My First Two Months at Return Path: Email Marketers Can Learn from the New Employee Experience (Part 2)

In Part 1, I began comparing my new employee experience to the new subscriber experience. I continue this theme in Part 2.

It’s All About the Bennies
Before taking my new job as a Response Consultant at Return Path, I definitely wanted to make sure the position and the company met my needs. What was the benefits package like? Was the salary competitive? Would the culture be a good fit for me? I knew that if was going to take the job and commit to the company, the experience would need to be a good fit for me and for Rerturn Path.

It’s a similar process for your email subscribers. How are you going to make sure your subscribers stay on the file and keep active and engaged? If someone gives you their email address, you need to continually understand what they want, when they want it, and deliver it. This involves continually providing interesting and relevant content and recognizing that what’s relevant today may change tomorrow. It’s a pretty basic concept and yet, many email marketers don’t do it. Are you? Ask yourself these questions:

• Are you sending customer satisfaction surveys and implementing a preference center to better understand the needs of your audience?
• Are you looking at trends in your email metrics, as well as click stream data, once a subscriber arrives on your website from an email?
• Have you looked at your database segments recently? Are the segments that have been created still the right segments? Are there some new segments that need to be added?
• Are you looking at your most popular search terms to keep on top of what your audience finds interesting?

The 90 Day Review
In my first 90 days here at Return Path, I’ve got several goals to achieve and I review these regularly with my manager. As busy email marketers, it’s easy to focus on a yearly goal (leads, clicks, revenue) and keep churning out emails without a complete understanding of what is working and what isn’t. To keep your program on track for achieving its goals, you need to make time to review its performance on a regular basis. For example:

• Have you looked at your response rates by message type? By segment? By time of day or day of week?
• What insights are you getting from testing? Are you actually implementing the successful elements and stopping unsuccessful ones?
• Have you reviewed your triggered messages recently? Is the content still relevant? Are the links working? Once these are set up, it’s easy to forget about them.
• Are there any trends you can see from looking at data over a longer period of time?

Development Plan
Just like Return Path wants to ensure that I’m challenged and growing (and ultimately, contributing at a higher and higher level), you need a development plan for your email program. How your subscribers engage with email is ever-changing and what worked in the past isn’t necessarily what is going to work in the future. It’s important to stay on top of trends and proactively prepare for new email developments. To create a comprehensive plan covering every stage of the email lifecycle that will best support your goals for the email channel and your business, ask yourself the following questions:

• What is your plan for dealing with inactive subscribers? Are you sending out a re-permission request? Does your messaging include a targeted “we miss you” offer? What are the penalties for not responding? Are you prepared to remove inactives from the file all together or reduce their frequency?
• How are you going to continue to grow your list? Are you taking advantage of all organic methods at your disposal? Will your list growth strategy include social media integration? Do you send sweepstakes as part of an incentive to join? Do all of your transactional emails promote your opt-in?
• What is your mobile plan for email? According to Nielsen, by the end of 2011, there will be more smartphones in the U.S. market than feature phones. That mean mobile email usage will continue to increase. Are you collecting mobile phone numbers during the optin process? Do you know how your emails render on mobile devices? Do you know what percentage of your audience is reading your emails on a mobile device?
• How can you take advantage of video in your emails?
• What are your plans for developing interactive emails for tablet-based technologies (iPads, the Nook, etc.)?

After asking yourself all of these questions, you may find yourself asking another one: Is all of this work worth the effort? You bet. The DMA estimates that the ROI for email in 2010 will be around $42 for each dollar which soundly beats each dollar spent for the second highest channel, Internet Search Advertising (with an ROI of around $22). Taking the time to treat your new subscribers just as respectfully and enthusiastically as you would a new employee will ensure that your hard work pays off.

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