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  • How To Measure The Success Of An Email Campaign

    Last week in Email Campaign Terminology Explained I explained the various key phrases and words that are used when discussing email campaigns. This week I will look at email campaigns at a more personal level and as a result the way to measure the success of any campaign.

    There are a variety of schools of thought as to what constitutes a successful campaign: some will measure it by the open rate (this will vary based on the nature of the eShot you sent), some will measure it based on click through rate (this will vary based on the time the recipient has at the moment of receiving your eShot – furthermore some users are savvy enough not to click on a link within an eShot as they assume they will be tracked), some will measure it based on the Return On Investment (ROI) that the eShot generates (this is harder to track but in effect does give you an absolute monetary value for how successful a campaign has been). Personally, whilst all these are good measures of an email campaign I prefer to treat eShots as a way of keeping your client/potential customer informed. In my opinion it should not be treated as a selling exercise, as in my experience few eShots, in the Business To Business (B2B) arena, have yielded immediate sales. Even when major players in the Business To Consumer (B2C) send out their emails notifying customers, it is with the aim of keeping people up-to-date: should their interest be aroused, then all the better.

    We have one client that unbeknown to us, whilst we had been sending him eShot after eShot, had been storing them in a folder on his computer. After a period of time of watching the stats it soon became clear, as someone was accessing graphics and content for an eShot that was months old. Then came a phone call: the gentleman, who is now a good client, had been watching our email campaigns and had had his interest aroused by the content of the very first one he had ever received, however as he had received it during the peak season of his business, was unable to action anything. Half a year later he made the phone and as they say, the rest is history. Email campaigns should be treated as awareness campaigns.

    Society is changing and so are the mediums that we use to keep in contact. People are running as fast as they can in an effort to keep still, therefore you need to employ a medium which is not too invasive*. People do not necessary have the time to talk on the phone and sometimes when you call a potential customer (stress on the word potential) the first thought that will go through that person’s mind is “how did they get hold of my details” causing them to adopt an antagonistic, oppositional stance before the conversation has even started.

    So how do you measure the success of an email campaign: the answer is it is all very relative. You should aim for about a 20% open rate: some may be able to achieve as much as 30%, whilst some as little as 10%-15%. However, just because someone opens your email does not mean they will buy. So maybe measure it by the amount of traffic generated as a result of an eShot going out: the eShot I always advocate our clients sending is when they have their website redesigned. The cliché “curiosity killed the cat” is incredibly appropriate as people will visit the site just to see what has changed. However, just because they visited your site to see what is new does not mean they will buy. The one thing you can guarantee though, whether they have visited your site or just opened the eShot, as long as the message is clear, they will be aware.

    *Email can be one of the most invasive mediums there is, as discussed in How To Write A Striking, Captivating, Enticing Email Campaign Subject Line. Be aware of this and be careful: people will quickly become turned off and irritated. If the frequency of your emails are too much people will start off by reading the content and deleting your email, they will then very quickly resort to just reading the subject line and deleting your email, and then finally they will read the senders name and delete it straight away without having read any of the message what so ever. The one worse step would be for them to add you to their ‘Blocklist’: I terms this as being worse than allowing the email to land in their inbox and then delete it straight after reading the senders name because at least if it does land in their inbox they have to acknowledge who the eShot is from before deciding what to do. Sometimes people will delete everything that is in the ‘Junk Mail’ folder without even checking. With it arriving in their inbox they are still aware of your existence.

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  • Email Campaign Terminology Explained

    Before you can begin to interpret whether an email campaign has been successful or not it is necessary to understand what terms like "Hard Bounce", "Soft Bounce", "Opt In", "Opt Out" etc mean.

    The A-Z Glossary Of Email Campaign

    A list of IP addresses suspected of sending SPAM

    Emails that are returned to you, as a result of an error such as the email address not being valid, the recipient’s inbox being full etc.

    Click Through Rate (CTR)
    This indicates how many times a link on an email has been clicked.

    Double Opt-In
    This is a process where a user signs up for a service and then, having received an email etc, is then required to confirm their subscription.

    Hard Bounce
    This is when an email is returned to you without it ever reaching the recipient. In cases like this is important to read the return message, as it will be returned with a message like "user unknown" or "host unknown". A hard bounce most often occurs because there is a problem with the recipient’s email address (misspelled etc.). You should unsubscribe hard bounces unless the error is obvious or easily corrected.

