Would You Rather...

If you've never experienced a round of "Would You Rather..." at a party, bar or local friendly gathering, then here's your chance. While the questions won't be as fun as "Would you rather be eaten by a shark or starve to death in the desert?" or as real-life as "Would you rather your kids have strep throat or pinkeye?" (which is the game I am playing right now), this will still be a game of choosing between the lesser of two evils. So without further ado, welcome to "Would You Rather Your Email..."

Would you rather your email had a high complaint rate or a minimal open rate?



Clearly the answer would be neither -- but if my career depended on the decision, I'd go with a minimal open rate.  Your open rate can be turned around; you can employ new tactics and approaches to increasing your open rate -- but complainers are forever lost, unless they choose to re-subscribe. Increasing your open rate could be as simple as crafting a more compelling subject line or as involved as doing some serious data mining to refine your content, targets and segments.

Would you rather know the potential revenue lost by an unsubscribe, or how much revenue each email campaign generates?

Both -- right? But in choosing one, the right place to start is with how much revenue you email campaigns actually generate. While email is the most trackable and measurable marketing channel available in our arsenal today, the ability to clearly attribute revenue or conversion directly back to a specific email message remains difficult.  The one-to-one correlation isn't realistic, but getting as close to it as possible should be the goal. However, if you already know how much revenue your email generates, than the answer is easy. Calculating and understanding the potential revenue lost by an unsubscribe gives you a different perspective when sending your next email message. Say, for example, that on average an email subscriber generates $100 in revenue per year and that partner message you "had" to send resulted in 100 unsubscribes and 40 complaints. That means you've lost $14,000 in potential revenue over the course of the next 12 months. Now you can really decide if sending that email is worth it. You may find that the answer is absolutely "yes" -- but how do decide if you don't know?


Would you rather your email strategist tells you, "It depends," or gives you a definitive answers?

Let's face it; we all want a straight answer. Average open rates are X and average click-through rates are Y, but how your email performs is how *your* email performs, and there are a number of factors that contribute to that performance. How well-known/well-liked is your brand, how trusted is the brand, how loyal are the subscribers, how competitive is the space you are in, what type of content do you send, etc, etc, etc. The only honest answer is, "it depends" -- on a number of things. So while a straight answer might be all you want, it might not be the answer you need. After all, if the average open rate is 40% and your open rate is 45% , does that mean you are going to stop trying to improve?

Would you rather keep playing this game or get back to work?

1 comment about "Would You Rather...".
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  1. Bill Kaplan from FreshAddress, Inc., October 1, 2010 at 2:24 p.m.

    Great article, Kara. Just so you know, I'd definitely go for pinkeye over strep throat!

    Let me add one more vote for minimal open rates vs. high complaint rates. High complaint rates also lead to "blocking" and deliverability issues, which can bring down your entire email program.

    And here's one more related "Would you rather..." question to ponder:

    Would you rather have one problematic postal record in your file or one problematic email address? That one's easy you might say - email costs almost nothing to send whereas a bad postal record could cost you a few dollars in wasted production and postal fees. But a problematic email address might get picked up by Spamhaus or other email watchdog services, resulting in your being blacklisted, which could cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the end!

    So be sure you think through your decisions and consider all of the potential risks and benefits before you move forward with the solution that looks "cheaper" on its face.

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