March 10, 2009

More Data: Jump On It!

by Kristen Gregory, Manager of Strategic Services at Bronto Software

Your data is talking to you. If you're not taking the time to listen, evaluate, and ultimately act, you could be missing some big messages, such as:

"Your email is boring, the offer never changes and no one opens your messages anymore. Yawn."

"You are emailing far too many people than would ever care about this offer."

"Your new preheader has increased clicks."

"Your landing pages stink."

Last time, we reviewed how you can improve your open and click-through rates. Here are some questions related to other metrics that should lead you to concrete actions:

Click/Open Rate

The click/open rate is the percentage of people who clicked after opening.  Of course, if clicking through isn't necessary for your email to be considered successful (in a promotion for a brick and mortar store, for example), then you could have a lower click/open rate that would not necessarily reflect that your audience or subject line were off-base. However, if you want to increase the rate of people who click after opening, ask yourself:

  • Does my subject line accurately reflect the main message/offer, so they will not be disappointed/surprised/lose interest?
  • Does my subject line intrigue and direct the reader to an action (e.g. "Watch the house-cleaning robot transform a frat house")?
  • How can I adjust my creative to offer more varied points of engagement (text, images, links) and/or alternate offers? Or do I need to pare down and simplify my email to keep from overwhelming or confusing my readers?

Conversion Rate

Assuming, of course, that all the previous actions are taken (opening an email and clicking through), and assuming you have already tested on elements like pricing and defined product offerings, how can you improve your conversions?

  • Do you take your readers to a landing page that matches the offer or content, or is it a page where folks have to search to find what they clicked through to see?
  • Have you provided consistency from subject line to main message to calls-to-action to actual product offering (in other words, the end product/offer is what you portrayed from the get-go)?
  • Are you giving your prospect all the information they need to feel comfortable converting both on the offer page and in the shopping cart (full offer details, images/product photos, product reviews, shipping information, return or cancellation policies)?
  • Are your action buttons/links clearly visible?
  • Is your checkout process straightforward and as simple as possible? (Ask yourself if your grandparents could navigate this process.)

Turnover Rate (unsubscribes, complaints, bounces)

Monitoring your unsubscribes, complaints and bounces is imperative. Just as all the above data points indicate your email's performance, these "darker" metrics let you know when things are going wrong or moving in that direction (or conversely, when your strategy is well-received!).

Essentially, you should have a baseline of how many people typically unsubscribe from your emails. When you see your unsubscribes or complaints spike, you need to ask:

  • Did the most recent email(s) deviate from the norm? If so, how?
  • Was the subject line or offer misleading or spammy?
  • Is my from name recognizable and consistent across all messages?
  • Have I increased frequency lately, possibly annoying people?  Or, has it been months since I last mailed them and they may not remember me or have lost interest?
  • Am I emailing content that that these contacts gave me permission to send them? Have I veered from their expectations?

Watching your bounce rate will also help you realize when things are going wrong with your lists or deliverability.  If you see bounces increasing, here are some basic questions to ask yourself to start tackling your deliverability or sign-up obstacles:

  • Have I added any new questionable leads into recent deliveries (old lists, non-permission lists, co-registration or trade show lists)?
  • Is it possible that I'm getting bad addresses in my sign-up process (e.g. data entry errors in call centers or typos in webforms)? Is there anything I can do to improve this (e.g. incentivize reps to collect valid email addresses, require subscribers to enter their email addresses twice at sign-up, or require double-opt-in)?
  • Am I being blocked by any ISPs? (Investigating the bounce files will let you know where you are having problems.)
  • Am I testing my emails against spam filters and creating alternate text versions of my emails?

Remember, data means nothing if you don't do anything with it!

Stay tuned for more data dissection in a subsequent post and be sure to let me know what considerations I'm leaving out! I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Kristen Gregory
Account Manager at Bronto

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Kristen Gregory, Manager of Strategic Services at Bronto Software

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