Five new year's resolutions for an email marketer


Date: 30 January 2012

email marketing in 2012{{}}Every year we make them, but only occasionally do we keep them. New year’s resolutions often represent our best intentions, which somehow get sidetracked as “real” life takes over and our time becomes filled with ticking items off “to do” lists and trying to keep our heads above water.

If you’re an email marketer, the same often holds true for the more strategic items on your list, which can be overlooked in an effort to get the next email out the door. However, as one of Return Path’s executives is known for saying, hope is not a strategy. Just wanting something to change doesn’t make it so. When thinking about the New Year’s resolutions you’d make for your email program in 2012, I recommend creating a realistic plan for sticking to these:

1. I will make time to test. This is a fundamental and essential best practice for any email marketer to follow. Without a testing plan, you simply won’t know the levers to pull to positively impact your email program’s performance. Instead, you’re just guessing as to what works, what doesn’t, what resonates and what misses the mark. Start by regularly testing the most basic email program elements with an A/B split test, like subject lines, and work your way up to multivariate testing of creative elements, like images, calls-to-action and landing pages.

2. I will define (and track) metrics to measure performance. What metrics are most important for measuring email program success? For most marketers this includes some combination of deliverability, open, click-through and conversion rates, but depending on your business model, your subscriber base and the desired responses you’re looking to generate from the email channel (i.e., purchases, leads, downloads, web traffic, etc.), creating a customized list of KPIs is essential for measuring trends over time. I continue to be amazed by the number of companies I come in contact with that are blindly sending email without any capabilities for tracking response rates.

3. I will be more focused on engagement. An email’s primary purpose is to drive an action. This can be anything from getting a subscriber to read what’s in an email, take a survey or walk them through a multi-step purchase process. But what about inactivity? Chances are you have a reasonably high percentage of subscribers who were once engaged and interacting with your messages, but have lost interest over time. These subscribers are likely to be deleting your messages without reading them or have set up rules to automatically route your messages to an “unimportant” folder, like in Gmail’s priority inbox. So what changed, when did it happen and, most importantly, why? Understanding what keeps your subscribers engaged over the long-term will be increasingly important for getting delivered to the inbox, staying there and maintaining high levels of activity.

4. I will reengage with my inactives. This is the next logical step. Stop focusing on list quantity and concern yourself with its quality. The health of your email program depends on it. Inactives can represent everything from true spam traps, recycled email addresses and unknown users to subscribers who once found your emails relevant and no longer do. Take action and remove the less than clean segments of your list that represent bad data or old data and create a strategy for reengaging with existing subscribers who are still valuable to your business.

5. I will monitor the competition. Standing out from the inbox clutter will continue to be a challenge as the volume of email increases, and this includes differentiating your brand and value proposition from your competitors. If your competition is incorporating features like geo-targeting, real-time inventory updates, offer count-downs in real-time, customized content and personalization elements into their email messages, what effect will that have on revenue and engagement, and how can you stay one step ahead? These insights are key as brands compete for subscriber mind-share in a crowded and increasingly mobile inbox.

As the saying goes, “even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” However, committing to at least some of these New Year’s resolutions will ensure your email program is set up for success in 2012 and beyond. So, let’s toast to that!

This post originally appeared on the DMA UK Email Marketing Council blog.

Margaret Farmakis is senior director, professional services at Return Path.

Read more about email marketing: Here are a few examples showcasing why you should check that everything is in order before you hit the send button! Plus, read about how new viewing habits (desktop vs. smart phone) do have an impact on email design, however the basics for email creative don't change.

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Want to know more about email strategy? — read about improving your email open rates.