By Sophie Armitage, Experian Data Quality

The rumoured death of email has not materialised, in fact quite the opposite. The DMA’s recent National Client Report reveals an increase in performance from last year with 90% of clients seeing email as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for achieving business goals. It’s no surprise therefore that Experian Data Quality research also shows more organisations than ever declaring email as their primary communication tool, added to which consumers themselves are also requesting more often than not to be engaged via email.

It’s quite clear that email is far from dead and, if anything, companies should be investing to ensure they set themselves up for success. This is especially true for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who may be working with limited budgets and rely even more on email marketing. Smaller businesses need to ensure that they are reaching the right people, first time. Therefore, I’d recommend that organisations looking to make more effective use of email follow the checklist below:

1. Outline clear objectives and define what constitutes success

Before you start building your email marketing plan you need to know what you’re trying to achieve with each campaign. Make sure these are aligned to company goals; this might include building on brand presence, informing customers of changes or convincing a customer or prospect to buy.

2. Know your subscribers

Typically, the subscribers in your email list will fall into 5 segments;

• Active subscribers - those who you mail to and regularly engage with
• Active non-responders - subscribers who have opened email in the past, but have not responded recently
• Opt-out requests - subscribers who no longer wish to receive your messages
• Bad emails - those that bounce or have syntax errors
• Inactive Subscribers - individuals who don’t open or engage with your messages

Each segment needs a different approach as they behave in a different way. For example, Active non-responders may be tempted back with an incentive, whereas you may wish to send active subscribers more frequent emails.

3. Think about your email design – Part I

Remember, many modern mail clients strip out images, leaving just replacement ALT-Text. If you have a lot of images in your email design, or your email is one big image, then many of your recipients will never see it in all its glory. Use up-to-date code to ensure stylised content without need for too many images (plus, any last minute detail changes are much easier to make in code than changing the design of an image).

4. Think about your email design – Part II

The user journey within your email is critical. Ensure your messaging is clear and concise so it will be instantly understood. Make moving to the next stage (often following a link) easy for the user – as they’ll be more likely to do it. Don’t forget the information you’re legally required to share in your email footer (Privacy Policy, Cookie Policy, Unsubscribe links etc.).

5. Consider the bigger picture: Remember it doesn’t end with the email

It’s no good thinking about your audience, message and design and then just firing your email out willy-nilly without considering how you track performance. There is an endless list of things you could track, but we would recommend as a minimum ensuring your emails drop cookies when it engages to ensure you can then track future engagements with other channels (such as your website). It is also useful for providing loads of information during automated lead management in your CRM system.

6. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste – clean your list pre-send

You’ve done a lot of work so far in making sure your email looks great, renders well on devices and is personal but now you need to give it the best chance of being delivered. Bad emails include those that ultimately won’t reach the inbox and failure to remove them from your list has a wider implication than you might think. 28% of companies in recent research reported lost revenue as a direct result of emails not getting through for one reason or another. As a further consequence, if an ISP believes you are frequently contacting bad emails it will throttle the delivery of any good emails in your list, thus reducing your engagement rates. Try validating your lists to understand who you should and shouldn’t be emailing to protect the deliverability of those good email addresses.

7. Show relevant metrics to Key Stakeholders

Following on from point 1, you now need to communicate relevant success metrics to key stakeholders – it will ultimately help with buy in if they can see that you’re bringing value to what they’re doing too. In terms of what to consider, think about what information you pass, to whom and how often. For example, the Head of eCommerce may be interested in customer conversion (conversion in this instance being purchases) rates from your email comms.

8. Review and start again

Above and beyond the metrics you report upward within your business you will also have made your own tangible and intangible conclusions on how the campaign performed. Document these and include when you sit down to start planning your next campaign.

Having the right email data in place, a considered design and structured process to review success will give a great platform from which to measure, test and develop an email program that will deliver ROI for your organisation in the long term.