Don’t Get Lost in a Maze of Metrics

There’s a lot of data out there. More than any one marketer needs at any one time. The new frontier in using big data in multichannel marketing is learning what data you need. And that starts with clearly defined marketing objectives. The proliferation of data has caused many marketers to get caught up in minutiae that are not relevant to their objectives. With all the data that’s available, it takes discipline to focus only on the metrics that are relevant. Too often the most important metrics like cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value are overlooked while we’re looking at things like email bounce rates and time on site, which certainly have their place, but should be viewed in the context of how they can be leveraged to improve lifetime value.

There’s a lot of data out there. More than any one marketer needs at any one time.

The new frontier in using big data in multichannel marketing is learning what data you need. And that starts with clearly defined marketing objectives.

The proliferation of data has caused many marketers to get caught up in minutiae that are not relevant to their objectives. With all the data that’s available, it takes discipline to focus only on the metrics that are relevant. Too often the most important metrics, like cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value, are overlooked while we’re looking at things like email bounce rates and time on site. Those are metrics which certainly have their place, but should be viewed in the context of how they can be leveraged to improve lifetime value.

How Many Metrics Do You Need?
Every semester, more than one student in my “Advertising Research” class asks:

How many questions do we need to have in our quantitative questionnaire?

My answer is always the same, and always initially perplexing to them:

As many as you need.

The ensuing discussion is a lesson in the importance of setting clear objectives:

What are you trying to find out? Write down what you need to learn from your survey, and develop questions that will get you that information. Once you’ve done that, count the number of questions you have. That’s how many you need.

That lesson applies to marketing measurement, as well. With all the metrics that our marketing analytics platforms can provide, it’s easy to get buried in a landslide of statistics that don’t really relate to your business objectives. If your objective is lead generation at a landing page, why measure time on site? (Of course if you find that the abandonment rate on the data capture page is high, then look at time on site. You may be asking for too much information.)

Define What You Need to Know
If you’re looking to optimize your cost per lead or maximize lead volume, you’ll need to track cost per lead by individual tactic. You’ll find an interesting approach to maximizing lead volume in a previous “Here’s What Counts” post. But if you’re looking to enroll people in a CRM program and every one of your touchpoints is essential, then you may be able to skip that level of analysis. (If that idea seems foreign to you, check out this “Here’s What Counts” post that talks about a real world scenario where it wasn’t necessary to track cost per enrollment by vehicle.)

Every end has a beginning. Measurement always starts with the objectives you set at the start of a campaign. If they are clearly defined and you focus only on those metrics that are related to the objectives, you won’t find yourself buried in data that’s not relevant to measuring your success.

Email Marketing Redefined: Driving Sales

Increasing sales is the primary objective for most email campaigns. Email marketing works so well for driving revenue that people forget it is a multifaceted tool. There is a tendency to create a template and then delegate its population to a lower level team member. Doing this provides consistent revenue generation without requiring allocating additional resources. Since it works so well, why invest in making it better. The argument against the status quo in email marketing is simple. Redefining your strategy increases sales, improves loyalty and reduces costs.

Increasing sales is the primary objective for most email campaigns. Email marketing works so well for driving revenue that people forget it is a multifaceted tool. There is a tendency to create a template and then delegate its population to a lower level team member. Doing this provides consistent revenue generation without requiring allocating additional resources. Since it works so well, why invest in making it better

The argument against the status quo in email marketing is simple. Redefining your strategy increases sales, improves loyalty and reduces costs. It is an investment that delivers a strong return. The best thing about changing your strategy is that it can be done without having a negative effect on revenue. There is no down time or culture shock if you implement the execution gradually. To do this, plan your new approach complete with expected responses from your customers and then start adding your new messages to the mix.

If you are uncomfortable about making changes because your email campaigns are working so well, select a segment of customers to test your new strategy. Comparing the results with your control will help you determine the best way to go forward. In addition to guiding you down the right path, the results provide analytical proof that making the changes benefits your company.

There are four types of emails that contribute to short-term sales and long-term growth—Promotional, Highlight, Trigger and Informational. There may be some crossover between the types, but each email should have one primary objective. Limiting the focus improves response and makes it easier to measure results. A singular message is less confusing to recipients. People respond better when they know exactly what you want them to do.

  • Promotional emails include special offers, discounts and events. They are time sensitive and predictable. With a little history, marketers can project the number of orders and amount of revenue generated from each planned email with a high level of accuracy. People respond well to promotional emails because of the time sensitivity and the opportunity to save money or participate in an event. This is the staple of your email strategy because of the effectiveness in delivering short-term revenue.
  • Highlight emails showcase products and services. They may be used to introduce new items or share additional information on established ones. These emails are most effective when sent to segmented lists of people who have shown an interest in the items by inquiry or purchase. They deliver a higher return on investment than promotional emails because the items are offered at full price.
  • Trigger emails put your marketing on autopilot. They are designed to automatically transmit when people perform specific actions. They can be used to welcome new subscribers, provide transactional information and convert abandoned carts. Best practices begin with the creation of the emails and follow with consistent review of the results to provide continuous improvement.
  • Informational emails educate your customers and prospects. They may include promotional information in the form of links, but their primary objective is to teach people how to use your products and services. It’s very easy to presume that the people that shop with your company know what they need and what you provide. This presumption costs you money because it is rarely true. Educated customers and prospects are more loyal and buy more often. Teaching people what they need to know provides long-term value.

