By Sophie Armitage, Experian Data Quality

Following my previous article on the ‘Smarter Email Marketing Checklist’ for email programmes, we know email isn’t going anywhere. In fact, according to Experian Data Quality Research, in 2015 90 per cent of companies will conduct email marketing campaigns, with 36 per cent believing it will be their most important channel. After all, it gives your company an unrivalled opportunity to deliver tailored messaging to current or prospective customers.

With this in mind whilst it’s important to put a solid email strategy in place, for maximum ROI it’s equally important to make sure you continually review and optimise your program as you go along. Here is a list of tips to complement my original checklist which helps to build on your strategy and ensure you drive maximum value through email for your business.

1. Keep your email list clean and up to date

The way that consumers use email is changing. DMA research shows that as a general trend consumers are accumulating more addresses with 40% having three or more in use and it’s likely that you’ve captured new ones since the list was last cleaned.

That means regular cleaning is a must, especially pre-send for each major campaign. Without it there’s a risk that your emails won’t be delivered and research shows it can impact on service quality, cause unnecessary costs and lost revenue - not to mention the wasted resource put into creating the emails in the first place.

2. Manage inactive subscribers

Inactive subscribers are a common problem for email marketers, representing a large group that no longer read the messages being sent out, thus lowering engagement rates and harming overall inbox placement.

Before you cut these lapsed contacts out of the loop, organisations should consider going a step further by finding out how often their clients want to be contacted and tailoring the content accordingly. Introducing a preference centre will help with this in the long-term - by putting customers in control of what they receive from you they’re much more likely to respond.

3. Make use of automation

Automated emails triggered by specific user behaviours can be a valuable tool. This might include specific messages sent to new subscribers or post-purchase recommendations, both of which would be timely and relevant to the recipient’s recent activity and will undoubtedly allow for better engagement than emails sent out in bulk according to a rigid schedule.

4. Get personal - keep it relevant

Making sure your messages are relevant to the customer each and every time you send can make all the difference to engagement rates. Personalising your emails by using the information you know about them means you can make sure to offer something of value that directly meets their needs or interests.

This could include anything from simple personalisation - such as using a first name - or a more complex strategy that provides different email content to different audience segments based on previous purchases or topics they’ve demonstrated an interest in the past. Think about it from your own personal perspective - what makes you open some emails over others? Most often it’s because it’s particularly relevant to you.

So the moral of the story? If you don’t have data to enable personalisation, start collecting it. If you do currently collect customer data, use it. Even a little personalisation is better than none at all, and it does have an impact ROI.

5. Always test your emails

Once an established email programme is in place, it's important to test different variables to better understand what works for the audience and what doesn’t. Doing this continually will start to build a detailed picture of exactly what works best, meaning you can be more confident about what types of content, designs and calls to action will resonate with your customers.

Examples of variables which you could test include subject lines, calls to action or times of day for sending messages – all of which can make an important difference in maximising ROI.

Optimising ROI from your email campaigns is clearly a constant, iterative process. Taking learnings and using what you know about customers is a great way of continually tweaking to make gradual improvements. Remember however that data sits at the heart of your email activity and it needs to be right to ensure all of your hard work isn’t wasted.