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As the pool of marketing channels increases, we wanted to explore what it takes to succeed with email marketing. And who better to ask for advice than Adestra’s own Customer Success Manager, Danielle Woolley?

A: What do you think have been the biggest forces impacting email marketing recently?

D:  A big one would be the explosion in the number of people opening emails on mobile, and it’s affected email in more ways than just responsive design. The consumers’ behaviour has rendered send-time optimization less important.

In the old days, subscribers might set aside some time to check their emails in the evening, or in their lunch hour at work, and that was when time of day testing could be quite important. But your subscribers now check emails when they wake up, when they’re on the move, waiting for a meeting, during their commute, etc. Because they have their mobiles all the time, the game has changed.

Another important factor is the crowded inbox, even 2 years ago the number of marketing emails in the inbox was much lower than it is today. A recent Return Path study showed that only 18% of all email received by subscribers is actually personal. And you’re not just fighting for attention.

Because of the crowded inbox, deliverability is more of an issue than ever before. Before, you could make sure the words you use are not spammy, you data is clean, but now it’s all about your sender reputation. If people don’t engage with your emails you have to reduce your frequency, and perhaps stop sending to them because you have to manage your reputation closely. Once you lose a good reputation, it can be extremely difficult to recover it.

A: What do you see as the first imperative of achieving email marketing success?

D: This is something that really surprises me about a lot of marketers. I think having smart objectives is the basis for success, because if you don’t have something to aim for, how do you know if you’ve succeeded? But a lot of marketers still have fairly wishy-washy objectives.

Say you work in publishing, what are you trying to achieve from your newsletters? Is it sign-ups to paid subscriptions, traffic to the website, engagement on your sign-up list? Attach a number to that, it can be a percentage increase, and a timeline so you know when to review it.

A: As email marketing makes it back into the spotlight for its proven ROI, companies are starting to understand that success is more than just open and click rates. What advice would you give to companies trying to identify their level of success?

2014 Email Marketing Census ReportD: It goes back to what I was saying before: what do you want to achieve with your email? Set smart objectives. First put down what success looks like and then figure out how to get there. What you’re trying to achieve may well be engagement by keeping your readers interested through content, that’s fine. Or it could be capturing behavioural data about what your readers are interested in to determine what to sell to them next time.

Other success metrics can be conversions, and your ESP might supply conversion tracking linking your email performance once they’ve clicked-through to the website. But it’s important to define the time scale you’re working with, because you need to look at results over time rather than on a campaign per campaign basis.

Make sure you have a format for recording your campaign performance and meet regularly to review that performance. For example, you could report on performance based on types of campaigns like  newsletters,  sales emails, triggered emails, etc.

A: What if you’re not happy with these results? Where do you start improving?

D: The only right answer is test. I believe every marketer should have a testing plan, and they should really run a test (no matter how small) with every big campaign you send out.

But it’s very difficult to test if you’re doing it at the last minute. You should have a campaign calendar and a testing plan that run for at least a few months in advance. Test one thing at a time, and keep testing over time if you want to build an understanding of your audience. You can’t do one test and think you’ve proven something.

A: What about automation – our recent Marketer vs Machine report showed that marketers are still apprehensive about it. How do you measure the success of implementing automation to see if it has been worthwhile?

Marketer vs MachineD: You need to have a good reporting routine in place before you start. Once you go live with the programme, then you’ll be able to see the impact on the results. And the way to measure success is to understand what you’re trying to achieve.

For instance, let’s say your goal is to improve engagement and conversions from new sign-ups to your newsletter. You need to understand your current performance: from new sign-ups what proportion open, click and convert? Then, you implement your new automation plan and review performance say, 3 months later.

It really doesn’t take much to dip your toes in automation. Setting up a triggered campaign like a welcome email is a very easy place to start. Someone has just signed up to a newsletter – they really want to hear from you. Sending them a triggered campaign is probably as timely as you can be.

Some marketers think you need to have lots of data, but all you need for a welcome programme is an email address. You can also look at the behavioural data you collect through clicks. If you’re a jeweller, and you have a customer that has clicked on bracelets five times, it might be time to follow-up with an email showcasing your range of bracelets. That’s not very sophisticated, it’s just looking at the data and creating a filter.

Start small and then advance as you understand where automation could help push your business forward. Don’t start big, and then only use 20% of the features because that is just wasting resources.

About Danielle

Danielle Woolley is Adestra’s Customer Success Manager. She is our champion of customer success, making sure that everything that we do for our clients, through technology, Professional Services, account management, and technical support is all focused on helping them achieve their business goals. She also explores opportunities to help our customers be more successful, and drive more value and ROI from email marketing.