    Open Rate
    This indicates how many people have opened the email. The open rate will vary depending on the nature of the email and often the subject line, as discussed last week in How To Write A Striking, Captivating, Enticing Email Campaign Subject Line.

    This is an action undertaken by the recipient where they choose to receive emails from you: they choose to add their email address to your email list for future campaigns.

    This is an action undertaken by the recipient where they choose to remove their email address from your email list, therefore unsubscribing from future campaigns.

    This is when people give their permission to be kept informed and to receive information from you. This happens as the result of recipients choosing to opt-in and being included in future campaigns.

    Something to beware of - this is where you receive an email which appears to be from a genuine trusted source but actually is someone trying to obtain sensitive confidential details from you.  Usually the scenario is somethign similar to the following:

    • You receive an email claiming to be from your bank, for example
    • It leads you to a page which looks identical to your banks website
    • You are then asked to disclose pin numbers, account numbers etc
      • Banks have a policy where they will not ask you for all your secuirty details in one go.  They will ask for the 1st 2nd and 4th number of say a 6 digit number to make it as hard as possible for anybody to obtain the whole 6 digit number.

    Soft Bounce
    This is when an email you sent reaches its recipient as a result of it being forwarded by a systems administrator, redirecting all 'wrongly' delivered emails.

    This is where the sender changes the display name of their email address so that it looks like it came from someone else: for example in the Phishing example above, the scammer sending out the original email, intended to trap the receipient, would 'spoof' by changing the disply name to the name of a bank.

    Unique Opens
    This is different to the open rate as it is disregards someone opening an email if their have already being registered as having opened it.  This gives you a greater indication as to how many individual people have opened your email as opposed to the open rate which tells you how many times your email has been opened regardless of who carried out the action.

    A 'Whitelist' or safe sender list is a list of addresses that a user has deemed as being allowed to send him/her emails. Sometimes emails get branded as SPAM and delivered into 'Junk Mail' folders as a result of the content of the email, as discussed three weeks ago in How To Deal With Email SPAM Filters.  This can be prevented by adding the sender's email address to your 'Whitelist', safe sender list.

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  • How To Write A Striking, Captivating, Enticing Email Campaign Subject Line

    The majority of any preparation time, in terms of an email campaign, is often spent on the content and message of the email itself, yet people forget that the first thing that is read is actually the subject line: the subject line needs to strike a blow, to captivate the recipient, to entice them to read further. The subject line can literally make or break the success of your campaign.

    So what is the magic formula? Well unfortunately there isn't one. There are, however, a handful of tips to bear in mind.

    First The Tips

    There are a variety of approaches your subject line can adopt:

    • The subject line can be treated like a news headline – "'Product X’ is now available with new features and benefits for users"
    • You can be mysterious (not too mysterious mind) enough to arouse a persons curiosity – "Find out the secrets behind a successful email campaign"
    • Alternatively make it clear to the reader what benefits they will receive by reading the rest of the email, not just the subject line – "See how to design a successful email campaign with the perfect subject line"

    Once you have decided the approach that is appropriate for you then start to think what would make you open an email. Think about the emails that are received on a daily basis:

    • "Make money during these hard times"
    • "Check this out!"
    • "You’ve just won a prize"

    Would you open any of them?

    Pay Attention

    In this day and age where everyone is running around trying to secure their future, attention spans are severely limited: if you don’t grab someone immediately then the chance that they will read on is doubtful. When designing a subject line you should look to have the most important elements of it within the first 50-75 characters.

    You Are Human & So Is Your Recipient

    ALWAYS put yourself in the shoes of your intended recipient. Ask yourself how you would receive the email that you are about to send:

    • Would you read on?
    • Do you see any benefit from reading on?
      • Any indication as to what you may learn?
    • Are you selling or educating?
      • Bear in mind that email is very invasive and therefore people will not always appreciate being sold to

    Test the subject line on colleagues: ask them what the first thing that is triggered in their minds.

