Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Benchmarking Your Email Marketing Success and Death

My clients at iContact often ask me what a reasonable open rate would be for their email marketing campaigns. I joke that 100% would be great, before suggesting that there is not an easy answer to this question.
This is because there are so many, often unknown, variables to take into account when building engaging email marketing campaigns. These include your list, subject line, message quality, timing, frequency, the influence of all your previous campaigns and your wider reputation.
Many marketers look to the success of their competitors to benchmark their campaigns. A cursory Internet search will deliver a number of reports based across a range of business sectors.
However, I believe this benchmarking approach to gauging success is limiting. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a former boss, back in the day when I worked in the newspaper industry.
Lamenting about the demise of regional newspapers (incidentally long before Internet had any real impact), he said: “When everyone is terminally ill, there is no victory in being the last to die.”
Quite a shocking statement, but (especially considering the current state of the newspaper industry) a very insightful one, I think you will agree.
By benchmarking your email marketing campaigns against your industry peers you could be simply looking for small victories in an ill-judged competition.
When you consider that many of your competitors will be delivering sub-standard email marketing campaigns to less than engaged lists, the fact that you might be delivering above average open and click-through rates is far from a winning strategy.
I’d like to argue the only activity you should benchmark is your own.
Take a look at your own open, click-through, conversion, unsubscribe and bounce rates and then look at how you make them better.
Is your list full of deadwood? Could you do a better job of segmenting your subscribers? Have you tested your subject lines and email creatives recently? Would a change of frequency make a difference?
While benchmarking may help you find solace in being perceived as the best of a bad lot, imagine the rewards of knowing you are, in fact, delivering the best quality email marketing campaigns based on your own terms.
Download iContact’s Free 10 Rules for Successful Email Marketing white paper.


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