The IDM Guide to Email Marketing

Produced for the IDM by The Email Academy

© The Institute of Direct Marketing

Table of contents
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it ....................................................................... 3 What can you measure? ......................................................................................................... 5 How can you measure? ........................................................................................................... 6 Improving Delivery Rates ....................................................................................................... 8 Improving Open Rates .......................................................................................................... 11 Improving Click-Through Rates ........................................................................................... 14 Improving Un-subscribe Rates ............................................................................................. 15 Improving Post-Click Activity................................................................................................ 18 20 Quick Wins to improve email success ........................................................................... 21


© The Institute of Direct Marketing

it does provide links to further resources.. This guide is intended to help marketers identify the key factors that affect campaign success and provides a number of “quick wins and big wins” to make your next one more profitable. delivered the highest Return On Investment of any direct marketing channel. We take our starting point as the types of reporting that email campaigns generate. we trust that you can find many ways to improve your own email marketing performance through this Guide and other Institute of Direct Marketing learning and development resources. It is by no means an exhaustive commentary on email marketing but. Indeed. It is designed to both explain some of the key elements in campaign planning and also give some practical suggestions to improving campaign performance. there is often too much data to know where to begin assessing campaign performance and making improvements to the next one. According to the Direct Marketing Association in the USA. where appropriate. for example. or better still. how many people opened a mailpack buy took no further action. it may not be really useful One of the frustrations with email marketing is that it throws up data that is not generally available to direct marketers. both on and off-line. through to more advanced 2 day workshops and onto the Email Marketing Award. for the last few years. from one day courses for BtoB marketers.The IDM Guide to Email Marketing Introduction This Guide to Email Marketing runs through some of the challenges and opportunities that email marketing presents. email marketing has. The Institute of Direct Marketing has a number of courses and professional qualifications that address email marketing. you can’t manage it Most email campaigns generate a huge amount of data. Just because you can measure it. On that basis. Direct mail practitioners would dearly love to know.. Even the Certificate and the Diploma in Digital Marketing courses cover the discipline in significant detail. If you can’t measure it. as does the Diploma in Direct and Interactive marketing. 3 © The Institute of Direct Marketing .

Whilst email marketing has only been around for a few years it is a direct marketing channel and most of the rules for all other direct response media hold true. time spent crafting and testing offers will pay handsome rewards and you should try and test some kind of offer in all campaigns that you carry out. That’s enough of an introduction…let’s get measuring! 4 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . Similarly. Focus your attention on the campaign elements that will deliver the greatest return for your efforts. as well as creative and format executions is it worth investigating whether Wednesday at 3:00pm is a better time to launch a campaign than Thursday at 11:00am…you just won’t see as great a return for your endeavour. here is an observation to share with you: Remember the leverage points… Our direct marketing ancestors have a passed down to us a body of knowledge. As a result the open rate and timing of actions have gripped some e-marketers with an unhealthy interest! However. Only when you have tested these areas.when they opened the mail pack. and the hierarchy of areas is as follows: List Offer Creative Format Timing This list shows us that we should take as much care in list selection for email as we would do for direct mail campaigns and your reward could be an uplift of a factor of 6 between the best list and the worst list.

What can you measure? As mentioned before. email is a wonderfully information-rich medium and the elements you can manage include. 5 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . but are not limited to: Delivery Statistics Messages Send Hard Bounces Soft Bounces Messages Delivered Key Performance Metrics Open Rate Click-through rate Multiple-click through First-time Click -Through Date and Time of each activity Post email activity Actions completed on a web site Actions completed through a call centre/account manager/by post Conversions Average Order Value Total Value of activity Feedback “Reply To” Activity Unsubscribes Profile Updates We will look at some of these key metrics in more detail and show how you can drive campaign success upwards in each critical area.

