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SWOT Team: What's the Least Painful Way to Measure ROI?

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Math may not be everyone's favorite school subject, but we all know its value in our business. Numbers tell a story about the strengths and weaknesses of a marketing campaign. Even though numbers are vital in marketing, not all creative marketing types are comfortable interpreting them.

Marketing departments also have the challenge of dealing with too much data, thanks to all the computer applications that collect it.

Endless data streams impact the many arms of marketing: Web, print, radio, mail and television. What resources are useful for collecting and understanding these numbers? Is there a standard process or approach that with a little tweaking works with most products and services? How do you collect and measure the efficiency of a marketing campaign?

Has a problem got your number? Get tutoring assistance from 200,000 "MarketingProfs Today" readers who know their formulas. Share your marketing challenge and receive a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

This Week's Dilemma


Number crunching the marketing way

Metrics, benchmarks and data are important to collect and analyze to determine the success of a marketing campaign. We're numbers-challenged and need help on how to measure the efficiency of a promotion plan for industry products. How do we collect the data and compare the money spent in ads, directories and trade shows with revenue from sales?

—Tanya, Marketing Manager

Previous Dilemma

Creating effective newsletters, code and all

We create our HTML-based emails in-house using Macromedia's Dreamweaver. Then we take the code from Dreamweaver and send it to third-party channels to distribute to their opt-in lists that are specifically interested in our product. We watch the words we use that tend to send emails to the junk folders. Dreamweaver is one of the better programs in creating clean code. However, in terms of newsletters, I am not sure that using Dreamweaver is the most effective in avoiding the junk folders. What is the best approach to ensure newsletter code is effective in reaching recipients' inboxes?

—Alia, Marketing Campaign Manager

Summary of Advice Received

Alia, content is important for ducking the spam filters. You're right that markup could make a difference. Readers provide a couple of other tricks to try.

  1. Follow basic HTML rules.
  2. Stay on top of spam rules.
  3. Try another process for publishing.

1. Follow basic HTML rules

Many comment that Dreamweaver is one of the better tools for Web development. Doru Persinaru, product manager of email services with Kinecto Permission Marketing, offers a few dos and don'ts:

Yes, Dreamweaver is one of the better tools for WEB development. What Web sites and newsletters have in common is HTML markup. That's all. When creating a newsletter using Dreamweaver, you may be tempted to use Javascript, CSS [cascading style sheets], or forms, and not all of these help you better deliver your newsletter.

A few rules:

  1. Do not use Javascript.

  2. If using a form, the action has to happen outside of the email client. 

  3. Do not use CSS to position objects in the newsletter.

  4. Do not use percents to define cell and table sizes.

  5. Use as many tables as you need—the table is the ultimate HTML element when designing newsletters.

As important as it is to follow W3.org recommendations when designing Web pages, Doru is right that standards don't work well with email newsletters because of the many email clients people are using. Email clients aren't the best at properly rendering CSS layouts. Keep the HTML as simple and clean as possible.

2. Stay on top of spam rules

Anna Barcelos, marketing director at OpenBOX Technologies, also agrees that Dreamweaver is an excellent tool. Instead of concentrating on the design, she recommends focusing on content:

Focus more on newsletter CONTENT rather than design and code to avoid winding up in junk folders. Spam filters check for specific terms, as you know and currently watch for. Unfortunately, some of these terms are innocent, but wind up in the filters anyway. There are a number of Web resources that are helpful. I found the following two just by doing a Web search:

http://www.wilsonweb.com/wmt8/spamfilter_phrases.htm

http://www.proclickexchange.com/news/sabotage.php

These sites provide the latest phrases and words to avoid in your emails as well as links to a couple of email content checkers. I would invest the time and technology to stay on top of the latest spam rules because that's the best way for your emails to safely arrive in your readers' inboxes and to ultimately maximize the ROI of your campaigns.

3. Try another process for publishing

Another recommendation from readers is to try doing experiments like direct marketers do. They send out multiple versions of a letter and see which brings in the best results. Gabor Wolf, CEO of Marketing Commando, shares a strategy that, for a long time, his company has worked to perfect. He provides a process that might be worth testing:

  1. Put the newsletter on your Web site.

  2. Send out the text and HTML emails to the list, but put only teaser paragraphs of the articles in the email, not the whole thing (this reduces keyword-filtered bounces).

  3. The HTML email should look like text only by having little to no graphics and colors as this has the highest "get through rate," plus everyone can read it.

  4. On the top of the email, include a link to the shiny HTML newsletter on your site.

  5. Put the link to the newsletter after every article teaser in the email.

This by far has resulted in the lowest bounce and highest readability rate for us.

Spammers are changing faster than we can keep up. Newsletter publishers who provide multiple ways of getting a newsletter's content to their readers have a better chance of reaching more of them by using links to a page like Gabor suggests and making the newsletter available through RSS (i.e., syndication).

Focus on content, avoid scripting and CSS layouts, and test different processes. Then see which has the best returns.

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Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

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