So you’ve got a marketing automation system in place, you’ve queued up your first campaign, and you’re ready to send. Have you considered the costs?
That’s right, sending emails comes at a price — and the costs go beyond what you’ve spent on the MA platform and CRM integration. You also have to take into consideration the intangible, hidden costs as you evaluate the potential ROI of your campaign. In fact, hitting that SEND button can sometimes turn out to be a lot more expensive than you might imagine.
Recently, I worked with a company that was still using the “batch and blast” method: No targeting, no segmentation. The mentality was “get the email out so we can meet our sales quota.” Not only does this approach fail to capture potential opportunities, it impacts the sales process. As the marketing team found out, sending the wrong message at the wrong time to a prospect who is just about ready to sign on the dotted line, can be a very expensive mistake to make.
Although such costly email marketing mistakes are not uncommon, they can be avoided by following these three critical best practices:
1. Use segmentation to customize your message.
You only have one chance to make a first impression. Personalizing your messaging shows recipients that you’ve done your homework, know their pain points and are there to help. Such customization requires audience segmentation.
Getting segmentation right doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hire expensive consultants and spend months combing and analyzing your database. If you have the budget for that, great, but many organizations don’t. As a result, they don’t even try. But there are ways to segment your audience — and personalize the message you send to various segments — without the high costs:
- Offer links to different areas of content and monitor what content is consumed. A newsletter is a great tool for that approach, as you can offer a variety of content.
- Send a survey-based nurture that asks prospects to self-select areas of interest, then send them content pertaining to just those areas.
Features within Eloqua and Marketo make it easier for marketers to obtain segmentation data and use it to make your marketing more effective. For example, Marketo enables you to monitor what prospects are receiving during the buying cycle and how they are moving along the path. And DemandGen offers Eloqua solutions that use automatic data collection to enable dynamic content delivery.
For organizations that haven’t segmented their databases yet, tracking and placing prospects into groups based on activity is a good first step.
2. Test, test, test!
Testing helps you learn what works and hones your content and messaging. Here are a few places to start:
- A/B test your content: Today’s MA platforms make A/B testing a lot easier, and offer more detailed performance metrics to help you decide which version worked best. Ultimately, you’ll derive higher true value from your campaigns when you have a solid understanding of what generates response from your prospects. The top three items ripe for testing are subject lines, body copy, and layout and images. Other critical factors include the time of day and day of week sent, and how personalized your messaging is.
- Proofread: Remember that saying about first impressions? Typos, bad links, poor grammar or formatting issues look unprofessional and can have a lasting impact on how prospects perceive your brand. And unlike printed materials, emails can be forwarded to millions and posted on social media for all to see. Not only might the recipient be hesitant to open another email, an unprofessional looking email could impact your organization’s ability to close a deal down the road.
Make sure your final version passes by multiple sets of eyes. If you have to, hire a copyeditor to double check your work — it will be worth the small hourly fee if it saves a deal or two.
- Q/A on all email clients and devices: Yahoo, Gmail and Outlook all render emails very differently. Mobile is especially important, because according to Hubspot, 46% of all email opens happen on mobile devices.
Be sure to check email rendering on the most common devices such as the leading smartphones and tablets. Also, check to ensure the first visual readers notice is the right one for your purpose: Is something else drawing attention from your main message? Are your links obvious enough? Do the key points come across clearly and “above the fold”? Don’t forget to check the text versions as well.
Optional testing tools are available in Eloqua and Marketo. You can also set up dummy accounts in the various email clients, include those contacts in your test lists and view test emails in those accounts on a variety of devices.
3. Consider frequency and cadence.
There’s nothing more irritating than receiving too many emails from the same company — and flooding a prospect’s inbox with information and offers can be a big turn off. Visibility is key — if sales, marketing, technical support, customer service and other departments are operating in silos, it’s easy to lose track of how many emails a given contact is receiving from your organization, or how close together they’re going out.
Over-communication not only costs you sales but can impact a customer’s lifetime value or, at the least, their overall experience with your organization. Many DemandGen clients use a centralized communication calendar to schedule and track outbound email from all internal sources, which helps to reduce email overload and spamming. If an urgent product update or other communication must go out ASAP, the calendar helps everyone adjust their send dates accordingly, while making everyone else aware of the changes.
Pro tip: When you’re creating new programs, take into consideration what else is going on for that audience. For example, if someone gets into your new “Campaign A,” you might want to pause Campaign B for that contact, to avoid confusion and email fatigue.
Planning Saves Time and Money
We know you’re excited, but before you go crazy with your new MA system, careful planning can help eliminate the risk and financial impact of a hasty, batch-and-blast email campaign. Segmentation, testing and smart scheduling take time, but will improve ROI on your automated email campaigns and programs in the long run.
Carolyn Acker is a marketing operations and customer experience management professional. As a DemandGen Sr. Project Manager, she drives consistent project management practices across all DemandGen products to create a unified and effective customer experience. In her previous role as a DemandGen Campaign Manager, Carolyn provided a strategic campaign framework for our clients to help them develop, implement and enforce workflow processes. She has extensive knowledge of campaign generation, execution tactics and best practices, to help the client achieve campaign success.