Commentary

When A Good E-mail Goes Bad

This week's column is about planning your e-mail disaster recovery. What do you do when a good e-mail campaign goes bad?

Last week, Stephanie Miller wrote about the need to design and maintain a good content strategy for your e-mail efforts. The week before, Andy Goldman wrote about the need to build and maintain a good reputation and compelling subject line to drive readership. Both columns shared practical advice for marketers building new e-mail campaigns. Sometimes, though, you already have an existing e-mail campaign built, and there is no opportunity to change the elements you are working with. When that happens, how can you ensure it will perform? And what do you do when a good e-mail goes bad?

Two words: contingency plans! Let's face it, every once in a while your e-mail campaign will not be effective. And in most cases, the results of that campaign were critical and need to be recovered right away. Knowing how to minimize "downtime" in the scenario could make a huge difference. Every responsible e-mail marketer should have contingency plan built for these three key scenarios:

1) Deliverability issues

2) Poor list targeting

3) Bad offer

Deliverability issues: At some point in time, you will run into this. You do nothing differently; yet one day--BOOM--your campaign's undeliverable rate goes through the roof. What do you do?

These days, ensuring that your e-mail makes it to the inbox and renders well once it is received, is less of a bells-and-whistles type of application and more of a quality assurance necessity. The EEC and other well-known e-mail associations strongly urge all marketers to infuse e-mail deliverability testing into their production process. This type of testing helps to proactively identify and avoid issues before they happen. But, for those times when you do have issues after a campaign is sent, having a reputable delivery vendor partner makes a huge difference in finding the root cause of the issue and being able to resolve it quickly.

Poor list targeting: Depending on how your company pulls its e-mail lists, you may be subject to a situation that many of us face, where you are directed to be more focused on reaching a specific volume of people, rather than reaching a well-defined segment/target. When the click-to-open rate drops below 20 percent, and the conversions below 1 percent, what do you do?

In crisis mode, your contingency plan should be as follows: remail two smaller files from the original e-mail--same e-mail, just a different subject line. The two segments should be a group of people who did not open that e-mail, and a group who either opened and did not click, or opened and clicked.

Bad offer: Sometimes you just can't help it. A not-so-compelling offer is sent, and your audience notices. Is there a way to recover?

Where offers are concerned, the most effective contingency plans have been focused on looking at your options of offers and repackaging them as "exclusive" offers, previews etc. In some cases, the packaging around the offers will help defeat the challenge of a not-so-great offer. If that route doesn't work, then next best way to go is to look for a "value-add" partner offering. One client who was offer-challenged partnered with eBags to offer a special discount. That offer increased e-mail response rates dramatically.

Over the years, the one thing I have learned is that with e-mail marketing, it is better to have plan B-G in your back pocket, because you never know what is going to happen next.

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