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Email Engagement: Playing The Long Game

For some time now, a trend among webmail providers has been to offer “intelligent inbox” features that automate the process of sorting email. For example, Gmail® has released its Tabs feature much to the consternation of email marketers. At the same time, the filtering techniques of many internet service providers has gotten more sophisticated by pulling in excess amounts of data points about the sender.

As a result, long-term subscriber engagement has emerged as an important metric influencing inbox placement. For email marketers, this implies that success involves monitoring more than opens, clicks and conversions. These additional metrics may now influence program success to some extent:

  • Reply and forward rate
  • Junk mail placement rate
  • Rate at which subscribers move messages from junk to the inbox and then take an action
  • Percentage of subscribers who are inactive without unsubscribing

Here are some suggestions for long-term email program success:

  • Segment your list and send content / offers appropriate to each segment: Among Harland Clarke Digital’s clients, email deployments sent to lists of less than 100 contacts show a 51% improvement in unique confirmed open rates over deployments sent to lists of over 10,000 contacts.1 This tells us that narrowcasting can be a powerful tactic.
  • Increase relevancy by sending automated email campaigns triggered by subscribers’ actions: Experience tells us that when someone does something online and immediately gets an email, he/she is more likely to read it.
  • Add content marketing to your repertoire: Providing useful, free information to your subscribers without directly selling to them sets your organization up as a thought leader. Through this process, you communicate your organization’s values to current and prospective customers.
  • Keep track of mobile engagement and use “mobile friendly” design: According to a recent HCD study on email engagement, nearly 50% of your readership may be reading messages on mobile devices.2
  • Put yourself in the reader’s shoes: For example, if you suspect your mailings are going into the spam folder, don’t only focus on your subject line or content. Consider what might make certain subscribers mark your message as spam. Do you need to improve the sign up process so readers aren’t taken by surprise when they see you in their inbox? You should also try sending welcome / subscription confirmation messages when someone is added to the list.
  • Send periodic surveys to your subscribers soliciting feedback on your email program: Ask them to rate your emails or request feedback on what content they would like to see.
  • Analyze your message layout: Find and optimize “hot spots” for clicks and use the information to see what types of words and content are attracting more readers.
  • Keep track of inactive subscribers: Segment your list and try different tactics to get through to them. You might consider a reengagement email campaign or targeting contacts via social media.

All of these tactics can improve long-term subscriber engagement with your emails. Increased engagement can help land your messages in the inbox at a higher rate which leads to further engagement.

Sources:
1. Harland Clarke Digital Financial Email Marketing Benchmark Report (2014)
2. Harland Clarke Digital Infographic: Getting Digital: Engagement Habits of Today’s Email Recipient (2014)

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