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50% Click-Through Rates? Yes, You Can!

by Stephanie Miller  |  
February 9, 2010

You'd think that to get half of your subscribers to click through, you might have to give away a million dollars every month.

Publishers Clearing House (PCH) actually does give away millions of dollars, but that wasn't enough on its own to earn a significantly higher-than-average response rate on its email promotions.

However, by managing data and segmentation, and finding the customer sweet spot, PCH has been able to consistently earn approximately 40% click-through rates. (Yes, click-through rates, and that is a percent of sent volume, not of opens.)

The good news is that even if you don't give away money in large piles, you can still do what PCH did to earn incredible lift on your email-marketing response rates.

It's simple: If you want superior response rates, you have to provide a superior subscriber experience. And that means…

  1. Keeping your file clean. Source data well, and clear out dead wood early and often.
  2. Watching frequency.
  3. Improving the content and relevancy through segmentation and content management.
  4. Responding to subscriber behavior, as well as self-selected preferences.

"We thought we were doing OK segmentation before, but we knew that we were not synergizing channels as much as we could nor really listening to customer data," says PCH Senior Director Sal Tripi. "So, we made a big investment, and we targeted not just the offers, but at the customer level. We saw a pretty immediate 15%–20% lift in click-through rates."

Two things were essential to success, Tripi says. The first was integrating the offline and online databases. It was a miserable and time-consuming six-month process, he reports. That won't surprise anyone who has ever tried to get data in a mainframe database to talk to Web analytics and email-marketing systems.

The second key to success was focusing on the customer. PCH created more than 100 segments and matched frequency, content, and contest information to each persona. The segments are created via a weighted matrix of subscription source, vintage (date of signup), geography, activity level, type of contest (e.g., instant win vs. lotto), and last activity.

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Stephanie Miller is vice-president of market development for Return Path, Inc. ( Reach her via Twitter (@StephanieSAM) or

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