Marketing never stays in place. It’s not “set it and forget it”. Even if you have a beautiful marketing automation campaign set up, you still need to check in on it from time to time. It needs to be questioned, tested and improved. Some parts may even need to be retired.
To help you assess where your email marketing is and where it needs to go, here are ten simple questions to ask yourself. Pull out this list about once a quarter – the answers you get will show you the best way to focus your energy and time.
1. How much is email marketing contributing to my overall business?
Let’s start with a broad view question first. As much as we love email, we don’t believe it should be the only marketing tactic you use. There’s also social, SEO, advertising, direct mail, outdoor and more.
What’s more, marketing is only one slice of a larger pie when you think about the totality of your business. All those other areas – accounting, legal, customer service, inventory - need time, focus, and money. And they all compete with each other for those limited resources.
To make smart decisions about what’s best for your business, you need to know how much of your overall revenue comes from email marketing. The answer you get will inform how you invest in other marketing tactics.
Who knows, maybe email shouldn’t be your priority right now. Maybe this is the year to go really big into video. Or podcasting. You won’t know until you can answer this question.
Want some context? Here’s how important email is to other marketers.
Caption: Graph is from the SalesForce/Marketing Cloud 2015 State of Marketing.
2. Is my email marketing profitable?
Once you know how email fits into the larger view of your business, the next question to ask is if your email marketing is profitable or not.
We wrote a bit about this in an earlier post, but basically, your email marketing is profitable if you can subtract your expenses from your revenue and end up with a positive number.
Now, is that an overly simplified way to calculate profitability? It sure is.
If you want to go further – and to even figure out what the return on investment for your email marketing is, try this calculator.
3. How could I serve my subscribers better?
One of the reasons email marketing is so valuable is that it’s an owned asset. You own your email list. You control what you do with it. Compare that to social media, where you are almost totally under the control of whichever social media platform you’re using. Consider how Facebook has decimated organic reach. Email marketers don’t have to worry about stuff like that.
…So long as they treat their subscribers well. Because while email is an owned asset, there is one thing you don’t own: The permission of your subscribers. They can opt out anytime. If you start overmailing them, or sending them irrelevant information, they can dump you.
So ask yourself: how you can serve your subscribers better?
Maybe it’s to:
- Segment your list, so you can send more relevant information
- Create better, more useful content
- Send emails more often
- Send emails less often
- Make unsubscribing easier
- Show more content from subscribers (photo shares, FAQ, or blog comments)
Want some data-based ideas for how to please your subscribers? Here’s how 1,748 American adults answered the survey question, “In which of the following ways, if any, would you like company emails to change? Please select all that apply.”
Still not sure what your subscribers really want? Maybe you should just ask them.
4. How can I use my email marketing to get more mileage out of my other marketing efforts (and vice versa)?
Email can tie several marketing initiatives together. For instance:
- Are you including blog posts in your email updates?
- Are you including new videos in your email updates?
- Are you including content from your social media accounts?
- Are you including user generated content (photo shares, comments) from your social media accounts? (After you’ve asked permission, of course)
- Are you using your email analytics reports to gauge sentiment about different business objectives?
Social media is the big opportunity here. That’s interesting, because few years ago there was a lot of talk about how social media had killed email marketing. Ends up, social didn’t kill email at all. And the two channels can be highly complimentary.
5. How well do my mobile users interact with my email messages?
As I’m sure you know, more emails are opened on mobile devices than on desktops. That’s been true for a while.
But did you know twice as many emails are opened on mobile devices than on desktops? That’s what Moveable Ink’s Q3 2015 US Device Report says. Just one-third of emails – 33.31% to be exact – are opened on desktops according to that report.
Unfortunately, we’re still seeing quite a few emails that don’t render well on mobile devices. If you’re a GetResponse user, breathe easy – all our email templates are mobile-friendly. But if you’re not a GetResponse user, and you haven’t checked how your emails look on a mobile device… may I suggest you go do that now?