    Baton Down The Hatches – Incoming SPAM Email Attack

    An email address is like your home address: imagine the amount of SPAM coming through your letterbox. Furthermore, people are personally attached to their email addresses. An invasion of your 'Inbox' provokes the same kind of emotion as an invasion of your home with various direct mail messages. Therefore, proceed with caution. Email by nature is very invasive: it is pretty much immediate and pretty much 'in your face'. As a result you need to provoke a positive, rather than a negative emotion. One way of doing this is seeking to educate the recipient, to be thought provoking, to strike a chord with the recipient rather than being pushy and trying aggressively to sell to the recipient. Email is already pushy and invasive enough. The idea of educating and communicating with the recipient as opposed to selling to the recipient should never be overlooked.

    Our Friends The SPAM Filters

    Probably the most annoying, as discussed in the blog post of two weeks ago, is the consideration you should extend to SPAM filters. Always be aware of SPAM filters. It could be the difference between your email being read or simply being permanently deleted along with the rest of the contents of a persons 'Junk Mail' folder. Always keep in mind that certain phrases both within the subject line of any email as well as the body of it can trigger a SPAM filter.

    The Final Word - TEST

    Once again, as I have stress in my previous blog posts, it is imperative to test: fail to plan, plan to fail. If you don't test you can never be sure how they are being received, if they are being received at all: whilst you can get an overview by viewing various statistics immediately after a campaign has been sent, at that point it is too late. The campaign has already been sent and if it doesn't have the desired effect, consider that strike one. You will be granted very few strikes before a user, by default, deletes any email coming from you which they considers to be marketing.

    Remember the first, well maybe the second element of your email campaign that any recipient sees and reads is the subject line.

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  • How To Design An eShot Template

    The theme for the past two weeks has been centred around eShots, email marketing campaigns and SPAM. This week I thought it appropriate to look at the design of the eShot - the look and feel of the email.

    The first thing to bear in mind is that an eShot should reflect the corporate brand: unfortunately it is all too easy for people to forget this in the pursuit of getting something done, and often getting something done quickly. There are a plethora of email template design systems, all ranging in price: some of them offer standard templates which can be used, free of charge, at the click of a button. The key points are free of charge and click of a button: nothing in life is free and Rome wasn't built in a day. In the past, on the SymVolli blog, we have discussed the idea of doing something on the cheap and it is important that you have taken time to implement a template that will reflect the companies image, rather than a generic one. Furthermore it is the aim of a marketing campaign to leave a positive lasting impression, rather than the impression that this eShot was generated by choosing a template from 1 of say 10 or 20.

    So you have now elected to have your template professionally designed: what do you need to look out for?

    The main consideration is what will be the first thing the user will see. Bear in mind that the first viewing of your eShot may well be via a preview pane: each preview pane will vary in height and width depending on the email client being used and the settings the user has chosen.  The ideal solution would be to place the most important element of you message so that it appears within the preview pane, enticing the user to double click and open the email, for further viewing, in a new window.

    Layout tips:

    • Make sure the key content is visible via the preview pane so as the user is enticed into double clicking rather than them having to double click
    • That your template is not too wide: although current industry standard for web pages may be 1024 x 768 it is best to eShot templates to at least half of that width so they appear clearly within a preview pane - bear in mind AOLs preview pane is as small as 194 pixels wide
    • Ensure that your corporate brand is clearly identifiable and that your company logo is visible - this will allow your recipient to disseminate  your email from the rest of the SPAM they receive on a daily basis

    One mistake that people often fall into is that they design their content using lots of images.  Whilst this has the advantage of allowing you to design potentially one of the most stunning eShots your recipient may ever take receipt of, it also has the potential to hide and hinder the transmission of your message. Due to various security measures etc. which have been put in place, the user is able to choose whether they want to download any graphics which are embedded in an email. As a result if you bury your message in images the user may choose not to download the images and therefore never read the message you are trying to communicate.

    Image tips:

    • DO NOT bury your entire message in images - the user may choose to never download the images and therefore never read your message
    • More images means more download time - more and more people are reading their emails on their phones and therefore the size of the email, in terms of kilobytes (KB) needs to be kept to a minimum - furthermore, regardless of what the user may be using to read the email (phone or computer) the bigger in size, the more download time is required, the longer it takes to properly display the whole email
    • Do not make your images so 'snazzy' that they detract from your message - use them to emphasise what you are trying to say not dominate what you are saying

    NB: Too many images and not enough text, as I discussed in last weeks blog post, runs the risk of your eShot being branded as SPAM.

