Tracking your marketing emails

12 March 2009 by Martyn Hoyer  
Filed under Email marketing

When you send out an email marketing campaign, you’ll probably want to know how well received it has been. After all, that is one of the advantages of using email instead of snail mail for your marketing. How many paper mailshots have you sent that haven’t even been opened…? I don’t know either!

Using email tracking, you can not only find out who has opened your (HTML) emails, but you can also find out what links have been clicked (across both plain text and HTML emails) within your campaign.

This is incredibly useful for two reasons, firstly you will now know how many people on your list are actually opening your emails and secondly you will know what sort of links are appealing to people.

Tracking email openings

Unfortunately, you can only reliably track the opening of HTML emails. An HTML email by its very nature will at some point have to go and ask a server somewhere for some sort of data (most commonly, an image). Software can recognise these requests and use them to figure out that an email has been opened. This technique can then be cleverly adapted to put in a unique request for some data for each recipient opening the email. That way, you can see exactly who has opened the email.

You can also see when a user opened an email, which could potentially be very useful information for marketing purposes. It could be used to determine what day of the week or time of the day to send future campaigns.

There is a slight flaw with this method; if a recipient forwards their email to 20 friends, each time a friend opens it, it’ll be counted as an opening from the original recipient. A bit of common sense when analysing your statistics is required! I’m sure you wouldn’t be complaining that your campaign is being forwarded on anyway, it means more people are reading it!

Because plain text emails are simply text, they don’t make any requests to the server, so it’s a lot harder to track openings of emails. Links in plain text emails can still be tracked, so if you notice a recipient has opened a link but their opening of the email hasn’t been logged, it’s likely that they’ve opened the email as plain text.

It can be quite exciting to have a look at your statistics after sending out a campaign, however, don’t expect everyone on your list to open your email, it’s often only around 20% of your list of recipients that are recordered as opening the email (possibly less, if there are a lot of plain text recipients) but it’s still far more cost effective to send to 1000 recipients and have 200 people open it than to send out 200 paper mails!

You could use the open statistics to collect a new list of recipients, specifically the ones that didn’t open your campaign. You could then send them another one a couple of days later that starts with something like “We noticed you didn’t open your last email, maybe we can tempt you with these better offers?”.

Tracking link clicks

As well as whether the email has been opened, you can also track what links people have clicked on (and again, when they clicked them).

It’s a similar method to tracking the openings. Basically, the server sending out the email campaign acts as a stepping stone to the recipient’s route to the destination link. The email campaign’s link doesn’t go directly to the intended URL, instead it goes back to the email sending software. The email sending software recognises the unique request, logs a “click”, checks which URL it maps to, and then sends the user on to their destination… in an instant! It’s a bit like passing through a turnstile.

Finding out what your recipients are clicking on can be very useful. Lets say you’ve sent out a marketing email with three different offers in it, with a link for each to a page on your website with more details about that offer. A quick review of your link statistics could tell you which offer of the three was clicked on the most. Knowing this information can help you decide on offers for future campaigns.

Going slightly deeper, you could target individuals by using links to determine their interests, and then send them follow-up emails with details of products/services that are tailored to those interests.

All the links in your campaign are automatically tracked if you have tracking turned on, so you can also use link tracking to see if and when recipients have unsubscribed themselves from your email campaign (and if you send a lot, which campaign prompted them to unsubscribe could be useful information).

You can also see if and when users have clicked the “webversion” link.

The webversion link, when clicked, opens a copy of the recipient’s email in their browser. It is usually presented as “If you are having trouble reading this email, click here to open it in your browser” (because HTML email is extremely delicate and you need to know all of its quirks to get it to display correctly across all the incarnations of email client) and is very wise to include.

If you find that your webversion link is getting a lot of clicks, then it’s quite likely there’s a technical problem somewhere in your campaign, and something you’ll probably need to get fixed before the next one goes out!

It’s worth noting that you can make a webversion uniqe to each user, in which case all the tracking will still work even if a user is viewing their email in their browser.