6. Should I purge inactives from my list?
When was the last time you cleaned up your list? If it’s within the last six months, you’re good.
If it’s been within the last year, you might be fine, too. Many email marketers, most notably Dela Quist from Alchemy Worx, assert that there’s no need to constantly scrub an email list. They say that even if a subscriber hasn’t opened an email from you in over a year, that subscriber can still represent a revenue opportunity.
However, if it’s been more than a year and a half since you cleaned up your list, you’re probably due. By “cleaning up your list”, I mean purging the email subscribers who have not opened one of your messages in the last 18 months.
Whatever time frame you pick is up to you, of course. I wouldn’t recommend dumping subscribers after only six months of inactivity. But if you haven’t gotten a sign of life from them in over a year, it might be time to let them go.
If you’re hesitant about purging those email addresses, you can always send a re-engagement email. You might save a few of them. Just don’t expect to get back much more than 5% of them. And be sure to offer them a tempting gift – and mention it in the subject line.
Here’s an example of a re-engagement email from an ecommerce site:
Bonus tip: Consider reaching out to inactive subscribers long before the six-month or one-year mark. You’re more likely to get them back if you send a re-engagement email after 2-3 months of inactivity.
7. Is my opt-in form as effective as it could be – both for getting more subscribers and for getting quality subscribers.
Opt-in forms are one of the most critical conversion points of an email marketing program. You already know a good opt-in form determines how many email subscribers you get. But opt-in forms also determine
- the quality of your email subscribers
- what those subscribers expect from you
- what those subscribers are interested in
This is particularly true when it comes to your lead magnet. If you’re offering a lead magnet that appeals to, say, the “get rich quick” crowd, you may be getting lots of opt-ins. But what if your best customers are actually the sort of people who are focused on long-term results? Then that lead magnet idea may not be getting you the right sort of email subscribers.
I was surprised when I read Ascend2’s latest study about email list strategy. It showed that email marketers’ #1 priority is list quality – not just getting more subscribers. 70% of the marketers surveyed said list quality matters most to them. Only 38% said their first priority was to increase list size.
This is a pretty big change, but it’s a great sign. Quality has always trumped quantity when it comes to email subscribers.
8. What are my competitors doing with their email marketing?
Competitive research can be surprisingly helpful. I’m not suggesting you do exactly what your competitors are doing. But it’s a good idea to know what they’re up to.
So sign up on the email lists of five to seven of your closest competitors. Create a folder in your email client for each one of them. Save their emails to those folders, or create a rule so their emails automatically go to those folders.
When you’ve got time, check through their emails. You might get some great ideas. Or – just maybe - you might get some confidence by seeing how much better your emails are than theirs.
9. Does my email newsletter (or email message template) need a redesign?
This one is similar to the email list hygiene question: Have you redesigned your list template in the last six months? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably good. If you redesigned within the last year, you’re probably still good, too.
But if it’s been more than a year and a half since your email newsletters got a design update, then it’s time. Either hire a designer or catch up on recent email design trends and be your own designer.
Or, even better: Sign up for as many of the best email newsletters as you can. Then borrow whatever design elements you like from them.
Caption: Do your emails need a style update? Image from the Canva blog.
10. Am I using landing pages for my email messages? Am I using them often enough?
Want more results from your email messages? Then use landing pages. Why? ‘Cause they work. They work really, really well.
Landing pages were the most effective email marketing tactic in Ascend2’s latest study. Not only that, but they got great marks for being easy to implement.
Hmm… really effective. Really easy to implement. What’s not to like?
Email marketing continues to be one of the most effective marketing tactics around. Want proof? Last year The Relevancy Group reported that email drives the same amount of revenue as social media, website and display ads combined.
So actually, if you aren’t getting good results from your email marketing, maybe you should ask yourself this question: “What am I doing wrong?”
The ten questions above can help you answer that puzzle, too.
Back to you
What questions do you ask yourself about your email marketing program? How do you decide which tactics deserve your time and attention? Share your experience in the comments.