Measure Experience, Not Numbers

Email is one of the most measurable direct marketing channels, but we email marketers don’t typically do a great job of measuring it. Usually because we measure too much and use too little of what we measure. Jim Sterne, the keynote speaker here at the Email Insider Summit today reminds us that strategies without metrics are only wishes. He quoted the oft heard quip, “ Do not use stats as a drunkard uses a lamp post â€" for support rather than illumination.”

Jim reminds us that the only three business metrics that count are increased revenue, lower expenses and increased customer satisfaction. I would argue that especially in email, it’s very true that the last is the only way to achieve the first two. The only way to improve response and revenue from email marketing is to create great subscriber experiences. It's pretty simple - give your subscribers what they want (relevance, power, control, insight, fame) and they will give you what you want (revenue, response, engagement).

There is a penalty in email for not paying attention to subscriber experience â€" a penalty that does not exist in other direct channels. It's the "report spam" button. Email is a wonderful tool, and a great way to establish my reputation and build relationships. But it’s also the fastest way to destroy my reputation by looking like a spammer.

The experiences we create must be important to the subscriber, not by what we as corporate messengers think is important. Everything we measure has to be about the customer, not about the company. This is especially true in our Web 2.0 world where we don’t have total control over the entire customer experience, nor are we marketers the primary source of information about our own products and solutions. So it's imperative that we measure not just campaign level success, but success determined by the value of each email subscriber.

In my work with the DMA/Email Experience Council, we developed an ROI worksheet around the value of an email address. (Download it free from the eec site at â€" visit the Whitepaper Room). Jim talked about the value of an email address measured not just by what I might buy today, but by email subscribers’ propensity to buy again and their response rates. Consider that an email address is not necessarily a lifetime connection â€" people change their email addresses often.

Jim opened his talk with an analogy of the past. It used to be that we all saw the same shows on television last night, heard the same jokes on the Ed Sullivan show. Today, we are having disjointed, unique, personal experiences online. And wow, do we want to share those experiences! So the challenge for the email marketer is to participate appropriately and authentically in both the experiences themselves as well as the story telling, and measure our success based on subscriber value â€" which leads to profits.

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