    You have caught the recipients attention and they have decided to double click and open the email: the next trick is to get them to use your call to action, to download a PDF, to call you for further information etc. The call to action should be placed in a prominant position so as to always be in the users eye line.

    Text tips:

    • Do not waffle: quickly get to the point and stick to it. A users attention span is short lived - think how you react when you receive and email
      • Essays are meant for white papers and articles; not eShots 
    • Style keywords in bold so they immediately jump off the page and hopefully entice the user to read the whole email and pursue their interest further

    Bonus tips:

    • Where possible merge the recipients email address into the email (the best place for this is usually in the footer) -  this is purely for administrative purposes. Sometimes emails are forwarded on and when the user then asks to have the original email address removed from your future campaign lists, you then have a headache on your hands trying to track who you orginally sent it to.
    • Include a forward to a friend link - this will encourage people to share the eShot therefore allowing you to reach an audience that you are not even aware of
    • Always bear in mind anti-virus software - do not include javascript, Flash objects, ActiveX components as this is how viruses have been known to be transported and therefore elements of your eShot will be stripped out, if not entirely blocked due to the potential security risk

    And the legal stuff:

    You are required to include somewhere on your eShot the registered company number and the registered company address. You are also required to provide some form of a mechanism which allows users to unsubscribe from future campaigns.

    The Final Word - TEST

    You can never underestimate the value of testing an eShot prior to sending out to its intended audience.

    • Check to see that the eShot looks good - the first impression will be based on the subject line of the eShot, which is next weeks blog topic, and the look and feel of the eShot itself
    • Ensure all images have been correctly uploaded
    • Proof read - the last thing you want is to send out an eShot which looks like it has been designed and written in a matter of minutes without any care and attention

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  • How To Deal With Email SPAM Filters

    Following on from last week’s blog regarding on ‘How To Design An Email Marketing Campaign’ this week I thought it maybe be appropriate to continue the theme and analyse in a bit more depth a pit fall that many succumb to: SPAM filters. Unfortunately, even if you are not someone who sends SPAM you can be branded as one; genuine email marketers, sending emails to people who have requested that they be kept informed (permission-based emails) often get they emails spam filtered. A supplier of ours has fallen into the trap: genuine emails keeping their partners informed are now being delivered as “[SPAM] XXX”.

    The most important thing is to understand how SPAM filters work.

    SPAM filters work on a list of criteria to judge each email: a list of various criteria can be found at SpamAssassin (SpamAssassin is an open-source SPAM filter). Whilst a lot of what is listed may not mean much, what the table outlines is the area of the email that SPAM filters analyse, what they look for and then the score that is assigned to the email being tested of the test is returned as being positive (if you scroll down the list there are some more obvious criteria, such of which probably most email addresses in the world have received at one time or another). There is a ‘magic’ score that each email needs to stay below: the more points each email amasses the near that score they move until… too late… the subject line now reads “[SPAM] XXX”

    Some of the common trigger elements are as follows:

    • Styling of the email can be an issue
      • Font size is large
      • Font size is huge
      • The colour of the text within the email is similar to the background colour
      • If the html of the email is not properly and tidily constructed
      • An email that is one big image and no text – each email will be judged on its text to image ratio; this is because spammers have tried to use images to hide the nature of the email as SPAM filters are unable to read images)
    • “Test” (in the subject line) – an easy to fall into especially if you are just testing a campaign
    • “As seen” (in the subject line) – think about how many emails you have received with the phrase “as seen on TV”

    All of the above plus many others will be used to assess the overall email and deem whether it is SPAM or not.

    As a result of SPAM filters and being marked as a spammer, you may find that your everyday emails may also be branded as SPAM, or worse still, not delivered: this can be as result of your email server being blacklisted. You can use a variety of websites to test whether your server has been blacklisted:

    Each blacklist has its own procedure regarding trying to be delisted: you should check out what is required with each one.

    With all this in mind what can you do to avoid being blacklisted: there are now a plethora of email marketing services which allow you to avail yourself of their services. As a result you use their servers and therefore do not risk your everyday communications being treated as SPAM as well. Furthermore, a lot of these allow you to carry out tests against the criteria previously mentioned, before sending, as to whether your campaign will be regarded as SPAM. This in turn will save money, time and a lot of hassle.

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