E-mail marketing secrets and lies

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This week Forrester Research released a new report, “Benchmark Your Email Organization,” that details some surprising e-mail marketing trends and practices.

For the study, Forrester surveyed 260 e-mail marketers to help understand the business processes that are used to run e-mail programs. The findings of the study show that, despite the fact that most companies have been doing e-mail marketing for years, the channel is still immature, said Julie M. Katz, Forrester analyst and author of the study.

Marketers lack a cohesive strategy and don’t manage frequency, acquisition or list cleaning well, the report found. “It’s pretty sad,” Katz said. “There are some great tools and benefits out there and marketers just aren’t taking advantage.”

Below Katz reveals one little-known secret and one commonly believed lie about e-mail marketing.

Secret: The best metrics go beyond opens and clicks.

According to the report, 59% of marketers are still using such standard e-mail analytics as opens and clicks to learn about performance. By doing so, Katz said, they are missing out. “The best metrics to track are engagement over time and ROI,” she said. “They can give you the information you need to tweak your program and re-engage people who have declining interest.”

One way to check engagement is integrate e-mail and Web analytics to track where e-mail subscribers are going after they click through to a message. You should also track people when they come to your Web site regardless of how they got there, she said. “Tracking through to the site is a good thing because that’s when people are showing that they are active and engaged,” Katz said.

Lie: Testing e-mail marketing is difficult.

One of the most surprising things Katz discovered was a widespread lack of testing. A mere 15% of marketers report having a comprehensive testing program that applies lessons learned to future campaigns. Twenty percent of respondents said they don’t do any testing, and 55% said they do “some testing on an ad hoc basis with a limited number of elements,” according to the report.

“I was shocked because it’s so easy to test and optimize a campaign via testing,” Katz said. “E-mail marketers have an opportunity to make their e-mail programs so much stronger if they think about devising a systematic testing program. They should sometimes test subject lines, sometimes test creative, sometimes test which offers to send.”

The benefits of testing are multifaceted, she said. Marketers can present more relevant content and offers and create e-mails that will drive opens and interaction, she said. “You end up understanding your customers better and understanding their needs,” Katz said.

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