Using Response Data To Make Great Decisions

No one outside the email team cares about clicks and opens. What they care about it is response -- the email channel's contribution to revenue and other business drivers. If we email marketers want to be taken seriously, we have to start measuring our success in succinct business terms.

Executives are paying attention to email as an inexpensive way to quickly boost revenue. Now more than ever, data is our best friend. We may never get a better chance to show off the strength of email marketing -- and to lay a foundation for future social and mobile media success.

This insight is not going to appear miraculously in a shaft of light. It's certainly not going to emerge in the tracking reports for relentless streams of generic promotions. The only way forward is through smart use of the data. In order to report to senior management with confidence, and to optimize and grow revenue from the channel, email marketers must isolate behavior at the subscriber level and craft a compelling content and contact strategy for major segments.



As I wrote last week, the place to start is with deliverability data. Now, let's talk about response data. Measure these elements at least quarterly (even better: on an ongoing basis), so you can track trends and develop competent responses -- and deliver those higher goals that management demands.

First Issue Unsubscribe Rate and Complaint Rate. A measure of the value of your program, and how well you set expectations at sign-up. Consider the timing, message and format of your welcome message, and how well it validates and celebrates the benefits mentioned at sign-up. Improve the visibility of your unsubscribe link -- better have them off the file now, than complaining and hurting the deliverability of all your mailings.

30-day Subscriber Response Rate. How many days/messages or touch points does it take before subscribers start to ignore your messages? Break this down by subscriber profile or source to measure the effectiveness of your segmentation. If it's low, consider expanding from a single welcome message to a full engagement series. To improve it, test the cadence and messaging of the first 30 days -- are new subscribers overwhelmed? Under-educated? How often do subscribers take advantage of your preference center? Perhaps you need to market it more. What is their typical action (e.g.: reduce frequency). Use this data to meter frequency for key segments, provide new content choices and refine segmentation strategies.

Triggered Message Opportunity. If three generic promotions earn zero response, but one triggered message wakes up a whole group of previous non-responders, which is more valuable? Consider a balance between untargeted promotions and valuable lifecycle messages. Use the lift you earn from lifecycle driven messages to judge where your time and creative resources are best spent.

Template Hot Spots. There are areas of your template that earn more clicks than others. Is this in response to your strategically placed calls to action? If not, rethink the position and length of the content, as well as the number of topics covered in each promotion.

Impact of Rich Media. A strategy of "all rich media all the time" may burn out subscribers. Vary the texture for highest response. Track to see if multiple rich-media messages in the same week lift or depress response. Use rich media only when the message warrants or benefits from it. If there is rich media included, be sure to celebrate that in the subject line.

Non-Responder Rate. The inverse of your response metrics are not neutral metrics. Track non-responders using open rates and click-to-open rates across a time period -- a month or quarter, rather than by each campaign. If you have an average 30% open rate, that might be fine per campaign, but if the same 30% are the only ones who open over a quarter, then you are missing the chance to connect with a broader segment. Similarly, it's best to know if you have a small group of clickers and everyone else is passive. Segmentation and targeted messaging is the best way to improve relevance.

Using these data points will enable you to make smart decisions, set up effective tests, streamline your processes, more efficiently utilize your resources, and better engage with the customers and prospects most likely to buy. Be on your toes. Remain open. What you find works today may not work tomorrow, so adopt a strategy of reviewing data skeptically and assuming nothing. Embrace the data -- and the opportunity to change and adapt -- by making your email program more responsive to subscribers.

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