.
Within email marketing, this is particularly important for an e-newsletter. This doesn’t preclude content re-use from other channels in emails. The unique value of email could be adding additional commentary or simply a round-up of social content that was most popular.
One of email’s distinctive values is the ability to be timely and relevant. Blog posts, website offers, Tweets, and other social media are more broadcast in nature and timing isn’t tied to individual customer activity, behavior, demographic or lifecycle stage.
If your brand offering is wide then this may include different email streams each with their own value proposition. Such at the big grocers that offer newsletters specifically for mums with babies and toddlers as well as their mainstream newsletters.
Review these examples of the types of value that will engage subscribers and improve perception about a brand and see which is most relevant for you:
Engaging text content that makes the subscriber feel happy, angry or as if they are learn- ing.
Engaging non-text or rich media content such as videos, podcasts, presentations, blog posts, photos, etc.
More in-depth content or alternately a summary of content.
Sharing of other subscriber views and opinions through votes, product ratings and polls. r Exclusive discounts or coupons only available through the channel.
The email value proposition is tightly connected to the sign-up. Expectations can be set at time of sign-up and in your welcome emails. The emails should deliver any promise of value that has been made to the customer.
The success of daily deal email illustrates this. The customer expectation is for a daily email that carries content which they believe are really good deals. In this case the customer has not signed up for in-depth product reviews, household tips, travel advice and so on.
Contrast this with a newsletter that sets the expectation of weekly tips and advice. It would not be appropriate to send a daily email with product deals.
What is the focus of each campaign? In many cases the direct focus is revenue. This can be more specific. Reduce old stock, cross sell into new categories, up sell to more expensive or higher margin products, increase basket size.
Does brand awareness and trust need to be built? In a complex sale, typical for many B2B companies but also in B2C high ticket items such as cars, the immediate message isn’t ‘buy now’.
Is the focus on ensuring customers are getting the most value from your service so that they are retained?
Write down different types of value that you do offer or could offer:
Define the value offered through email marketing communications
Q. Do we get the sell-inform-entertain-share balance right?
Achieving the correct balance between using your newsletters or other email communications
as a sales tool and adding other types of value is key to their success.
You will definitely have seen examples of overselling, but probably also underselling where the call to action or connections to products is too limited.
Remember that this relates to the structure also – the most enticing content needs to be ‘above the fold’ when the email is opened. Start with what you feel are the strongest articles for your audience. Have regular features plus new, topical, content separate in each issue.
Use the inform and entertain content to bring subscribers through your mail and mix in the sell content so they see that as a result. You can mix this up and emphasize the sales and offers in certain emails while giving it less attention in others.
As well as different types of feature, think about how you can use your e-newsletter to give a sense of community and engage the audience.
The balance might need to change for different customers. Highly engaged, active customers
who buy a lot don’t need the same amount of engaging content. They trust you and are happy to buy already. New subscribers or lapsing subscribers might respond better to a higher ratio of inform and entertain content.
The only way to get the balance right is to test different ratios of content over a period of time.
Write down your assessment of the types of value you offer through your e-communications:
Q. Do we communicate our email value proposition effectively? Having clear goals around the value you want to offer will help copywriters focus. The
promise of this value can also be used on the website to encourage sign-up.
For business-to-business e-newsletters, think about how you can add value by acting as a filter for information about your market sectors.
Your e-newsletters can potentially Alert, Aggregate and Distil information through market alerts, industry trends and in-depth best practice case studies. But to deliver this information- based value will not be cheap as the content will have to be up-to-date, relevant, accurate, concise and clearly presented.
Best Practice Tip 11 Define and communicate value of your e-newsletter or email programme
You should explain your newsletter proposition, i.e. how it will deliver value to subscribers, for example, through:
Saving time. By providing a single, up-to-date source.
Learning. Increasing knowledge and solving day-to-day problems.
Saving money. For instance through exclusive offers, discounts or offering new ways of working through a company’s products.
Entertaining. All newsletters can and should be enticing or fun for their audiences – this is not only the preserve of B2C newsletters.
Sharing. Sharing information about your organisation or facilitating sharing of content from customers.
To achieve engagement, you should review how the newsletter should deliver value and translate it into the content and topics of the e-newsletter.
You should answer these questions and emphasize them through the design of the e-newsletter.
And here is an example for an engaging newsletter for a consumer brand. The focus is not around product or offer but customer need and interest. Sales offers are below the fold:
Integrating value into social media marketing communications
Q. Do we show the value we offer from our email marketing in our social media communications?
With the rise in popularity of social media, companies have invested in channels like Twitter and Facebook which are also offering value to their audience. A marketer can choose between campaigns and messaging per channel or let them complement each other. Think how email marketing can be more valuable compared with these other media.
Alternatively, it can be argued that a company simply needs to offer choice and many customers will prefer email for its convenience and richer media. Email can help the time-poor audience by filtering or summarising the high frequency messages from blogs and social networks.
In the example below, the retailer is using email to promote an exclusive campaign offer available through Twitter but, equally, the campaign could work in reverse.
Best Practice Tip 12 Enable ‘share to social’ options A ‘share to social’ feature allows email marketers to include links from the email so recipients can easily post (part of) the content of the email to their social network page, where friends and followers can see the message, make comments and even re-share the email on their own pages.
Speaking about the ‘share to social’ concept, Matt Lindenberg, assistant director of marketing for Diapers.com, explained the benefits like this:
‘Social networks are all about communication. This feature empowers our customers to communicate with each other, and therefore allows our messages to move beyond our email list. One of our emails was posted on 50 different social network profile pages. That kind of customer endorsement turns our email “push” marketing into a powerful “pull” campaign.’
Getting a share to social click is no different to succeeding in getting the reader to take any other action. Simply putting in social icons with little reason to explain what they are for or the benefit in clicking will result in little social sharing.
For example, just a Facebook logo on its own doesn’t explain whether clicking will like the brand or share the content. So indicate the action (like, share) and the benefits to the reader when interacting on the social channel.
This example of icons in the footer from Screwfix does a better job of explaining what customers can expect from the social presence.
If getting social engagement is important to campaign objectives then doing all the same things as for any other call to action will increase sharing or social media interaction.
Dedicate more space to the social share.
Use headlines, copy and images to highlight the call to action.
Explain the benefit of clicking.
Use an incentive.
Here is an example from Pizza Express with a call to action to join a debate on Facebook:
A simple, but effective approach is to include more reference to customer ratings within your emails as this example campaign encouraging purchase based on customer-picks shows.
The Macys example uses this approach. Yet, customer reviews / ratings don’t always increase the conversion rates, so it will be something you should test.
Best Practice Tip 13 Using social media channels to encourage email opt-in A like or a follow is essentially a low commitment action. Whereas providing an email address and marketing permission is a higher commitment.
Email offers more personal, targeted communication and generally leads to higher conversion rates. So it is a logical step to encourage email opt-in via your social presence.
Now that many brands have grown fan bases and have ongoing social media activity, the social media and email integration opportunities are both ways. This includes bringing socially engaged customers into the email channel. Social media is a great conversation medium and email is a great conversion medium. Reaching out through social media to gain new email subscribers should be a key objective of the social media marketing plan.
You can even get the best of both worlds by encouraging email sign-up and liking simultaneously. Just like Scribblers use as described in this post11 and in the more detailed case study.