When I started my career in email, I found my appetite to be insatiable because of the underlying technology. How you can send a message instantaneously from one person to another through a network of computers was very sexy.
However, the further along I moved in the space, I realized that while the technology is cool, it wouldn’t be so widely accepted, from President Obama going through Blackberry withdrawals to Facebook reinventing the way we now use email, and woven into our very fabric as humans if it didn’t fulfill some basic need.
Yes, email has also become a conduit for nefarious activity with spam and phishing attempts. Also, the onslaught of marketing email has many weary of the viability of the channel. But, if you keep in mind the reason why we have email in the first place, you’ll discover that it’s still an amazing communication tool that can help your brand grow.
The following are 5 questions you should ask yourself to ensure you’re still in sync with how recipients are using email.
Email marketing is not a zero sum game, rather one based on identification of needs, analysis of how to fulfill that need and execution iterated upon repeatedly.
1) Does your email program provide value to your recipients?
This is by far the most important metric of success that anyone sending mass email should be asking themselves. Whether you’re Amazon.com promoting the next big sale or a smaller shop getting the word out about a local event, if your recipients don’t see value in what you’re sending, you’re doomed.
As seen here in a recent study on spam perceptions by email address owners, if your message doesn’t convey value of some sort then it won’t be effective and could possibly render your program moot by folks marking it as spam. Think about it – are you sending something someone wants? One of the best ways to determine this is by ensuring the email you send was requested by a user, or opted-in to.
2) Does your message reinforce a multipronged approach to your brand?
The days of simply sending out your static message in a vacuum are over. Even my grandfather has his own web presence which is a testament to how easy social networks have made it to be online.
You’ve got to win over customers by presenting them with different virtual paths to interact with you more. It’s a good idea to have your Twitter, Facebook and other virtual property pages listed in an easy to use manner included with your messages.
That way you have a wide breadth of coverage and are not limited to email as the only way to communicate with your customers.
Look up at the top of this page. See how easy it is to follow Social Email Marketing (note: that's us, thanks Chris!) via different networks?
3) Are you listening to your customers?
So you send out email to your recipients and expect them to pay attention to what you have to say. But are you listening?
Reports are out now that if you blindly send email in a monolithic and unidirectional manner, you’ll quickly find yourself outpaced by the next guy who actually does listen to what a customer has to say.
You can add a “Contact Us” link to your email, provide a web form for comments, or have less dynamic methods such as asking the customer to “like” the type of email they’re getting.
The simplest way to listen from an email campaign is to check the replies that come through. Bouncing these is a clear message to the recipient that while their attention is important when you have something to say, the converse is not.
4) Are you measuring your success by customers or email sent?
This may seem very elementary but if you’re measuring how successful your program is by the sheer volume you’re sending out and the revenue you’re generating, then you’re not looking at your customer as an organic data point.
The success of social networking sites, of which most still use email as the main offline method of communication, get this and so should you.
Email recipients have a “one to many” relationship with you. If they want your email, then they’re willing to engage and reengage with your brand whenever you send them an email. However, if you use their acceptance to receive your email as a floodgate switch, you’ll quickly lose them to email fatigue and risk infuriating them if they have to wade through a pile of emails they didn’t want to receive at the frequency you send.
Solicit feedback at the point of collection to see how often they want your email or what types of email they prefer. Having a checkbox or a frequency bar will help them tell you what they’ll put up with.
5) Are you watching the behavior of your customers after you send?
Taking a removed approach by sending out email for a business purpose and then watching if that purpose is attained won’t cut it anymore (think $$ reached).
You’ve got to be savvy enough to watch when customers are opening and clicking your email. Are they opening or clicking multiple times suggesting the email is of importance beyond the initial impression? Are the customers doing anything after they click on a link?
How about what pages they traverse through after they go to the initial landing page? Are they forwarding the message along in some tractable method you can review? Are they converting all at once with a cluster of events occurring immediately after a send or is there more of a spikey interaction after an email has been sent out over time?
Knowing how your customers interact with your brand by using email as one method to watch their behavior will give you a more complete picture of who they are and what they’re interested in.
Collecting this will enable you to better market to your customers and tier them out based on activity and engagement levels.
Without an understanding of your email program being enmeshed with recipients, you’ll lose focus on why it’s an important tool in the first place.
Chris Wheeler is leading the charge to ensure emailers are well-informed about email marketing practices and technology as well as being the face of deliverability externally. Previously, he created the internal deliverability program at Amazon.com alongside program managing the operations of the email team and was at an ESP leading a team of deliverability consultants. Besides being a frequent contributor on Deliverability.com, Chris is a part of many email industry forums, both business and technical. You can follow Chris on his website and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.