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Keeping your eye on the email mechanics

June 1, 2011

When there is so much focus on customer engagement, list building and email content development; it’s easy to forget that the maintenance of your email marketing mechanics is absolutely fundamental to the success of your campaigns. You probably wouldn’t run your car for more than 10,000 miles, without a full service and the same principles apply to your email marketing campaigns.

So, if a year has passed by and you haven’t taken a close look “under the bonnet” of your email marketing, you won’t know what is working well and what’s about to go wrong with your next campaign. Here are 10 key email marketing diagnostics for you to check out:

1.Revisit your opt-in processes 

Review and test your opt-in processes; walking through everything from a user perspective,  including all your active landing pages, to check all is OK.  Test to see if all the links work and that they direct you to the pages you would expect, such as a registration, confirmation or preference centre page.
Make sure that you are delivering on all your opt-in promises; such as confirmation emails and free downloads and check they’re not flagged as spam and that they get to your Inbox. Also make sure that the email rendered correctly when it was delivered. Check you don’t have too many clicks in your processes; 2 clicks are ideal, 3 are just about OK, but more than this means you will be getting high abandonment rates.
 

2. Maximise your email relationships

Consider the last time that you looked at your unsubscribe rates and reasons, to see if there is a pattern, as you can learn from this information. For e.g. if your unsubscribes peaked or increased enormously after a specific newsletter, then review the content and adjust accordingly for future editions. 
Look after your new subscribers during the early days, as they will quickly make up their minds if you aren’t meeting their expectations. And if you do lose some new subscribers along the way and they follow your unsubscribe processes; you should confirm the unsubscribe and consider sending a link to a short exit survey. Explain how to re-subscribe if done in error and maybe even offer an incentive to re-subscribe. Please also take a look at our blog article "Once you're in this family there's no gettin' out" for further help to evaluate your own unsubscribe processes. 

3. Service your list regularly

Many of the people on your mailing list will be inactive and aren’t opening, clicking or buying and so you should segment your database and send a targeted message inviting this group to update preferences or take advantage of a special offer. Leave it for a couple of weeks and then split out the addresses of anyone who didn’t respond at all, ready for another re-engagement campaign after about 90 days of inactivity.

4. Reconsider your timing

How often are you sending your emails?  Consider increasing your frequency slightly to see if this brings any changes for you. However, you should understand that if you move the level beyond your initial promise, then you may lose subscribers. Test first and watch for the positive and negative indicators. If you start to enjoy better results, stay with the change, but keep monitoring the statistics.

5. Test all your links properly

Test every link in every email and to test your unsubscribe process, use a seed (test) email address to go through the unsubscribe process and then check your database and mailing list to make sure the address has been deleted. All it takes is one email with a broken unsubscribe process for your company to be in potential legal and marketing danger.  Of course, if you are using a reputable email service provider like Extravision, this should happen automatically.

6.Review your rendering

 If you are already using an email service provider for your email campaigns, they should be automatically checking to see that your message renders correctly and offering solutions to any problems. If not, you should test regularly to make sure your message renders correctly across all email clients as the way emails are received changes all the time ; you should check in Outlook,  on a Mac, in AOL, Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail.  It’s essential that you also check all mobile devices like iPhones, Blackberries and other smart phones that don’t handle HTML and rich text very well. Also see our Tip of the Month Styling your images in case they're disabled for further help.

7. Assess your message design

Review your test email message without images to see if there is still enough visible content to provide value to your recipients. Blocked images and preview panes can be a real challenge and as such, you need to make sure you’re the content in your current design features in the top 2-4 inches at the top of the message. Check that your design doesn’t rely too much on images that may get blocked and use HTML, fonts and colours to create interest. And make sure that your ALT tags always describe an image, offer or call to action; in case images are blocked.  Please also take a look at our whitepaper The Importance of Your Call to Action.

8. Monitor your mailboxes

Don’t overlook the fact that there is a human being behind every email on your opt-in list and so they may not always follow your directions!  As such, you need to ensure that a human being in your IT department checks all email mailboxes, for misdirected opt-outs, complaints and comments. This designated person needs to catch and route personal replies and you should ask them on a regular basis about the traffic and feedback that is coming in.
Consider producing an internal Service Level Agreement (SLA) for incoming emails; to include response times, the named recipients for routing differing email types and how to manage unsubscribes away from your usual processes.  It is also good practice to develop some standard replies for a consistently branded, professional approach to your most common email responses. Take a look at creating `From’ names that your recipient will immediately identify with your company, to reinforce your brand and the customer experience. For e.g.: `From’ The Extravision Marketing Team.  

9.Check any co-registration sources you have

If you use any third parties to cross promote your products or services; you should remember to audit their processes too. Take a close look at the opt-in page to see which other companies and offers are listed beside yours, check that your brand is represented accurately and that subscriptions are feeding into your database properly. Take time out to check for damaging spam complaints and bad addresses. Whilst using a third party service can be cost effective, you should segment these subscribers into a list to compare numbers with your main database and either explore ways to optimize the partnership more effectively, or consider discontinuing the link.

10. Audit your email deliverability

Even the most creative, well designed, targeted emails won’t benefit your company in any way at all, if they don’t get delivered properly to the intended recipients.  You should always test your content against spam filters to check for any blockages. Make sure you always have good headers and that your content doesn’t look like spam to cultivate good ISP relations.
And, if your current email marketing solution doesn’t include a tool to analyse content for improved deliverability, then change to another one!  If you aren’t already using an email service provider, then maybe you should take advantage of our Extravision free 30 day trial to compare deliverability rates.

Summary

If you take the time to give your email marketing a really thorough health check, it will continue to perform very well for you; just as your car always runs better after an oil change. Don’t leave things to chance and diarise regular reviews in the future. If this all sounds like way too much work and you haven’t got the in-house resource; then consider using a reputable email service provider, who is equipped with the best tools to get you the best performance from your email campaigns.   
If you would like any further help or advice with your email marketing mechanics, please call 0161 817 2929 or email [email protected]

Posted by Jenni Malley
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