but sometimes used to create “matching luggage” from an email to a dedicated landing page. ad words and email campaigns. Separate landing pages for data segments Cumbersome to scale for multiple campaigns. click-through and post-campaign activity Can be refused by man and machine. but the de facto standard for measuring clicks from banners. Generally speaking the most-used tracking methods are: Open rate Invisible GIF images Click-Through rate Page Re-direction Post-Campaign Activity Session-based Cookies 6 © The Institute of Direct Marketing .How can you measure? There are many ways that you can track email activity and the list below gives a few pointers as to how you can measure specific events. Page Redirection for click-through More steps in the unstable internet chain. As you can see. whilst there are a number of ways to track activity there are limitations to all of them so we need to make some compromises. or use the information generated with caution. Log file analysis for click-through and post-campaign activity Needs to be formatted and mined to be useful Invisible GIF’s for open-rate tracking Cannot track “opened off-line” responders Cookies for open. can be deleted and will only identify a “visitor” unless somebody is logging in via a username and password.

7 © The Institute of Direct Marketing .

Is it a problem? If your hard bounce rate is over about 5% for a regularly mailed list then you may want to ask yourself a few questions such as: Where are the invalid addresses coming from? What checks do we have in place for improving quality of data capture? A simple. This could minimise the amount of invalid addresses making their way into your system. This could either mean the domain is invalid. once 8 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . or the address had some errors that made it un-mailable. on a web site or on What about soft bounces? A number of email addresses will be un-mailable on a temporary basis. An example of simple “syntax validation” in the email field from www. the user does not exist.digg. quick win may be to include some basic email address validation wherever you harvest email addresses…at a call centre. but it has been returned as un-deliverable. or may be undeliverable for an un-specified reason.Improving Delivery Rates What is happening with hard bounces? A hard bounce is where you have tried to send an email message to a user. Keep remailing these addresses and they may convert into mailable messages (for instance. These are classified as “Soft Bounces” and you would anticipate about 5% of messages to be soft bounces on an average campaign.

It can then decide that the sender is broadcasting an unacceptable amount of Spam and their IP address is added to a RBL.senderbase. Every email broadcast platform can be identified by its IP address. no matter how good and honest you are – people forget they subscribed to your services. When Spam complaints are sent to a blacklist management organisation they make a note of the number of Spam complaints. The sad fact of life is that you will always get Spam complaints.spamcop. Another useful resource is www. It contains an IP Address look-up to see if you are in fact blacklisted.a crashed server has been restored) and some will end up becoming hard bounces (once we confirm that the address is invalid). 9 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . One of the more active organisations for RBL management is Spamcop. a bit like a unique phone number. Am I on a Blacklist? An increasing number of ISP’s are using Real-Time Blacklists (RBL’s) to identify and block potential spam senders as part of a “reputation-based” spam filtering strategy. Work with your Email Service Provider to understand how they categorise “soft bounces” and ask them to make suggestions as to how they can improve them. servers can look at the sender IP address and cross-reference it with a black-list…if the number is a really useful resource. the frequency and volume of send as well as its overall reputation and presence on black-lists. and their web site www. the message will be flagged as possible spam and more stringent checks performed on it. You may want to look at: Are my messages not getting through to a few domains? Could we be blacklisted by an ISP/company? Are there soft bounces to HTML messages but not to text messages? In this way you can build up a profile of what addresses may be bouncing and develop a process to improving it. or they just feel like reporting you as they’re having a bad day! You need to know if you are on a RBL as this will affect your deliverability. When checking in-coming mail. This can be a daunting area for marketers and it is wise to discuss this issue with your Email Service Provider’s deliverability team. they think a message is a bit “spam-like”. whether the broadcaster has “transparent” self-identification practices and several other that will show monitor volumes of message sent by IP Address. the total broadcast activity from that server. Use it to monitor the deliverability levels of your broadcast platform and you will be in more control of deliverability.

making it likely to be from a spammer. Your Email Service Provider should be working with you on managing your reputation using resources like Senderscore. which could explain why their email ended up in a Gmail Spam folder! The “whois” information is unknown. 10 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . All elements suggest that this is not a reputable sender. they are on 6 different black-lists and two of their IP addresses have a “Poor” reputation.This is a screenshot of an IP address “reputation” using Senderscore.

