Thursday, November 22, 2007

We have moved!

The old eTips is now finished - but the new eTips is alive and well! Come visit our new blog at Eggblogg - opinion, rants, tips & news about online marketing. Or sign up here for the new eTips by email.

See you soon!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A cautionary tale (in rhyme)

Guess what - it's National Poetry Day here in the UK, so
there's only one thing for it ...


Freddy Bull the marketer
Just loved his direct mail,
He used to send out tons of stuff
And knew it couldn’t fail.
He didn't know if it arrived,
Nor whether it got read,
But just a 1% return
Was good enough for Fred

Then one day Freddy realised
That there was something better:
An email can be sent for free –
Much cheaper than a letter!
And so he scoured his database
For every email in it,
CC’d them all, and then hit 'send'
And hoped they wouldn’t bin it.

Poor Fred, he had a lot to learn
Before he got it right
Permission, relevance, subject lines ...
I could go on all night.
He started reading eTips and
He soon cleaned up his act
So now his ROI is up
Instead of clients' backs.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Do I know you? Why the 'from' field counts

Does your inbox groan under the weight of email, both wanted and unwanted?

For most people, it's a split-second decision whether to open an email or not. If your recipents are using a preview pane, they can see a small section of the email. Otherwise, they only have two pieces of information to go on. The subject line, and who it's from. I've talked about subject lines in a previous eTip, and there'll be an update on that very soon. But what about the 'from' field?

According to research by Return Path*, 'knowing and trusting the sender' is still the number one factor influencing opens. Overall, people are opening less - so becoming a 'trusted sender' is more important than ever. It doesn't happen overnight, but here are a few simple things you can do for starters:

- Make the 'from' field a recognisable name, and keep it consistent. The most obvious choice is your company name, or a version of it that people are familiar with. For some businesses, having the email appear to come from a named person may be appropriate, for example Boden's newsletters come from 'Johnny Boden'. Or you could use the actual email address, such as ''.

- Monitor the return address. There's nothing more discouraging than hitting 'reply' only to get zero response. It amazes me how many companies forget that email is essentially a two-way communication medium. It's like calling someone on the phone, talking for five minutes, then hanging up without giving them a chance to say anything. Plain rude!

- Ask recipients to add your 'from' address to their address book or contacts. It gets you special treatment in some email clients and will help make sure your emails arrive in the inbox rather than the junk folder.

*January 2007, Return Path Third Annual Holiday Email Consumer Survey

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Interpret the stats to improve results

When it comes to email marketing everyone's looking for definitive answers.

You know the kinds of questions I'm talking about. What sort of open rate should we get? What's an average click-through rate? If our unsubscribe rate is 2%, is that good?

Unfortunately, there are no absolutes. The answers are dependent on so many factors. Firstly you can seek out industry benchmarks from firms such as Marketin Sherpa or e-consultancy, which is a good starting point. You can even try carrying out your own research, either formally or just by asking around.

Next, look at your own campaign statistics over a period of time and establishing your own benchmarks. Then you can get down to interpreting what the numbers mean and using that information to improve results next time.

For example, if a campaign achieves a lower than average open rate, this probably means that:
  1. either the subject line was poor, or
  2. the email got filtered as spam and went to the junk folder, or
  3. the average age of the email addresses is going up

If a campaign achieves a lower than average click-through rate, this probably means that:

  1. either the offer wasn't enticing enough, or
  2. the creative (copy, design or both) wasn't strong enough, or
  3. (if combined with a high open rate) the subject line was misleading

You might then decide to go back to the testing stage, remembering to test one factor at a time in order to find out just what makes a difference.

Of course, there are many more stats on an typical report than just open and click through rates, and the principle applies to all. Establish your own benchmarks, interpret what the numbers actually mean, identify areas for improvement, tweak and test.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

List Fatigue: Time for a cull?

List fatigue is something all email marketers have to face. It's a familiar scenario: your first newsletter is a wow. Good open rate, nice comments, everyone is happy. But over time, open rates tend to decline, and, even though your CTRs may be strong there's still the nagging feeling that the majority of people just aren't bothering to open any more.

This body of emails can be a dead weight, skewing your stats and even affecting your sender reputation in the eyes of ISPs. Not only that, but if your email hosting service charges per address, it's costing you money.

Instinctively, no-one likes to reduce their list, but a cull might be in order.

Newer addresses are generally more responsive, but then again some long-standing subscribers may still be your best customers or advocates. So what to do? First, try to identify:

1) all those who joined the list prior to a specific date, say, 6 months ago
2) all those who haven't opened your emails in the last 6 months

Now, consider removing any addresses which fall into both groups. For more recent subscribers in group (2), try sending them a one-off email to re-engage them (hint: the subject line will need some thinking about!) For those subscribers in group (1) but not in group (2), send them a note thanking them for their continued readership and an incentive to refer a friend.

The result: a trimmed-down list, some appreciative readers and with any luck an injection of new blood too.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The 4 ingredients of email marketing success

Sometimes we can get bogged down with the details of email marketing and lose sight of the guiding principles. So, as something to to think about over the summer, here's a quick recap of the four factors that can make or break an email marketing campaign.

  1. WHO? The quality of your list, segmentation and targeting. Relevance is king.

  2. WHAT? Your message, your offer, your proposition. Whatever you call it, it has to answer the 'what's in it for me?' for your audience.

  3. HOW? Whether its beautiful design, witty copy or pull-no-punches plain text - present your message in a way that grabs your target audience.

  4. WHEN? Hit your audience when they're most receptive and response rates will improve.

Sounds familiar? It should - direct marketers have lived by these principles for decades. There's no need to re-invent the wheel for email, just remember its roots lie in direct mail. No-one can be expected to get it all right straight away - for best results, test and tweak each of the four factors, one at a time.

HOLIDAY BREAK: The next e-Tips will be in 4 weeks' time, with the normal fortnightly schedule returning in September.

Have a great summer, whatever the weather!

Friday, July 06, 2007

There's gold in that click-through data

It's no secret that the reliability of open rates is not what it was, thanks mainly to the growing prevalence of image blocking. In a way this is good: it means we have to look beyond simple opens to statistics that are far more telling. I'm talking of course about the click-through rate.

Click-throughs are unequivocal proof that you've got someone's attention. You can look at an email without taking it in, but I can't imagine anyone clicking on a link in an email without having some reason.

A click is a statement of interest – that's powerful information you can use to improve the targeting and relevancy of future campaigns. But the value of this data depends upon the skill of the email creative: what is the context of the link?

Let's say you're a veterinary practice. Your list contains a mix of cat, dog and other pet owners. An article in your newsletter talks about a particular condition that affects cats, and a link to a relevant product or service. Gather the click-through data on this link and you have a tailor-made list of customers for cat-related products and services. If on the other hand the newsletter only contains general links such as 'click here to find out more about our services' and sending readers to the home page, your click-through data tells you very little.

By increasing targeting and relevancy you'll improve the results of your email marketing efforts, and thereby the return on your investment. And it all starts with the humble click.