Evaluating Your E-mail Marketing Campaign

By Jeanne Jennings

Everyone wants to optimize her email marketing, but what do you do when your campaigns aren’t pulling as well as you need them to? Looking at the metrics is the first step, but translating the numbers into an actionable solution can be harder.

This is where a critical assessment of your email marketing campaign makes sense. You can do this in-house or hire an outside consultant. Here’s a quick how-to, with a list of the three most-common oversights companies make and some tips.

Define the Problem
First, you need to hone in on the specific problem. This will keep you or your consultant focused. Make sure you identify the earliest point in the reader experience where your email is falling down. Don’t forget that a low click-through rate may be due to a low open rate.

Then, turn an objective eye to your email and figure out what may be causing the problem. The clients I’ve worked with have had one or more the following issues, each easily correctable once identified:

Overlooking the power of the “from” line. Most readers scan the “from” lines first when they look at their inbox and prioritize what they will open. If your email is from someone or something they recognize, your chances of being opened immediately increase. If it’s not something they recognize, your chances of being opened drop significantly.

A case in point: A few years ago, the National Football League sent out an email with “Paul Tagliabue” in the “from” line. Being a football fan and knowing that Tagliabue is the commissioner of the NFL, I opened and read that email as soon as I saw it in my inbox. I don’t have any metrics, but I’m certain I wasn’t the only one. That was a powerful “from” line.

Asking for too much commitment in the subject line. A subject line is similar to the outer envelope in direct mail or a cold call in sales. The goal is to get people intrigued so that they’ll want to learn more. If you give them too much info or seem too aggressive, you risk pushing them away. Terms such as “register” and “buy” in subject lines are common culprits; they ask for a commitment before giving readers any benefits to entice them.

For example, I received an email with “Shop for Insurance” in the subject line. My reaction was, “I have insurance. I don’t need/want to shop for it.” I bet many other readers had the same response. A better subject line would have focused on a benefit — “Are you paying too much for insurance?” That might get a reader to open the email.

Poorly utilizing your “prime real estate.” In an email, your prime real estate is the area the reader sees when he first opens the email. You want the reader to start reading and then, almost without thinking about it, scroll down and continue reading. Your copy needs to be concise and focused; it should be formatted with lots of white space so that it’s easy on the eye; and it should include a call to action with a link.

For instance, a client was promoting an event for online advertisers and marketers. The first paragraph was dense copy with the key information mixed in. The second talked about statistics from Jupiter Media Metrix and had me going, “Huh?” It wasn’t a good use of prime real estate. We revamped it, putting the key information into a header with lots of white space and a link to the registration. We eliminated the statistics, which weren’t making the case for attendance.

The Benefits of Bringing in an Outsider
None of the clients who made the mistakes listed above is stupid. They are just so close to their products that they aren’t seeing things from the reader’s perspective. One way to get around this is to bring in an outside consultant to do the assessment. Here are some benefits and tips for bringing in an outsider:

Fresh eyes. This is one of the benefits of bringing in an outside consultant to perform the assessment. Her lack of intimacy with your product allows her to see things that you might not.

Broad experience. Bringing in someone who has worked with other companies’ email campaigns gives you the benefit of what he’s learned there — both good and bad. One of the ways he will provide value is by applying these lessons to your email marketing campaign.

Cost-effectiveness. Contracting with a consultant for an assessment can be very cost-effective; you’re not asking her to rewrite copy or provide strategy, just to take a look at your email campaign and make suggestions. This can take as little as two to three hours of her time. You can implement many of the ideas she presents (like the ones above) yourself.

Ideas for the future. The consultant will probably include some items that translate to a proposal for future work. You’re under no obligation, but, as a result of the assessment, you’ll get a feel for your compatibility with the consultant and the value that he can provide. If you do decide to move forward, you’ll already have a relationship; you won’t be hiring someone blind.

Try It
Whether you decide to handle the assessment yourself or bring in an outside consultant, your email marketing efforts will benefit from an assessment. Looking at your efforts with a critical eye is the best way to improve the success and longevity of your campaigns. Give it a try, and let me know what you find out.

Read Evaluating
Your E-Mail Marketing Campaign, Part 2

Jeanne Jennings is a consultant with over 10 years of experience in using e-mail and the Internet to generate revenue. Areas of expertise include customer acquisition/retention, new product development, and identifying and exploiting synergies between offline and online products/campaigns to increase revenue. Visit her website at JeanneJennings.com.

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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