People also tend to sort incoming mail by the “From” field. People will recognise it. people may not make the connection to your brand and you may lose them. However. Maybe you can use a co-brand to give you greater weight for a specific message…ABC Print” may not be as arresting as “ABC Print and Canon”. If you use an individual’s name. don’t forget to test different “From” fields as this could result in better overall campaign performance. When renting data. as this is whom the recipient has a relationship with. Let’s look at how you can do it. so using your brand name will increase the chances of your message being retrieved. Finally. The FROM Field This defines the relationship between you and the recipient. You only have 30 characters in Outlook 2007’s default settings to squeeze the “From” details into. provided this is a legitimate copromotion. Be transparent and honest. so plan to keep the name as short as possible. If you have a brand name. People will choose to open an email based on: Is it from anybody I want or need to hear from? Does the Subject line capture my attention? How big is the file size? When was it sent? Does it look anything like SPAM? Your role as an email marketer is to optimise the positive feeling that a recipient gets in the few moments it takes them to process all this information. use it.Improving Open Rates An open rate is a strange beast for direct marketers…it’s a fascinating variable that you cannot get hold of with traditional direct mail and should yield a wealth of campaign insight. 11 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . measurement of open rates is fraught with difficulties: You can’t measure it in text emails (apart from people who click through!) You can’t identify people who open emails off-line You can’t discriminate between “openers” and “previewers in Outlook” More email software is disabling the “Invisible GIF” open-rate tracking It’s only really a means to an end – you’re no richer for somebody opening an email Consumers will make opening decisions based on the few cues they have in their in-box. the “From Field” should already be set by the list owner.

have a summary of what you are offering in the opening 3 sentences. you really want to focus on getting your open rate as high as possible. YahooMail to name a few). but they’re on a slow wireless connection and the email is 240k! Chances are they may give you a miss this time. To make matters worse. The list owner name usually takes up the “From” field and you only have the width of a “Subject line” to weave your magic. the total number of characters you have to play with are limited.maybe around 96 for Outlook but nearer 70 for Windows Live Mail (Hotmail).. However. Use words that conjure up excitement and value rather than “February Newsletter”. never send attachments (always a “click here to download the pdf”) and you will deliver trim emails that everybody will love! The Preview Pane Recipients using most email packages (Outlook. Get it right and you will see your open rate increase. Test at least one subject line with every campaign. Windows Live’s what spammers do). I am sceptical of anything that seems a little out of date (a monthly newsletter at the very end of the month?). Lotus Notes. The From field is great. 12 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . The DATE Field If you have done OK up to this point you should pass the date and time test. the time sent looks plausible.. Remember that images hosted on servers will not count towards file size and keeping them on servers will encourage people to download smaller emails. the subject line gripping. So. There is no reason for an email to be more than about 30k even with most people using broadband connections. testing different time of day and days of week will determine what impact timing has on outcomes. Use this pre-header space to convince people to dig deeper into the message.. You will probably have rented data at 10 pence a message to send somebody a subject line. Again.. you have to distil the core proposition and key benefits of your message into about 10 words.t like images in email. and I am wary of emails that have a time stamp of the middle of the night…prime spam delivery time from North American servers into Europe! So be aware of what these fields connote and don’t slip up having got this far.The SUBJECT Field If you are using email for acquisition. The FILE SIZE Field Your last hurdle. are able to “preview” each message before opening. Try never to embed images as this will increase both the file size and the chances of the message being filtered as Spam (spam filters don. Use this snapshot of your message to maximise the desire for somebody to open the message: Get the key proposition into a headline.

