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Boost Your Email Marketing ROI by Focusing on Three Key Areas

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to boost the ROI of your email campaigns by focusing on three key areas
  • Specific steps to take to increase your email response rates

Email averages a return on investment (ROI) of $40 for every $1 spent, far outstripping banner ads ($2) and keyword ads ($17). So it's no surprise that 67% of organizations plan to increase their email spend in 2012.

You can use those increased email marketing budgets to push your ROI higher by focusing on the following three areas.

1. Deliverability

Though it's long been discussed, email deliverability remains a critical issue. A recent Return Path report found that nearly one-in-five emails sent by commercial email senders never reaches the intended recipient's inbox (and may not even reach the spam folder!).

Therefore, the average campaign can enjoy a 25% increase in response. If you believe that emails that don't bounce are being delivered, you may not realize anything is wrong.


How to Do It

A lot goes into email deliverability. Deliverability experts can offer guidance for your specific program, but make sure you're covering the following basics:

  1. Reduce complaints. Subscribers report unwanted email as spam (or, worse, they send it to antispam institutions such as SpamCop), which damages the sender's reputation. So, make it clear at the time of subscription how often you'll email subscribers. Include a name that subscribers recognize in the sender field of your emails, and make it easy to unsubscribe. Do not require subscribers to provide you with a username and password, an email address, or a "mail us your request" note to unsubscribe. Allow them to unsubscribe via one click (because it's very easy for them to click the "spam" button as an alternative).
  2. Don't set off content filters. Though no longer the most important component of spam filtering, "spammy" words and coding errors still set off alarm bells. Many email service providers (ESPs) offer in-platform tools to check emails before hitting "send."
  3. Monitor your delivery with a seed list. Set up accounts on top domains and include those accounts in your lists for each campaign. Then, confirm your email messages reached the seed list inboxes so you know about problems as they arise.

2. Behavioral Targeting

Behavioral targeting is not a new concept, but it's more technically difficult—and so less used—than demographic or geographic targeting. Marketers who use behavioral targeting to send emails (or, better yet, to trigger automatic emails) achieve hefty gains in revenue per email sent. (One-to-one marketing emerged 30 years ago, right? Are you still sending the same email to every subscriber?)

How to Do It

Though the methods for implementing behavioral targeting for email are almost limitless, here are three ideas to consider if you're just getting started:

  1. Purchase behavior. Many marketers send triggered emails to recommend complementary products after a purchase. For extra accuracy, Nespresso (which makes coffee makers that my coworkers might not make it through the day without using) calculates customers' reorder time based on previous purchases.
  2. Nonpurchase behavior. Cart abandonment emails are among the best known triggered emails... and for good reason. Those emails can help you reignite interest in an abandoned purchase or elicit feedback about why the purchase didn't go through.
  3. Email behavior. Targeting by email behavior can be the simplest method because the information is already in your ESP's platform. Consider sending a loyalty offer to the subscribers who most often open your emails. Or, include a special offer in the subject line for those who rarely (or never) open your messages.

3. Acquisition Email

Handled well, acquisition email offers an opportunity to bring the high ROI of email to your customer acquisition strategy. For marketers, retaining subscribers and increasing their numbers are perennial priorities. What better way to do that than by using your email marketing skills to build your customer base?

How to Do It

If you've never used acquisition emails in the past, consider these three key ideas.

  1. Value. Offer customers something of value in a creative and appealing way using the skills you've gained via retention email. I agree, that should be evident! But, sometimes, email acquisition campaigns look... cheap. This email is your first impression, so make it a good one.
  2. Target. The days of batch-and-blast emails sent to huge numbers of people with the hope that a few will respond are over. To get the best response, narrow your focus to people who are likely to be interested. Again, it's all about behavioral targeting. Unfortunately, what has done for years in display advertising had not (until now) been implemented in the email channel.
  3. Respect. Show respect to your...
  • Prospects. Send emails only to opt-in records via a publisher or service provider that accurately represents who the email is from (both the brand of the list and the advertiser) and uses legally compliant unsubscribe links.
  • Customers. Are you offering free shipping for the first order? A 20% discount for new customers? Please don't send that message to current customers. Are you scrubbing your list of customers from email acquisition campaigns? You should be.
  • Brand. The more "blast" emails you send, the more Internet service providers (ISPs) will hate your brand. Do it the wrong way, and even your transactional and retention emails won't reach subscribers' inboxes. Send as few emails as possible to the right people if you want to keep a solid "technical reputation." Easy to say... but not always easy to apply with the current practices in the email acquisition market.
    * * *

Some of the points in this article rely heavily on email acquisition channel best-practices and good habits, and very few companies can partner with you to make those happen. But things are changing, just as they did when the first AdServer (DART) was created.

What do you think are the biggest drivers for email-marketing effectiveness? What are your biggest challenges in raising the bar and getting things done the right way?


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Eric Didier is CEO and co-founder of ividence, a standalone acquisition email ad exchange that uses behavioral targeting to deliver the right message to the right target.

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  • by Maria Elena Tue Apr 3, 2012 via web

    Managing employees in a social media focused work environment requires attention and work, but the investment of time and effort can produce a big return on investment. In a time when some companies are trying to cinch employee engagement with social media, other brands like Best Buy are using it to their full advantage. Each employee is encouraged to use social media to share technological expertise about various Best Buy products. When you have 180,000 employees Tweeting, blogging, posting interesting content, and connecting with customers who share their passions, then you have a recipe for ROI success.

    Also, use KarmaCRM.com and you'll surely get connected with your customers everywhere you go.

  • by Lori Feldman Tue Apr 3, 2012 via mobile

    A big driver of email ROI is reader habit. If recipients ignore you once or twice, no big deal. But three times starts a habit. Add to that gmail priority inbox and all the other deliverability factors, and you can lose a big percentage of your potential effectiveness. Once you ID who consistently doesn't open/click (behavior), pull them out for special handling. Survey them, offer them something enticing or direct mail them an entitlement for updating their contact info online. Sometimes people are too busy to remember why they liked you. They need a friendly nudge.

  • by Laura Ashley @raingal7 Tue Apr 3, 2012 via web

    Agree with Lori Feldman's comments about inactive subscribers (those who aren't opening or clicking). I have personally seen staggering open and click rates from otherwise inactive subscribers--when they are sent content related to their past behavior (opens, clicks, browses, purchases), even if their last open or click took place over three months before. Keeping those folks separate and being more thoughtful about what that receive will not only boost response, but potentially help with deliverabilty as well.

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