To get started redefining your sales strategy:

  1. Review your existing campaigns. Make a list of what works, what doesn’t and what’s missing. Do you have an abandoned cart strategy? Are informational emails sent on a regular basis? When was the last time you changed your welcome email? Are products being introduced and highlighted?
  2. Outline your new strategy. Define and prioritize your corporate objectives for your email marketing. Using the review, identify opportunities to increase sales, reduce costs, improve loyalty and accomplish any other objectives. Rank the opportunities by how well they match corporate priorities. Document the results so you will have a path to follow.
  3. Test everything. Create an email or series of emails designed to fulfill a high priority objective. Select a segment of customers or prospects most likely to respond to your campaign. Define specific goals to be achieved before sending the first email. Send the emails, review the results and revise as needed. Repeat.

Expanding your email arsenal to include trigger, highlight and informational emails changes your strategy from one-off offers to integrated campaigns. It engages customers and prospects and makes them more responsive to all of your emails. Isn’t it time to do this for your business?

Get Ready for 2013: Email Marketing Redefined

How much time do you spend thinking about your email marketing strategy? Would you make the time if you knew that changing your email marketing strategy could make your job easier, increase revenue, and improve customer acquisition and retention? Email campaigns can do it all, but they have to be carefully planned and orchestrated to make the good things happen.

How much time do you spend thinking about your email marketing strategy? If you are like most marketers, juggling multiple channels in an ever changing marketplace doesn’t leave much time for contemplating the whys and wherefores in any area.

Would you make the time if you knew that changing your email marketing strategy could make your job easier, increase revenue, and improve customer acquisition and retention? Email campaigns can do it all, but they have to be carefully planned and orchestrated to make the good things happen. The way people access information and connect with each other is changing rapidly. Your email marketing has to adapt or die.

The best strategy is multifaceted with specific processes that move people for one stage to another. It provides access to the content via the technology that fits your customers and prospects. The people who subscribe to your messages aren’t always at their computers. Your content and how it is delivered has to adapt to their needs.

The first step in creating a comprehensive strategy is defining the purpose of your email marketing. Do you want to acquire more customers? Sell more products and services? Keep customers happy? Reduce operating costs? Or, is it all of the above?

The four primary objectives for email campaigns are:

  • Customer Acquisition
  • Sales
  • Customer Retention
  • Service

Each objective requires a customized strategy designed to move people from original contact to completion. Everything varies from the point of origin forward. The messages that sell the latest products to seasoned customers are rarely as effective with prospects. Creating a specific process for each objective moves email marketing from generic blasts to targeted marketing that connects with people. There can be some crossover, but in general, every email sent needs a specific objective and clearly defined success metrics.

Start the planning for 2013 by reviewing 2012. How many customers were acquired via emails? What percentage of sales is directly attributed to email campaigns? What percentage of sales was influenced by email marketing? How does customer retention for people who subscribe to your emails compare with those who don’t? How do service metrics compare for subscribers versus non-subscribers? You have to know where you are before you plan the journey to your destination.

Next, look at the content of the emails sent in 2012. Does it match the information in your analysis? Are there exceptions? For example, if the majority of the emails were sales promotions, then a low customer acquisition rate and strong sales generation would be expected. If there are any exceptions, try to identify the elements that made people act.

The last part of the 2012 review is looking at segmentation and consistency. Was your list segmented so people received emails targeted by behavior, or did everyone on your list receive the same emails? How often did each group receive messages? Is there a pattern of response in relation to timing? Are all of the emails branded so your company is easily recognized?

The 2012 review provides a benchmarking foundation so you have a reference point for comparison. The review process often triggers ideas and awareness that can be used to maximize the return in 2013. Document your thoughts and any metrics readily available for future reference.

It is time to look forward to the New Year. What do you want to accomplish with your email marketing in 2013? The best strategies have a balanced approach to accomplishing the four primary objectives. They attract new customers, keep existing ones happy and generate revenue while reducing operating costs.

Identifying specific targets provides goals and accountability. How many customers do you want to acquire? What are your direct and indirect sales goals? How much should your retention rate increase? What effect do you expect on service levels and operating costs?

There are many questions to be answered in the process of creating a comprehensive email marketing strategy. The better the answers, the more likely your email program will succeed. Investing the time and resources required to do this right is guaranteed to generate a solid return on investment.

This post is the first in a series on developing a comprehensive email marketing strategy.