Email troubleshooter: How to tackle email marketing automation’s most common obstacles

Troubleshooter
Chris Ward
Editor
MyCustomer
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In the latest in our new series where technology leaders tackle the challenges most commonly reported by adopters of their category of tools, Alex Bard, CEO at Campaign Monitor shares his advice on how to overcome email marketing automation stumbling blocks.  

1. “My email database is too large and has a high percentage of defected/ disengaged recipients. Should I be brave and remove disengaged recipients, or should I create a programme to reengage them?”

AB. You should certainly try to reengage those users if there's an opportunity to. And the best way to reengage them is with highly targeted personalised content. The recommendation would be without a doubt, if you're not able to reengage, the best thing that you can do is start to scale your list back.   

Alex Bard

Email is an extremely democratised, precious thing that is highly regulated. If you're sending a lot of emails that people are either unsubscribing from or not consuming, your reputation as a sender is going to go down. Your deliverability will go down.

Sending is the first step in the journey, it's about people consuming something valuable and taking an action. You may well be hurting your business by sending emails to a bunch of people that are totally disengaged; in fact, I know you are.

2. “I am regularly bombarded with the recommendation that I personalise my email campaigns more effectively, but have struggled to do anything innovative beyond the standard name check. Can you offer some tips?”

AB. Believe it or not, the name check is still pretty important. Even that alone meaningfully increases open and engagement rates.

But the way to further personalise is through your data. It really comes down to how targeted you can be with segments - beyond male, female, geography, maybe a shared interest. The more real data you can get about a user, the more you can use that data to personalise.

Think about it in a retail experience. If you've gone on a website, you're shopping and you spend a bunch of time on a page for grey suits, but you don’t buy, you’d probably hope a great deal on grey suits landed in your inbox some time afterwards.

The chances of you engaging with that email are much higher than a generic email about there being a sale on blue shorts.

Even if you didn't abandon the shopping cart. You can get a much clearer profile for who you are, what you like based on again, that behaviour. It's all about how much data you’re able to capture about customers and are you using that data in a smarter way, without being too intrusive.

3. “I have recently been asked to use our email automation tool to create a lead nurturing programme for our sales team – do you have any advice for how to do this?”

AB. The customers that we predominantly build products for, although we have a variety of different companies who use us, are B2C. What that means is that our customer's end customer is a consumer, not another business. The idea of lead nurturing is much more of a marketing automation principal for B2B.

That being said, for B2B it’s all about the customer journey, in the same way it is for B2C. How do I know when to email? What signals should I use to contact the customer? When and where do I automate?

Where you take somebody who's early in the consideration cycle, it’s always worth consulting a journey designer or someone with some kind of understanding of customer journeys so they can help you construct a pathway for your nurturing strategy.

In B2B it’s quite common for a prospect to disappear from the cycle and you have to think about emails that will reengage as well as provide improvements and solutions.

For me, education is a key part of the early phases though. This takes much longer in a B2B cycle and requires you to think clearly about the calls-to-action that will pique the interest of your prospect. That may be through some informative study related to the solution your products provide or a link to some other form of content.

There’s also the reengagement piece that I mentioned early – in B2B it’s quite common for a prospect to disappear from the cycle and you have to think about emails that will reengage as well as provide improvements and solutions.   

4. “I have a suite of email marketing analytics at my disposal but have historically only needed to measure open, click and subscribe/ unsubscribe rates. Can you suggest what kind of further analysis I could be doing and what the benefits are likely to be?”

AB. Opens and clicks are important. Certainly subscribers and unsubscribes. Hopefully you're looking at both. They're relatively rudimentary stats, though.

From that, it's really hard to still understand the true impact that you're having. Open is great, you have to have an open. Top of funnel, and then the click is kind of down the funnel. Really what you want to get to is the impact you're having all the way at the bottom of the funnel. Which is – did they purchase? Did they make a donation? Did they consume content?

The big reason why Campaign Monitor recently acquired Taggart is to be able to give you that all the way through to the end, to that behaviour view and what that campaign actually did for the business. The only way that you can do that is through your data. Being able to have the data and being able to link the final action with that campaign that went out; and to then show you revenue impact or whatever the goal that you've set up is. I'd say what we're seeing is more and more data-driven marketers pushing to get an understanding of that impact.

Then, that impact is actually being pushed back up to top of funnel and informing the campaigns that they're running and executing. The thing I'd say is, opens and clicks and subscribes and unsubscribes, you've got to track baseline, the next level up is being able to track that to ultimate action.

5. “I recently started segmenting my email database on advice of peers and a number of expert forums, but so far have seen little uptick in my click-through and open rates. Do you have any tips for further experimentation or should I return to one email, one list?”

AB. If I were to draw a mathematical equation with words, I would say, segmentation greater than oneness. Which is to say, for sure if you segment and you do it right, you will drive much better engagement. Just think about your day today. If TV was really smart and they targeted commercials based on what you prefer, you'd lean in more. Versus just a generic commercial that had no connection to you, right? The point of segmentation is to get to somebody a more relevant message. It depends on the business, right? For example, if it's a retailer and they sell both men's and women's clothing, do you think it makes sense to send an email to a woman that has men's clothing in it? Most likely not.

There's certainly cases where my wife might be shopping for me, the high likelihood of engagement isn't going to be there if my wife receives an email with suits in it. Right? It really, more so depends on the business and do they have different behaviour sets of the types of people who subscribe and engage with their brand. I would always say more segmentation is better than less.

You have to be smart about why you're segmenting. It might not make sense to segment male and female, for example. That might not be the right segmentation for your business. There might be other segmentation. It might be geographic segmentation. Interest-based segmentation. It might be segmentation based on data; i.e., who's recently transacted versus who hasn't? I would say the rule of thumb is more segmentation is better than less. You've got to be smart and thoughtful about it.

All of this is about providing more relevance and personalisation, with data as the fuel and a single customer view being the ultimate goal. In order to be able to use that data in the right way to personalise, you have to have a real view of an individual. Now, in B2C, depending on the scale and size of your business, you might not get all the way down to one-to-one marketing. So you're going to get down to meaningfully, interesting segments. In order to do that, you have to push to achieve a single view of a customer.

About Chris Ward

About Chris Ward

Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.

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