Keeping email errors at bay will help boost business results

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Would you know if you made a mistake in an email marketing campaign? Sure, you might if you got a few emails alerting you to the problem; but, given the extreme time crunch most people work under, it's probably just as likely that you'd never find out. This, in turn, could hurt your sales and reputation, something Kevin Kestler, director-communications at Kestler Financial Group, almost found out the hard way. Kestler Financial Group sends out a weekly newsletter to about 9,000 subscribers, most of whom are contracted insurance agents looking for information about annuities, regulations and insurance carrier initiatives. Back in November, the company sent out its regular Tuesday email newsletter, which contained headlines, short descriptions and links to the longer PDF versions of the news and data. At the time, open rates were about 17%, and click-through rates were sitting “around 7%,” Kestler said. Kestler, who uses ExactTarget's Interactive Marketing Hub, had recently started tracking open rates and click-through rates in real time. On that day, Kestler saw that his open rates were about normal—around 15%. But his click-through rate was a mere 2%, significantly less than what is typical for the company, Kestler said, who realized something was wrong. His first stop: the interactive newsletter layout, in which he could look at individual link activity. “With [the Marketing Hub], I am able to see a link overlay of my emails and see the updated stats on each of the links,” he said. “I was able to see which of the key links had no clicks at all; that's when I figured it out.” Several of the outbound file names were misspelled in the email. Since all the links were to pages on the company's site, Kestler had a choice: change the original file names to match the misspelling or send out a corrected email. He chose the first option, going back and changing the PDF file names so that they matched the misspellings. Once he did that, click-through rates started to normalize, Kestler said. “Within a matter of hours, click-throughs went up to 6.5%,” he said. “Instead of resending, we were able to get the change done on our end. Anyone who emailed and said they couldn't click through was told to try and click on it again.” This is a good lesson for marketers, said Kestler, who suggested that everyone should watch campaigns closely, especially within the first few hours, to uncover any problems immediately. “You don't want to wait three days to look at your results,” he said. “Yes, we still wait three business days to consider a [final] result set in stone; but it's important to see what's happening right away so you can make any needed adjustments.” Misspellings and incorrect links are more common than marketers might think, said R.J. Talyor, director-product marketing at ExactTarget. “This happens to our customers every day,” he said. “In the past, these blips or trends may have gone unnoticed; but, as email becomes more real-time, marketers can do something about it.” In fact, Talyor said, some of his clients are actually projecting real-time marketing results on TV monitors screens. “It raises the accountability level of the marketing department, and raises the visibility of the department as well.”
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