A quick note about the look of the links themselves. They’re obviously dependent on the style of the rest of the email, but you probably do want them to be prominent. The standard is blue, underlined text (when using a white background), but there is a bit of leeway, it’s certainly not something to overlook!

An example…

Over the Christmas period we decided to send out an E-Christmas card to our colleagues. It was a bit of fun, but also contained a few tracked links. You might remember receiving it… if so, we hope the turkey still has pride of place on the mantlepiece!

The email in its original state can be found here. Note the code to invoke the first name into the text to give the email a bit of personalisation (you might find me talking about that in another blog entry!), there’s also the webversion link which won’t work as it’s automatically generated at the time of sending to make each user’s webversion unqiue.

After that email was sent out, we regularly checked the statistics, finding out who was opening the emails, and whether they were clicking any links. One particular recipient appeared to be opening it repeatedly, which we soon realised probably meant that they’d forwarded it around their office, which did bring a smile to our faces.

I’ve also just taken another look at the statistics, and it seems one recipient opened the email on the 9th February! That’s got to be a record for the earliest card for Christmas 2009!

Obviously, as I said, that “campaign” was just a bit of fun, but it did prove the power of tracking, and if you didn’t download the PDF, we know who you are!

Five Great Things about Email Marketing

30 January 2009 by Yvonne Conway  
Filed under Email marketing

I only decided to write this entry 10 minutes ago, as I was thinking about how much I liked the system here! It is a testament to how great email marketing is that I could blast through a 5 point list in such a short time, I normally dither for much longer over this type of thing…So for what they are worth here are my thoughts.

1 – It is cheaper than traditional direct mail when done properly!

With email marketing you can send information to your whole database with no more expense than your marketing team’s time. That means, there are no printing costs, no postage costs, no hours spent stuffing envelopes…it’s a marketer’s dream!

2 – It is a great way to quickly and regularly update your customers!

This is how it used to be, you were having a sale in-store in May, so in mid-March you approached your graphic designer to design a leaflet promoting the sale. He finished the design at the start of April and you passed it over to your printer who delivered the final product in the second or third week of April. Of course you then had to do the dreaded envelope stuffing and franking to get them out the door in time to ensure your customers got them before the sale started! (I got tired just writing that!)

With the introduction of email marketing to the mix, you already have your email template ready and waiting for you so no designer needed, you don’t have to wait for a printer to do your printing and you most definitley do not have to stuff any envelopes. You still have to write the copy, which yes can be a bit of a pain, but other than that you can do the whole thing one week before your sale starts and you get the same if not a better result for less time invested, less money invested and no nasty paper cuts.

3 – You can track what links interest people most and adapt your campaigns accordingly

The problem with traditional direct mail is that unless someone picks up the phone to call you, you have no idea if they have read your leaflet or what sections captured their interest. With email marketing, providing your system has stats as part of the package you can track what links people clicked on, what ones they did not and even if they passed it on to a friend to have a look too.

4 – It is so easy to tailor your message to specific individuals or customer segments and with no added cost

Yes, digital print enables us to nicely personalise our flyers and brochures to show our customer’s name and maybe the last product they bought or their service plan but its not all that cheap is it? With email marketing you can personalise every paragraph and sentence if you feel the need and it does not cost you a penny more. Experts everywhere are tooting targeted, personalised marketing as the only thing that will save you in these risky times but not everyone has the budget to do it on paper based marketing but perhaps without realising it they do on email!

5 – Your subscriber database is easily managed and updated – without much input from you.
(Providing you are using a good service!)

With a handy sign up form on your website coupled with a nice unsubscribe link in each of your email campaigns there is nothing for you to do. Your email database manages itself…enough said!

1 bad thing about Email Marketing

In the wrong hands it can be very dangerous!!!

Access to such a speedy communication tool has huge benefits but when you send an email with six spelling errors, 3 broken links as well as some unviewable images out to your whole client base just because you can do it quickly, you have just caused massive, potentially irreparable damage to your brand. Therefore I would suggest that before exploring the wonderful world of email marketing, you have suitable controls in place to avoid this kind of disaster.