Note: This post is NOT written for list owners. It’s written for advertisers that rent emails lists or advertise in email newsletters. If you’re an advertiser who has, or is planning, to include 3rd-party email into your marketing mix it will help to use the channel more successfully and get a better ROI, with smaller budgets. In the end, it will help list owners, too. After all a happy advertiser is a repeat advertiser.
Throughout my years in email marketing both on the agency and list manager side, I’ve had a few conversations like this, and I paraphrase, “I’m cancelling my campaigns because I’m not getting enough [clicks, leads, sales, or other tangible results]. ” The advertiser then pulls the campaign and leaves disappointed with the performance of the email list.
But there have also been instances when, before the advertiser (or their agency or list broker) pulled the campaign, they were willing make a few small adjustments and retest. And for those who once felt disappointed then saw an immediate improvement in campaign performance. I shared with them one tried-and-true secret to successful email advertising, which is:
Match your creative and success criteria to your campaign objective.
Yes. This is marketing 101, but I cannot tell you how often I have seen that the objective, creative, and measures of success are completely misaligned. And when they are, the campaign is nowhere near as successful as it could be. (NOTE: For reasons unknown this misalignment happens more often with email.)
The good news is that it’s an easy fix that can quickly invert the ROI of email marketing. When looking at an email-centric campaign, start by asking yourself these four questions:
1. What is my goal for this campaign?
2. Does my creative and landing page align with that goal?
3. Does my offer, creative and landing page make sense to my audience and not just to me?
4. How will I measure the success of the campaign, and does it align with the goal?
What are you trying to achieve? Branding? Registrations? A sales inquiry? An immediate purchase? Whatever your goal is, make sure that your creative, landing page, and measurements all align with the goal and make sense from the perspective of your audience (which is often different than yours).
Is your goal branding? Email effectively achieves key branding goals: awareness, message association, favorability, purchase intent, etc. I’ve found that most advertisers, especially when using e-newsletter advertisements, have great success with branding ads in the email channel. Their creatives are engaging, their brand is prominent, and they reinforce messages that they want the viewer to associate with their brands. But the disconnect, when there is one, comes when the advertiser measures the campaign by clicks or some other metric when the creative was never intended to elicit that kind of response. Brand is measured by the impact that viewing (i.e., an impression) the ad has on the perception and intent of the viewer, not by an immediate response. Instead use open-rates as your barometer.
Want visits to your website or new registrations? Great! Make sure to design your creative to elicit that kind of response. If your ad’s message is, “WidgetTown: The best widgets around. Click here for more.” you may have impacted the prospects’ brand perceptions, but you are unlikely to get them to click. Why should they? They have all the information they need, and down the road, if they need a widget, they are more likely to call you. But they’re not going to click right now or they, by virtual of impeccable timing, have an immediate need. If your goal is registrations, give the viewer a reason to click. Give them something that’s truly valuable (to them).
Is your goal lead generation? The incentive and landing page is now a critical part of your campaign. Does the creative tie in to the landing page? Is the incentive promoted in the creative clearly and prominently shown on the landing page? Is it clear on the landing page what the viewer must do next, and is the incentive reinforced? Are there distractions (navigation, social network links, etc.) that would derail the prospect from completing the task? Any of these can reduce the effectiveness of a lead-generation campaign and reduce the number of leads you generate.
Maybe your goal is online sales. Is it a product that someone would buy on impulse or should your campaigns be centered on events, such as holidays? Have you gone through the entire checkout process? Is it clean and simple, or convoluted and cryptic? Are you tracking cart abandonment so you can see where the problem spots are? Does your email service provider (ESP) or internal email solution support cart abandonment triggers? Are you placing a cookie in the visitors’ browsers so if they come back in a couple days and buy that product, you can credit the ad that generated the leads?
By the way, don’t try to achieve multiple goals with one campaign. It will be like a futon—it doesn’t make a very good sofa or a very good bed.
These are just of few of the basic but ever-present factors that can affect desired actions and thus your evaluation of the ROI of your 3rd party email campaigns. Just remember, the line between and email marketing success and relative failure in a fine one. Use these steps to ensure that your messages and objectives are inline and you can instantly sway the ROI-meter to your favor.