this formatting will actually mirror the lay-out of a well-presented message so if your copywriter is doing what he should be. Most importantly. the Preview Pane will be a great tool for you.Conveniently. your most valuable part of email real-estate is a big empty box with a red cross in the corner. review your use of images in the first 6 – 8 lines. Virtually all recipients will see your email with images disables and if you have slapped a big corporate logo as an image. Oh dear! Work with HTML designers to ensure the preview pane renders well with images disabled – it’s the most valuable part of email real-estate 13 © The Institute of Direct Marketing .

send them another competition You can see that with very little known about the person we can start to craft personalised messages. It’s all about content People are more likely to click through on a link if there is something of relevance there for them. Images. the call to action may be “Ring this Number now” or “print out this email and take it in-store” so we need to be clear about how we judge success. Text. Similarly. Links Better than just having “one size fits all” copy can you make reference to anything you know about them. send them an appropriate welcome message Talk about the trade show they signed up from Or the new version of a product they bought Ask them to share their views in a survey Send a “thanks for staying with us for 6 months” message If they entered via a competition. Headlines. Now let’s see what we can do with a deep profile of a person. use database variables to drive different content.Improving Click-Through Rates Once a recipient has decided that they will open a message your task is to get them to take action. Similarly. You should therefore be using what you know about people to determine the kind of message they get. If they are football fans you can welcome them with a “Great Offers for Crystal Palace Fans”. An announcement email imparting some information can achieve its goal without getting a high click-through rate. If you are putting all the information into the message body then there is little need for people to click through. such as: Customers get a different message to prospects “Director” level contacts get a different subject line to “manager” level contacts People living in a specific region get calls to action relevant to them High Value customers get the link to the VIP Web Site Area People who have brought a specific product get a relevant offer Insert an image of a small factory for SME’s and an office block for PLC’s 14 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . Before diving into how we can increase click-through rates it is worth stressing that the objective may not actually be to “click through”. It will be relevant for them and may well capture their attention far more than a standard “Great Offers for our customers” headline. Even if you only have an email address you can have a stab at a personalised message: On joining.

or images based on registration. but not everything (newsletters. but the minimum you aim for is: It should be free It should be easy It should be clear It should be completed within the timescales you set It should be recorded somewhere It should be on every “marketing” communication It should be working at all times There are a number of ways you can build an un-subscribe and the three most-used methods seem to be: A “one-click” process – the link updates a field to “non-mailable” and the subscriber is re-directed to a landing page to acknowledge the action is complete.. it’s automated and it’s generally a safe option A “profile update” process – the subscriber is taken to a page that presents their profile and they are asked to “tune” their permission as they wish. However. It’s in realtime. use anything you can to make each person’s message relevant to them. So. the process involves at least 2 stages. you will see the click-through rates grow. subscribers to your email expect an un-subscribe. One sporting goods company achieved a 66% increase in click-through rate because they asked people what their favourite sports were and delivered a newsletter with content tailored to their preferences. or opening paragraphs. SMS Alerts) A “Reply To” process – entering a key word in the subject/body of a “Reply To” email can be processed efficiently through an automated routine. based on what you know about them. whilst it has always been best practice to do this.. Ask then to showcase how you can deliver different subject lines. 15 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . email). transaction and click-stream data and your email success rates will improve! Improving Un-subscribe Rates As a condition of giving permission to be marketed to. The benefit her is that people can opt out of some things (third party mailings. As a result. will not be “real time” and may also require a significant level of human intervention. Most Email Service Providers have a bewildering range of dynamic and conditional content delivery tools.adding to the process cost and complexity. Indeed. There are a number of ways that you can set up an an-subscribe process to conform with the legal requirements. the legislation that came into effect across Europe since 2003 has made this a legal requirement.In this way you will begin to deliver the best message to suit each person’s profile.

