Email Marketing Optimization & Strategy Guide

ENGAGEMENT

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The rules of optimal Engagement are changing every month on the webosphere. The rise of social authority: nowadays, a consumer hears not just from brands but from other empowered consumers and often trusts them more. In just a few short years, the power of brand messaging has rapidly declined as the power of social messaging has grown. Brand messaging still matters and is still important, but the balance of power has shifted.

  • Build advocates
  • Hire influencers
  • Develop social authority
  • Promote User generated content with contests

Gallup drew this industry common conclusion: “Consumers will give more money to the businesses they feel emotionally connected to, and they will continue to ignore, or even oppose, those that provide them no value.”

In short, your Email  marketing strategy should incorporate social sharing and promote engagement in relation to contemporary trends in the digital world: video, podcasts, infographics, etc….The future is permission marketing and the privilege of “delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them” (Seth Godin).

AIM

Can you believe it’s been 37 years since the first bulk promotional email was sent, too little has changed in the email marketing industry. Our Email inboxes have become simply one of our email accouts, maybe opened on one of our devices. It was Gary Thuerk who sent the first bulk electronic mail promotion to about 400 people nearly 37 years ago to this day, it caused a malestrom of controversy, and to this date he is referred to as the “Father of Spam.”

Unsolicited promotions are no longer possible, and we are permission-based, ideally with a double-opt-in procedure. Perhaps a casaulty of its own success, email marketing has changed very little over the past 37 years: acquire email addresses, send them an email promotion, and see high ROI.

Why change? Organizations need to acquire better data-driven testing and optimization mindset that is customer centric. Optimization can reduce costs and boost brand engagement with consumers.

  • Target CTAs to segements with very specific objectives in place
  • Avoid spam filters by sending credible Newsletters and promotional Campaigns
  • Optimize for delverability and high inbox placement, manage unsubscription rates
  • To accomplish more A/B testing on subject lines and brand mottos that will increase visibility

Subject lines using keywords with a sense of urgency perform best, for example “still time” influenced read rates by 16 percent in a recent study.

  • Vary Email frequency and personalize cadence to segements, don’t blast blindly.
  • Research and find perfect send time for segement, location and based upon time of day and day of week averages in your industry.

MECHANICS

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When you hit send, what exactly happens to your Newsletter or eCampaign message?

Campaign Send Launch

1 –  When you click on send or Send Final, your request goes into a queue, this sort of store and forward system is processes as soon as resources are available to handle it.

Translation to Each Email 

2 – Creation of unique message for each recipients from your template. The submissions eneine in your ESP passes them on to an MTA (Mail Transfer Agent). This mail server is quite sophisticated and has scripting for each recipient.

MTA Deployment

3 – The MTA’s task is to queue up and deliver messages to the appropriate receiving MTAs. For each message, the send destination is determined and attempts delivery and records the success of failure. he MTA determines where a message should be delivered based on the domain name (everything after the @ sign) in the ‘To’ field. It uses DNS (Domain Name System) to identify servers willing to accept email for the domain, connects to them on port 25 and attempts to deliver the message using SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol).

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol 

4 – SMTP is a flexible protocol able to work around network or transmission issues and if it cannot ID the servers willing to receive an email or cannot connect to them it will put it back in the queue and “reschedule” and tray again later. It will keep trying for a number of hours (sometimes days). This is how and why a message’s delivery can be delayed at times.

Typical SMTP transactions uses five main commands of (HELO, MAIL FROM, RCPT TO, DATA and QUIT).

Deliverability Analytics 

5  -As far as your ESP is concerned if all of the above succeeded, the delivery was completed. From that point on your ESP has no “visibility” of what happens to your message.  An error code the starts with a (a “5xx” response) the ESP you are using will register as a hard bounce. The 5xx responses often indicate issues such as an unknown recipient but can happen for any number of reasons including spam filtering. If your ESP is smart, it will differentiate the different times of failures.

4xx errors indicate a temporary problem.

ADDENDUM AH-HA!

Prepare to be surprised, some of your engagement analytics will surprise you. Some of the open-rate information is dubious. Since, no matter how much you test, you will still be learning doing campaigns and following your seasonal and segemented Email Campaign calendar. Warning, results may vary.

As analytics catch up to industry best practices, building triggered programs in sync with content activity on other channels, means Email marketing is as important a spoke in your inbound lead generation as ever.  Since Mailbox providers weigh engagement in different, unique and propriety ways, two senders may wel see different inbox placement results from the same provider or produce different results from two mailbox providers. E.g. hotmail and gmail or yahoo may count open rates differently. Some only register when images are allowed, others just went a mobile curosor is on the Email, etc…

Personalization by segement has to be taken with a grain of salt. While CTAs in the subject line may work for some segements, for more general studies, it may have virtually no difference in open-rates. In some cases, discounts boost engagement and likley customer value and loyalty, while in other cases it has shown to have no positive effect. So you have to test by your segements, and see what works in your industry, with your subscribers and personalize accordingly.

Test your assumptions, you may be surprised how things have changed or no longer apply. Different segments will behave quite differently, so make sure your customer segements are the right ones for your Campaign strategy. The more you personalize, the more you will find that audiences are far less predictable! We’re human after all.


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