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The A, B & Cs of Email Marketing in 2012

January 17, 2012

Knowledge Center  ❯   Topics  ❯   Email Marketing

The following is a guest post from Johnathan Conlon, an Email Operations Manager at one of the world’s largest publishing houses in London.

As 2011 starts to become a fading memory, I could reflect on a year filled with talk of social, mocial and all the other buzzwords we threw around last year as the “hot topics” of discussion. However, I decided it was probably more useful to kick 2012 off by reminding you to look at some of the more common principles, potentially those which could be overlooked as we concentrate on more and more complex strategies that we’re tasked with. What follows will hopefully provide you with some practical examples of how you can work on your A, B, C’s in 2012!

Acquisition

It’s safe to say that in order to get the best results from your email campaigns, you need subscribers who want to be on your lists. Also, it’s imperative you accept that subscribers have a shelf life, so acquiring new subscribers needs to be a constant factor in your marketing plan, to negate the effects of inevitable list fatigue over time.

So how do you attract new subscribers effectively? Well, look at what opportunities are available to you and get creative. For instance, on your website, you could stick a big sign-up splat above the fold on your homepage and have done with it, but this only catches the eye of those who reach your homepage. What other avenues do your customers and/or prospects take when coming into contact with your brand? Social media feeds perhaps?

We recently did some testing at my company, an online publisher, where we included some basic sign up text at the top of some of our news articles, shown here:

Play around with it, test it, get creative, make it a value-add to your brand offering and see what works for you, but we more than doubled our acquisition numbers from within the site, just by adding this text to capture more organic consumers of our articles. Take a look at all your resources, all your customer touch points, and ask yourself, “could I make this a relevant opportunity to harvest new subscribers?”

Better personalization. Be relevant.

This is by no means a new concept, however a lot of businesses still don’t seem to be able to get it quite right, when the data is in their hands to do so.

I’ve come across many examples of this, but I decided to go with LOVEFiLM as my case-in-point and my hope is that if you perform similar activities by adopting a more effective method of using personalized data.

LOVEFiLM is a service that allows you to rent movies and video games, through an online account. They post out your chosen rentals, and you simply send them back when you’re finished (much like NetFlix). You create a wish list of your future rentals, and these appear in your account when you log in, along with the list of titles you have previously rented. However, their marketing emails don’t reference this data. They show titles that I already either placed on my list or already viewed, so typically I’m not inclined to engage with their emails to update my wish list:

Contrastingly, their transactional emails are highly personalized. If they could just marry this data into their marketing emails, they would have much higher chances of getting me to click through, updating my wish list and ultimately, increasing my consumption of their services:

Clean your lists

This is an essential step in getting the most out of your email campaigns. Earlier, I mentioned list fatigue, which is a naturally occurring degradation of your email list, resulting in a gradual decline in open and click numbers over a period of time. There is no exact science to determine how long this can take, however if you ignore it you will almost certainly see the performance of your campaigns declining. Typically, list fatigue is caused by subscribers either having become disassociated with your brand, or they simply no longer use the email address they signed up with. Ultimately, if subscribers have not engaged with your emails over a 6-9 month period, it is probably worth collecting their email addresses and creating a new segment, then contacting them to find out what’s caused them to become inactive. A quick survey can give you the insight you need to decide their fate – attempting to re-activate them or removing them for good. Tip: Make the subject line of your survey email completely different and unusual from any of your other campaigns. For example, try “Was it something we said?” or “Is this goodbye?” The goal is to catch their attention, ensuring maximum impact.

Keep in mind that if you continue to get no response, it may be time to remove these subscribers completely. However, if you are able to pinpoint the cause of their inactivity, for example all those who responded that the frequency of your campaigns was too great, you might want to try re-inserting them into your schedule and cap how many emails they will get from you. Again, integrate this as a constant feature of your email program to create an ongoing culture of list hygiene, ultimately improving your results, and your deliverability / reputation score as a commercial email sender.

More about our Guest Blogger: Johnathan runs a team of email marketers who sends over 200 million emails a year. Johnathan also runs an email marketing specific Twitter account.

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