or fixed. Even in the technologydriven world of email marketing you cannot automate good –old-fashioned marketing intuition. Use everything you can to keep people. For a product with a regular. Let them go. Gone are the days when you could make it as hard as possible for people to get off your list. equal relationship with your subscribers. This is obviously bad news…you need to exercise editorial discretion to make sure that what you send out dos not offend or irritate your audience..even bribery as this line from a landing page suggests. this does not mean that they need to be released without a further click. It’s not over until it’s over. More important is the message you send out that attracts a high un-subscribe rate. there you have it – if all else fails.. buying cycle (subscriptions.. However. let them go without a struggle! Triggers for un-joining There are many reasons why people may choose to leave your list. Some companies have seen 40% of their registered users un-subscribe from a specific email message.. so the landing page could be crafted to make people change their mind. If this is the norm. If they want to go. bribe people to stay.. the more you will re-assure people An unsubscribe process is the cornerstone to responsible email marketing.The better the may even enhance their careers! 16 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . insurance etc) you may expect to see an unsubscribe rate of up to 10%.. So. you will probably end up with a more compliant. If you are open and transparent about how you use data and give people re-assurance as to how easy it is to un-join. don’t worry about it too much. a 2009 amendment to the “Can Spam” legislation stipulates that people should be able to un-subscribe without having to enter any kind of password. At worst it is because they have chosen to buy from somebody else and do not need to know about what you have to offer any more.. Somebody who clicks on an un-subscribe link may still be persuaded to stay “opted in” provided we treat them with respect and re-sell the value of them changing their mind! In the USA.

If your un-subscribe rate is edging towards 5% then you may want to leap into action: What source are the un-subscribes coming from? Are they all from a specific promotion? Are they all “low value” time wasters (“Tyre clickers!”)? Generally. This leads to a more serious point: The “value exchange” that went into people sharing their data with you is important. chances are that the possibility of winning a year’s supply of beer is going to attract the wrong people with the wrong motivation. If you want them to enter a deep and meaningful dialogue that may result in a long-term. profitable relationship. an un-subscribe rate below 5% should be an acceptable rate for monthly newsletter campaigns with a low-incentivisation to sign up. Test different offers.Some people will beat the system… If you ask people to sign up to an email programme with a prize draw mechanic. do not be surprised if people choose to un-subscribe with haste when you tell them they’re a loser! It is not unusual to lose a big lump of your prospect database if the level of commitment was only joining for a chance to win something…the record I have come across so far is 40% unsubscribing. monitor the kind of messages that increase the opt-out rate and you should be able to carefully husband your email file. 17 © The Institute of Direct Marketing .

So far we have reviewed and improved our data capture mechanisms and optimised delivery. as many campaigns’ success is judged on what happens from this point onwards. 18 © The Institute of Direct Marketing .com that shows how valuable the landing page is for email campaigns. Here is a table from some research from www.Improving Post-Click Activity An email campaign should be broken down into a series of checkpoints.marketingsherpa. we have looked at maximising the open rate and have driven people to a web site. It is the responses from North American email marketers to a simple question – “what tests have delivered the highest ROI?” This suggests that generating a click is not the end of the story and we need to work hard considering what happens “beyond the click”. Our work is not yet done.

help you select optimum page elements. Feed all this data back into the reporting system and determine your overall campaign effectiveness. namely downloading some sales collateral. Google offers a free multi-variate page testing toolkit with its website optimiser and companies like www. we have managed to get people to the landing page and the email relationship can still be used at this point. With a click. Use deep links to take people right to the heart of your web site so that they can get exactly the information they need to make a decision…don’t just throw them onto the Home Page! Many email campaigns will pass variables from the message to the web and www. And if you know who they are you can pre-populate the form with all their details so they just have to click on the “Submit” button. Consider investing time and intellectual effort in testing the landing page. 19 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . This allows the web designer to create a dynamic page that will configure itself according to the source of data. Create trails to track people through the web site. In this way you can take somebody from the “I want to attend the Seminar” link on the email right to the sign-up form.maxymiser.Email and Web Site working in harmony? Your aim with on-line marketing is to create a compelling. review the overall campaign based on what response came from what list or offer. Finally. seamless journey from the email in-box to the “successful outcome” confirmation page. easy. The above example shows how pre-population of landing pages makes it easier for the recipient to complete the outcome required. the type of campaign or indeed the member profile of the responder. A well as getting people to the landing page you will also need to track activity from this point. for a small fee. and would have resulted in fewer “successful outcomes”.com can. find where many people “fall off” and re-work your customer journey to reflect this.optimist. Without pre-population the blank form may have been a little too daunting for many clickers.

