We did it. Out of untold submissions, Indiemark has won MailChimp’s template throwdown! Besides a bit of folding money we also received this sweet wrestling belt.
As we all know, email marketing works so I won’t bore you with this information. Instead, let’s see what an email marketing consultant is and what they can do for you.
Email marketing consultants generally take three forms, an Email Marketing Agency, a Freelancer, or an in-house staffer at an Email Service Provider (ESP) or Traditional Agency; all of which have skills and experience that are specific to developing effective email marketing strategies. However, their core competencies and service offerings vary greatly.
So do you need an email marketing consultant? If so, what type? Ask yourself the following questions.
Is my mailing solution right for me?
Does my ESP or in-house solutions provide all the features I need? Am I using the features that I’m paying for? It is easy for ME to use? Is my throughput in-line with my cost?
What am I mailing?
Have I mapped out what should I send? Such as Welcome emails, Newsletters, Abandoned Orders, Promotions, and Reactivation emails? What am I missing? Where does the email communication chain breakdown?
When should I be mailing?
Should I use information based on my recipient’s actions to send emails, such as white paper downloads or cart abandonment? What about date-driven emails, such as holiday-only buyers or anniversaries. What’s my editorial calendar for my newsletters? Am I keeping track of ad-hoc promotional emails?
What are my business rules?
Have I decided what causes a message to be sent? What data is needed to support the message? Should the data import process be manual or automatic? What content is sent when those conditions are met? What’s my plan for From names and Subject lines? Should I mix it up? What and when should I test?
What are my goals?
Have I established goals, such as number of downloads, sales, registrations? What do I plan to do to grow my list? What can I do to reduce attrition?
What are my reporting needs?
Do I need to see more than just clicks and opens to improve my results and prove my case? Do I need my tap into outside data such as CRM and website analytics tools to establish and track my success metrics?
Email marketing is a valuable endeavor for most marketers, but the process can be challenging and time consuming. An email marketing consultant or agency can help you meet your goals while allowing you to use your time to operate other aspects of your business.
Need more than just insight? An email-focused agency can also provide with the supporting services, as well as direction, that are required to launch and support a strong email marketing program; read how-to hire an email marketing agency to learn more.
In part one of this two-part series we discussed when and why it might be a good idea to contract with experts who possess, dedicated, email marketing experience. Now we’ll outline the guiding principles to consider before hiring an email marketing agency, email marketing consultant or in-house email marketing manager. Why? All too often companies make their selection based on the wrong criteria, which causes heartache, inefficiency, and a significant amount of lost productivity and dollars.
Things You Shouldn’t Do
1. Don’t limit your search geographically. Yes, the most expedient way to build trust is in face-to-face relationships, but that doesn’t mean trust can’t also be built on separate coasts or continents for that matter. Keep in mind that what you’re looking for is the correct fit. Restricting your search from the outset to a defined geographic area is unnecessarily limiting. With your marketing budget and ROI at risk, the stakes are just as high. In this day of the email and WebEx, communication is easy and instantaneous. In fact, when we do meet in person with our clients (whether they required ad hoc or fully managed services), meetings are usually focused and efficient because we’ve planned them in advance and time is limited.
2. Don’t screen out professionals based on size. If you’re a small company, you shouldn’t rule out working with a gun-for-hire simply because they offer more services and have more experience than you need; sure, you may not be a huge profit center for them but perhaps they have the precise expertise you need.
Similarly, larger clients shouldn’t exclude small agencies or independent professionals from their consideration. Talented people at the helm of small shops may have more experience than a localized email marketing professional or the mid-level staffers that would be assigned to you at a big full-service agency. It’s the attention, expertise, and ideas that matter.
3. Don’t make industry experience a must-have. Marketing pros with a lot of category experience might be subject to industry group-think. No one group or individual will ever know as much as you do about your industry, so you should hire them for what they do know: the art and science of email marketing.
One of the things I love about being in email marketing is the cross-pollination of ideas gained from working across a variety of industries. Every industry is unique, but they all share common characteristics. Often what we learn serving a client in one industry triggers a fresh idea for a client in another.
4. Don’t ask for (or entertain) speculative work. Speculative campaigns or tests are the bane of the agency business, the same holds true for email-centric ones. Spec campaigns are like steroids, they often over-inflate the presenters’ capabilities. But the biggest reason not to ask for spec work is that the best prospects–the ones you really want–won’t do it. They don’t have to. The more they are willing to jump through speculative hoops for you, the more you should be suspicious. If they’re ready to give away their work there must not be a very good market for it.
5. Don’t avoid questions about your budget. Don’t let anyone tell you that money (or budget) doesn’t talk. Each agency or outsourcer has certain client budget minimums, arrived at through experience and predicated in part by the economy and their current client load. That’s why it’s important, for the sake of conducting an informed review, that you have some idea of what your budget is or should be. Maybe you’ve had an unpleasant experience by declaring your budget early on or what you thought was too openly (remember the first website you had developed?) It happens. But as a general rule, when you speak with the interested prospects, engage in open dialogue when it comes to your budget. In the end it will save you time, energy, and money.
So how should you select an email marketing partner?
1. Do determine what you need. The worst thing you can do is hire for a job and then not let them do it. Do you need someone to lead or someone to follow? A firm that can develop strategy or an expert at execution? A consultant that likes to have fun or one that’s all business? An employee to take orders or someone who will challenge your thinking?
2. Do initiate a conversation. Send the prospects an e-mail, or give them a call. Spend a few minutes on the phone together and you’ll get an immediate sense of chemistry and interest. Ask them about their history, who their current clients are, what their core capabilities are.
3. Do invite them to review a handful of case studies. Keep in mind that you’re not looking to see if they have good outcomes to report (all of them will) but to understand the thinking behind how they arrived at their solutions. You’ll learn about their process, what it is, how it works, and how it might fit your company and culture. Is it methodical? Inspiration-based? Data-driven?
When you find a good fit, discuss with them the best way to ensure a long and successful relationship. Come to clear agreement on your expectations for compensation and services. Then fire the starter’s gun and let them work.
You may already know that 20% of email communications are rendered invisible due to image blocking. But did you also know that 30% of those recipients are unaware that images are even being blocked?
Needless to say, this troublesome limitation creates many challenges for email marketers. But that’s just the way it is, right? Not so fast.
We’ve licensed a powerful little application, crafted by our friends at StyleCampaign, that converts each pixel of an image into HTML — which may avoid the issue altogether.
With the restrictions placed upon email marketing by image blocking, why not use this technique if it helps you to better communicate with your customers.
Scott Hardigree | 407.614.5952 | www.indiemark.com
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.