Are You Closely Reviewing Your Automated Email Campaigns?


As a slogan to promote automated emails, “set it and forget it” has been disastrously successful. That’s because, while it spurred marketers to create lots of triggered campaigns, it set horrible expectations for how to maximize their effectiveness.

The truth is that these are living, breathing campaigns that need ongoing care and nurturing for as long as you’re running them. That’s why I call these emails “review and improve” programs in my book, “Email Marketing Rules.”

Here are six ways you can take care of your automated campaigns so they do the best job of taking care of your prospects and customers (and your bottom line):

1. Automation Inventory

It’s hard to take care of your automations if you don’t know how many you have, what they’re triggered by and their goals. One of our clients did an inventory and identified nearly 300 active automated emails, which prompted an effort to consolidate and improve the management of these campaigns.

Keeping a running inventory also helps you identify gaps in your automations. Use this checklist of more than 110 Automated Campaign Ideas to help you identify opportunities. After you know the automations that you have, it’s time to do …

Related Article: Turbocharge Your Marketing Strategy With Email Automation

2. Performance Reviews

This most basic health check should consist of at least looking at:

  • Campaigns sent
  • Opens and open rates
  • Clicks and click rates
  • Conversions and conversion rates
  • Revenue per email
  • Spam complaints and complaint rates
  • Hard bounces and bounce rates
  • Unsubscribes and unsubscribe rates

Depending on your business and your automation goals, some of the more bottom-of-the-funnel metrics may not be applicable. There may also be some additional metrics that make sense for you to track.

Looking at these metrics regularly can alert you to major problems. For instance, if your welcome email send rate goes to zero, then that’s a sign the trigger for that email has likely broken. Or if your double opt-in confirmation request email’s click rate drops to zero, then that’s a sign of a broken confirmation link or a failure to record that confirmation properly.

Performance reviews can allow you to identify major breakdowns in your campaigns, but if you want to hear the squeaking and clanging of rundown campaigns, then you need to do regular … 

3. Quality Assurance Checks

The email inbox isn’t a static environment. Code support and rendering changes routinely across mailbox providers — and almost always without notice. Your website, mobile app and other landing pages aren’t static either. URLs change and new pages get launched, among many other changes. Plus, your image library and other assets are constantly turning over, too.

All of those changes can lead to problems, such as:

  • Broken links or redirects, particularly to secondary or tertiary calls-to-action
  • Out-of-date navigation bars or administrative links
  • Out-of-date landing pages
  • Out-of-date messaging or offers
  • Poor rendering or alignment of images due to mailbox code support changes

Those kinds of issues are likely to degrade the customer experience and performance, but not in such a dramatic way that overall performance will be clearly affected or that will cause customers to reach out to your service reps to complain. These are soft failures rather than hard failures. Other soft failures can be missed if you’re not doing regular … 

Related Article: 7 Burning Questions About Email Unsubscribes

4. Design & Messaging Refreshes

Anytime your brand updates or modifies the look and feel, styling or messaging of its website or mobile app, that should prompt a review of the design and messaging in your triggered emails. And, of course, anytime the templates for your broadcast emails are updated, your triggered campaigns should be as well.

When this doesn’t happen, brands end up with automated campaigns that have outdated:

  • Brand logos
  • Image styling
  • Button styling
  • Fonts and font sizes

Adopting modular email architecture and using partials makes it much easier to keep your brand image and messaging consistent. Modular build systems also make it much easier to do …

5. Testing & Optimization 

The sad truth is that automated campaigns are dramatically under-tested compared to broadcast campaigns. That’s despite the fact that automations deliver much higher performance, which means that even a small percentage boost in performance from an A/B test can lead to big absolute gains.

In addition to typical A/B testing targets like subject lines, hero images and CTAs, also consider testing:

  • Expanding your from name to emphasize that the email is special, such as using “YourBrand Cart Reminder” or “YourBrand Receipt.”
  • Adding more personalized content to the campaign
  • Expanding a single automated campaign into a series of emails
  • Optimizing the send time, such as using the natural rate of return to inform when you send a cart abandonment email or testing the spacing between emails in a series

Another element to test that deserves its own callout is …

Related Article: 10 Common Email Marketing Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix

6. Seasonal Optimization

Most brands have seasonal events that are relevant to their brands, whether it’s the winter season of ski lodges or the summer season of summer camps. So it’s surprising how few brands take the time to contextualize their automated emails within each of their major selling seasons.

In terms of email design and messaging, consider:

  • Adding seasonal imagery to your email header or logo — or even reskinning your entire email design so that it screams a seasonal message
  • Adjusting the links in your navigation bar or adding a seasonal nav bar to promote seasonal content
  • Adding a secondary content module that promotes seasonal content or products, such as adding a module promoting gift guides or top gifts during the holiday season

Beyond that, also consider adjusting the timing of triggers, as well as the duration and pacing of triggered series. For example, shopping decisions tend to be made rapidly on Cyber Monday, so shopping cart abandonment emails should be triggered more quickly than usual.

Quarterly Review Does the Trick

For all of those reasons, I recommend that brands review their triggered emails at least quarterly. Some brands already generate the majority of their email marketing revenue from automated campaigns.

If you’re anywhere near that, then you’ll want to spend even more time reviewing and improving your automation. And if you’re not anywhere near that, then it’s key to start doing these reviews with an eye on identifying gaps and opportunities to grow your stable of triggered campaigns to address all the moments that matter in the lifecycles of your customers.

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