In spite of the accelerated change that has taken place in online marketing over the last decade, some things just stay the same. For example, email marketing remains unchallenged as one of the lowest cost and most effective techniques for online marketing.
In fact, email marketing has become the anchor component for any complete content marketing program. And despite all of the attention, effort and angst directed to social media, it’s email marketing that delivers exceptional return on investment when compared to all other online marketing techniques.
A recent survey of US marketers conducted by the Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric found that email had a median ROI more than four times higher than other marketing formats. This included social media, direct mail and paid search.
Email marketing has also become central to mobile strategies. That’s because reading email on mobile devices has become the number one activity on smartphones. As proof, nearly half of emails are opened on smartphones and tablets—an over 500% increase from 2010.
What’s with the email love?
For many SMB’s, email marketing is far easier to grasp than social medial or other digital marketing methods. Because it’s a digital descendant of “old-school” postal mail (think stamps and envelopes), executives find it more familiar and understandable.
When considering email marketing, it’s essential to remember that a buyer’s journey for just about every product or service isn’t always a straight line process that turns prospects into subscribers, then into paying customers—and hopefully into supportive fans. Enhancing progress on this journey should be the goal of any email marketing program. And every email presents an opportunity to achieve that.
Cultivating relationships with subscribers is also essential. And there’s no question that consistent emails can get you there. By focusing on telling a story, you give subscribers a reason to open your email. And if you develop a strategy that defines a narrative which can be delivered over a sequence of emails, it not only enhances the open rate, but it fosters anticipation of their receipt.
An integrated platform makes the difference.
Because of email marketing’s relative ease of planning, execution and measurement of campaign performance, it’s very attractive for many businesses.
But when email marketing is integrated with a digital platform that includes a CMS (Content Management System), inbound marketing software and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, the value and ROI improves significantly.
The result is all of your digital content, tools and analytics are contained within one platform and easy to understand dashboards. This provides clarity in evaluating all customer interactions in one consistent and understandable record. If you don’t connect all of these essential performance dots, you’re missing a giant opportunity to understand the true value of your effort and investment.
Essentials to measure.
This quick reference guide provides important definitions about the performance metrics that you should be measuring with each email campaign.
Opens | An email campaign’s open rate is a measure of how many people on an email list opened the delivered email. Successful opens are the result of the quality and content of your subject line and the relationship you have with your subscribers.
It’s important to understand that the open rate is not a 100% accurate measure. Recording an open can only happen if the reader’s email client is capable of displaying HTML with images. And this requires the recipient to have their mail client or application configured or set to this function. So if you’re sending text-only emails (which you should always do in addition to HTML email), you won’t be able to record open rates. In addition, people reading HTML email without images showing will not be recorded as opens.
In summary, the open rate should be used as a way of measuring the trends on your email campaigns. Evaluating the open rate as the only important performance number in a campaign can be misleading because of factors that are out of the senders control or purview.
Clicks | Click rates are a fairly accurate measure of how many people clicked on a link in an email campaign. Often, the raw number of clicks can differ from the number of visitors that may have actually visited a landing page or site that the link is pointing to. This is the result of people leaving a page before it has had time to load properly in the browser.
Clicks—or conversions—are attributed to the links (or images) in the email content. Having a clear call-to-action, simple message and a relevant, engaging offer can all contribute to a high click rate. High click rates mean increased visitors to a site which leads to more content exposure and hopefully, more conversions on your offers.
Hard Bounces | This measurement identifies a permanent reason why an email cannot be delivered. For example, the intended recipient’s email address no longer exists or they’re no longer with an organization and their email address has been deleted from the mail server.
Bounces | This metric identifies sent emails that never arrived at the intended recipient's inbox. This could be there result of many factors including the recipient’s email server not recognizing the senders email address or the recipient configuring their email application to not receive emails from the senders address.
Soft Bounces | This measurement factor identifies a temporary delivery issue regarding the intended email address. For example, an email message may be too large to get to the recipients inbox, their inbox is full or the recipients email server failed to get the email into the inbox.
Unsubscribes | This measurement refers to the number of email recipients who clicked on the required unsubscribe link included in the footer of every email. When a recipient clicks this link, you can no longer legally send them emails from the mail server, organization or domain that actually delivered the email to their inbox.
The U.S. Can-Spam Act requires this clearly identified “unsubscribe” link to be included on every email sent from an organization or 3rd party email push provider. If a recipient clicks on the unsubscribe link, you have 10 days to comply with the opt-out request and the addressee must be removed from your mail list.
Spam Complaints | This identifies the number of reports made by email recipients of emails which they never voluntarily opted into receiving. If this number is high—like over 5%—it’s a sure sign that something is very wrong with your list, your content, or your send frequency.
Spam complaints are not to be dismissed as they can impact the reputation and email delivery rates for both the sender and the email marketer. And if you receive too many complaints, you’re likely to have your email sender account reviewed or suspended or your domain blocked by Google.
Bottom line, don’t go there because the road back will be slow, painful and expensive. Your goal should be to always keep your spam complaint rate to an absolute minimum.
Today, email marketing isn’t just the number one digital marketing channel, it’s also companies’ top source of data for analytics. So it’s not only a powerful channel on its own but the data generated from email marketing helps power other marketing efforts by providing actionable data and insights.
The email industry is experiencing a wave of change with trends toward more integration with CRM systems and marketing automation capabilities. The result is that these changes may reset expectations for what’s required in both a modern email platform or marketing program. Gartner, in fact, predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with a company without even talking to a human. Most of this will be fueled by marketing automation email.
Are you onboard?
How are you faring with your email efforts? Time to get your arms around more than just “push, pray and peruse” your open rate? Share your success or your biggest challenge. If you’re interested in how email can do a lot more for your business, let’s talk .