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Email Marketing: Part 4 – Oh boy, what did I just do?

/ Tutorials & Advice

Your email has been sent. It’s gone – left your presence, and like all three Lord Of The Rings films condensed in to about 5 seconds, it’s travelled potentially thousands of miles, had ups and downs, been filtered, checked and had a full-body cavity search at numerous point along the way. Hopefully unlike Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings, it doesn’t have an insanely tedious hour-long ultra-cheesy end-scene where your email and all the emails that have been travelling with it have a good kiss and a cuddle, before your email heads off to reach its final recipient, sobbing like a child.

So aside from sitting staring blankly at your screen, pathetically welling up like you’ve just lost a pet, what can you do? There’s the obvious over-enthusiastic high-fives or cinematic mission-control-esque applause and back-slapping with co-workers, but then that’s not really going to do you much good. You’d be better sitting tight, and waiting for the statistics to roll in.

Most, if not all email delivery platforms will provide you with feedback on your campaign. You should at the very least get information on how many recipients open the email and how many click on the links within. You’ll also likely get a note of how many emails bounced, how many were marked as spam, and how many people unsubscribed (how dare they!). Heck, some email sending systems can give you real-time map-views of recipients as they open and click. It won’t be long before we’ll be able to activate their webcams and watch everyone synchronously weeping tears of joy as your email drops triumphantly in to their inbox.

Email statistics are a lot like traffic wardens. Despite looking all official they’re somewhat misleading. This is down to the nature of tracking email and the fact that it’s not all that easy. Platforms can only track HTML emails via loading a small image. This means anybody reading the text version of the email or anyone with images turned off won’t be registered as an “open” unless they click a link, which is then trackable.

One recommendation here to combat that is to add the mighty Google Analytics to your site then add the relevant analytics URL tags to your email links, or track the landing page specifically to see if you can determine clicks that way. You won’t get those lovely percentages or any fancy graphs, but you should get a more accurate number of hits.

Like a disappointing Christmas present from your nan, who’s mis-read your gift list, these figures you’re presented with might seem a bit odd. Perhaps unusually low or a bit disappointing. Sadly, you’ll have to get used to this, since the general industry average for small-medium sized organisations in the UK (according to the UK Email Marketing Benchmark Report 2011) is an open rate of 18.21% a click-through rate of 3.29% and an unsubscribe rate of 0.22%. That said, if you’re over these benchmarks, then it’s not all that bad.

The best way to use these statistics however is to measure trends across multiple email campaigns. This means as you send more of your precious emails, you can compare their results against one another and find out what’s working and what isn’t. You can start to experiment with things like sending time, subject lines, key messages, colour schemes, naked photos, length of content and so on. All of these changes should make measurable differences over time.

Something else to consider as you start to send more emails out is consistency. Whether it’s regularity of sending, or a consistency in the look and feel, you should try and keep your emails in-line with your brand and the relevant message. You should make sure people don’t end up getting more emails than they expect, or that they don’t go for long and desolate periods without email, then get ten at once. There’s also a lot to be said for phased approaches involving more than one list, where fresh members perhaps get different introductory emails, while long-term members get the regular updates. Specifying how often and when people will get emails from you is something ideally mentioned upon sign-up and could also be re-iterated through a welcome email.

So, like a new iPhone user we’ve really just caressed the surface in sheer awe. There is a great deal more depth to all the elements of email marketing. There are always going to be more things to mention: A-B testing, auto-responders, detailed spam filtering, extended testing and more, but I’ll most likely go in to these in more depth on a case by case basis.

However by now you should now be all set to tackle your email marketing with a bit more of a clue as to how it all works and fits together. Wave goodbye to the land of the clueless, and welcome to the world of email marketing.

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Alex Cowles

About The Author: Alex Cowles

A largely cynical and often sarcastic designer and front-end developer by day. Unknown international DJ & music producer extraordinaire by night (and at weekends). You probably won't like him.