Your 6-step email program audit

If you are a college sports fan like me, you know that there is a lot going on right now. Not only did long-time Big East schools Syracuse and Pittsburg apply to move to the ACC, but Oklahoma and Texas (among others) are looking at leaving the Big 12 to go to the Pac-12. Depending on the way everything plays out, there is a chance both the Big East and the Big 12 could be gone forever as we know it. Once two of the most powerful conferences in all of college athletics, they might soon to be a thing of the past.

I am sure by now you are thinking, "Spencer, what do college athletics have to do with digital marketing?" Well, I am glad you asked.

When looking at the overall landscape of college athletics as an outsider, it is easy to see that there is a lot of room for change and improvement. While everyone is very comfortable with the way things currently are, they might not be what is best for long-term sustainability. This could be true with your digital marketing programs as well. Many clients I work with have been doing the same things year after year, and some of them honestly don't know why they are doing certain things -- except because "it's the way we have always done it."

So what better time to look at all of your programs? Not just the ones that are making the most, or the least, amount of money, but all of them. With the holiday seasons coming up, most marketers have either already finalized their plans or are putting the finishing touches on them, so why not get ready for 2012 with a whole new outlook?

One client I worked with in the past went through numerous steps to evaluate current programs, and in the end, the client not only reduced the total number of campaigns it was sending to its customers, but it also saw an increase in opens, clicks and conversions. The process followed a number of distinct steps in order to reach the end goal, and I suggest you follow these as well when evaluating your campaigns as you prepare for 2012.

Step 1: Spreadsheet
Create a spreadsheet of all of your current campaigns with the following headers.

  • Type of mailing (transactional, promotional, newsletter, etc.)
  • How often you send the mailing (daily, weekly, monthly, or other)
  • How many customers receive each mailing
  • The desired outcome of the mailing (a sale, to gather additional information, branding, or to validate an action with a thank you or welcome message after sign-up)

Step 2: Sort by mailing type
Do you have an unbalanced number of campaign types, with one dominating all others? Are there multiple campaigns originating from different groups that overlap?

Step 3: Eliminate redundancy
Establish if there are any unnecessary or duplicate mailings that you could combine with others.

Step 4: Reduce
Consider reducing the number of mailings you are sending out to your customers in order to reduce the amount of work on your internal team to produce all of the various content and campaigns. Likewise, look to reduce the likelihood of unsubscribes or complaints due to over sending.

Step 5: New projects
Determine if there are any programs that need to be started. Start with your welcome message and verify whether it truly explains what the customers can expect and how often they can expect it. If your welcome message is simply to confirm a subscription, reevaluate this campaign and see if you can build on that message and get your users to engage.

Step 6: Measure
Institute metrics to ensure that your end goals for each mailing program are accomplishing the goals you originally set.

Now remember, as I have stated many times in the past, email is not about how big your list is, or how many emails you send out a month. It is about the quality of the list and relevancy of the content you are sending them.

As our inboxes get filled with more and more emails every day, as a marketer you want to make sure that you are sending your customers items that they want and want to keep receiving. By taking a holistic look at your entire email ecosystem, you can make the right decisions that will deliver real results. The alternative is finding out later that some of your programs aren't working for you, and your customers are compelled to leave like these colleges are today. So take care of your customers, or they might be in the same jeopardy as the Big East and Big 12 are today.

Good luck and good sending.

Spencer Kollas is director of delivery services for StrongMail.

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