Now that summer has retreated into autumn,
the focus of many email marketing departments turns to Christmas and the early
part of next year.

There have been some interesting changes in the market over
the last twelve months and during this key planning period it is important to
take stock.

Here are five key pointers to allow you to run a quick health check
on your current email campaigns and help you define your KPI’s ensuring your Christmas
and New Year campaigns are a success!

1. Make sure you
know where your emails are going

Delivery rate is a bit of confusing
metric. It’s more like how many cars left the starting grid in a race, rather
than how many made it to the finishing line.

Delivery rate is the amount of
emails the receiving ISP indicated it accepted. It has nothing to do with
whether it goes into the inbox, or junk box and in some cases whether it will
be delivered to the recipient at all!

If anything, it is the most fundamental
measure of list quality and validity. If your ESP is happy with the delivery
rates, focusing on other metrics will give you better returns.

Make sure you are thoroughly checking
your inbox delivery across as many domains as possible, both Return Path and
Litmus have great tools for the job. Also sign up with SNDS from Hotmail, this
will give you a good indication as to whether your emails are landing in the
inbox or not.

2. Set your
sights on Priority Inbox

Just when we thought it was safe to
define where we wanted emails to land (Inbox of course!) Gmail
and other main ISPs trundled out a bunch of new definitions.

I’m not talking
about semantics here; all of a sudden we had some new targets to aim at. And,
as for the difference this type of ordering and prioritisation make, the recent
Email Benchmark report from Return Path gives us a clue.

The report found that out of the sample
they analysed, 81% of the email accounts had Priority Inbox enabled. Of these
accounts, only 17% of the inbox was deemed as “priority”.  

Both Hotmail and Yahoo have similar inbox
management processes, all developed to help subscribers manage “Bacn”
(emails you signed up for, but don’t necessarily want now).  

Hotmail has recently released some
more features
to help recipients manage their inbox, so you want to make sure
your emails don’t end up in a folder that never gets read, or worse, get
automatically deleted.

And with the latest DMA email benchmark report indicating that 82% of companies expect to send more
email in 2011, the inbox is going to get pretty busy towards Christmas.

3. Check your
campaign metrics

Look at this carefully, in the lead up to
Christmas, the volume of emails that will be sent this year will undoubtedly
see a large increase.

This will inevitably lead to inboxes straining under the
load of marketing emails, and priority processes working overtime to ensure “wanted”
emails are presented first. It’ll be the emails that were previously ignored
that will struggle for any sort of priority.

Sending emails to recipients who
ignore them, in the belief that they will open them when they are interested,
won’t work.

By the time the recipient might be
ready to listen to what you have to say, you’ll be so far down the priority
list, you won’t really exist. Send emails to people who will open them and send
them content that you know will interest them.

If one of your key goals is to
ensure the recipient considers your email is a priority every time they receive
it, you’ll get your message to them when they are ready to buy.

4. Look
beyond today’s revenue to ensure success this Christmas

Look carefully at your metrics; inbox
delivery, opens, clicks etc are all important to gauge the success of your
email marketing. What you are trying to avoid, is ISP inbox filtering processes
having an impact on your future revenue potential. 

5. Measure
recipient engagement

Recipient engagement can mean many
things, principally measuring someone’s level of interaction with an
organisation. In an email context, this could be opening an email, or clicking,
or the amount of time spent on the website (from an email).

One of the most
important parts of the interaction will be how recently it has taken place. On the
most positive side of the engagement scale is a recipient who has opened an
email, clicked on the link, visited the website and made a purchase.

If this
purchase was one of many they had made in the past, this deepens their
engagement with your organisation. The other side of the engagement scale is
that email address, which has no open or click activity for the two years it has
been on your list. It has also never been associated with any website visits or
any type of sale.

As to how much it matters, let’s take a recipient who just falls short of our most
highly engaged recent purchaser; they got as far as the basket, then unfortunately
left the process. The response metrics for this recipient, is a measure of a
truly targeted email.

The figures published in the latest RedEye Behavioural
Email Benchmark report show that emails sent to highly engaged people achieve click through rates approaching
30% and a staggering 18% conversion rate.

It’s not surprising that this type of
email has doubled in popularity in some sectors (e-commerce).

basket abandoners are the most engaged people you can send an email to that
gets results. Although engagement
segmentation can be as simple as the people who have recently opened or
clicked your emails, correlating these people with sales can be a bit of an eye
opener for some organisations.

Taking a cold hard look at the amount of your
list who are reading your emails now, will give you a good idea as to how much
work you need to do to make this Christmas a great one.    

Christmas is a big
time for many businesses, and email marketing is playing an increasingly
important role in the success of a marketing strategy. Because of this, it is
becoming vitally important to consider the longer term value of your email subscribers.

For many organisations, the success of the coming Christmas season
will rely as much on how you treat your recipients now, than what you do in the
final weeks.