You may find that the “Non-Line Marketing” effect. try and build a general picture of what impact your email campaigns have and factor this into Return on Investment planning and future budgeting. In this way you will need to monitor a range of post-email metrics to discern the overall success of a campaign.People never do what you want them to do Whilst you would like people to click on a link. some people have a different plan. follow a sensible path to the action page and then do as you expect. where people respond to on-line campaigns through off-line channels. can contribute many more “successful outcomes” to your overall campaign success. Here are a few things you may want to monitor: Web-site traffic for 5 days after a campaign – people may not use the email links to get there Increased success for the direct sales team More retail channel/call centre activity Increased direct sales success More orders faxed or emailed in Get the ID’s of people who bought in a specific period – how many of them received an email? So. 20 © The Institute of Direct Marketing .

Use personalised content to make your campaigns more relevant – explore the dynamic and conditional content tools your email broadcast platform offers and test some of them. Develop a “brand personality” through engaging subject lines – “October Newsletter” is about the dullest thing you can ever say! 12. Understand the implications of Reputation management by working closely with your Email Service Provider 9. 21 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . Build a simple un-subscribe process – let people go with grace and dignity. Have consistent From fields to define the relationship with the recipient. 6. The more emails. Build your privacy policy to cover the minimum legal requirements and then a little more to re-assure prospects – a double opt-in may seem an additional burden but it will re-assure people that you respect their privacy 4. Recognise how the “Preview Pane”” can help open and click-through rates by “designing” your message to render efficiently.20 Quick Wins to improve email success We’ve looked at all the individual elements that can contribute to email marketing success. Sign up for emails everywhere (BtoB and BtoC) – make a note of the things that other people are doing well and add them to some kind of “Hall of Fame”. 1. 13. Refine your data capture strategy – start with only and email address and invite people to update their profile over time. Progressive registration allows people to share more information as your relationship flourishes 5. from call centres to retail outlets and trade shows. 14. 2. but be prepared to test different fields if people consistently do not seem to be opening or clicking 10. Use validation software and training of call centre staff to minimise the amount of invalid addresses that get onto your file 7. Start with your data gathering strategy. Test Subject lines “pre-campaign” to find the ones that generate the highest open and click rates and use them to roll out with no more than 24 hours later. 15. Monitor activity beyond the email – how many people do what you want them to do? What if you tested the landing page? It may be the best thing you can do to improve campaign conversion rate. Use people’s click-through activity to segment and target for follow-up campaigns. but it may be worthwhile running through this check-list on a regular basis. 11. It’s the fastest way to learn! 3. Create a policy to manage deliverability into your top 20 ISP’s 8. and it will provide re-assurance to waverers. the more change you have of making an impact. especially with images disabled. Work hard at getting addresses on your web site and every off-line customer touch-point.

19. Track conversion rates from web site – this is probably the only metric that really counts. Personalise the web landing pages to create a seamless journey – again.. Test something on every email and test everything on some emails – it’s the only way to improve.. and remember the leverage points – work on segmentation and targeting offers before worrying about “time of day” 22 © The Institute of Direct Marketing . nice though a 40% open rate may be. Read your “Reply To” messages…they may contain good news as well as bad 17. Test email support for direct mail campaigns – even a small uplift in direct mail response will cost-justify 18.16. speak to your Email Service Provider to ask how you can make landing pages more relevant 20.

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