Three Easy Steps to Optimizing Your Email Campaigns
Email can be an important component to an overall CRM strategy. But effective email campaigns aren’t created overnight. Unfortunately, pharma marketers sometimes allow themselves to believe that they are.
Some marketers carefully plan contact strategies based on different target segments, design emails to deliver very specific messages, space the deliveries over the course of a designated amount of time, then push it live and … just let it run. They cross another project off their lists and hope for the best, moving on to the next tactic in line.
The launch of a campaign is the point where the real work should begin. But oftentimes marketers and agencies are content to simply monitor performance rather than actively manage and improve it. Given a medium like email, where a treasure trove of clear and actionable data is readily available, this represents a huge missed opportunity.
If that sounds like bad news, it is. But the good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. Even in a highly regulated environment, there are a few simple steps you can take to make sure your email marketing efforts are working hard, delivering value to your brand and customers, and driving results for your business.
Step 1: TEST
With email marketing — as with most any digital effort — testing should be an ongoing endeavor. Constantly monitoring how email recipients react to each touch point provides valuable insight into the effectiveness of that tactic. For emails, there are several different components that are easy to test, including:
- “From” addresses
- Subject lines
- Creative design and messaging
- Calls to action
The easiest and most straightforward way to test each of these components is what’s called an A-B split. Basically, two versions of the email are run simultaneously and compared for performance.
That means that you’ll need to do a little planning beforehand and get two (or more) different versions approved through your legal/medical/regulatory teams up front. But if you take the time to plan, this shouldn’t be a significant hurdle. Simply determine which variable or variables you’d like to test, then create one version with the control element and additional versions with the variable elements.
For example, if your goal is to improve open rates and you want to test subject lines, simply send a set of alternate subject lines through the approval process when you submit the email for approval. Explain to your review teams that you plan to test each of the subject lines, and depending on response rates you’ll whittle them down to the one that is performing the best.
Step 2: ANALYZE
Once you’ve set up your tests, the next step is to observe the results. With email campaigns, results are typically available within the first 48 hours of a mailing. Carefully analyzing a few key measurements will help you understand not only what is driving behavior, but provide valuable insights into why. A few of the more common measurements include:
Deliverability — Of the emails you’re sending, how many are actually reaching an inbox? This number should be pretty high — usually 90% or higher. If your messages aren’t reaching inboxes at that rate, there are typically two main culprits: bad addresses or spam filters.
Open Rates — The open rate is essentially the percentage of emails that are opened by the recipient. This number can be a little fuzzy because there are a few different accepted calculations. Some take into account only those that are delivered, while others factor in “previews” vs. true opens. But basically, this number represents how effective you are at getting your email messages read. Benchmark numbers vary wildly by message type and campaign, but 20% isn’t bad as a cross-industry rule of thumb.
Click-Through Rates (CTRs) — The click-through rate is basically a measure of how effective your email is at driving traffic back to your site. Like other measures, there are differing accepted calculations. It is typically defined as the percentage of recipients who opened the email and clicked on a link. Benchmark numbers vary wildly here as well, depending on the nature of the email.
For example, a promotional message inviting a recipient to visit the site has one set of objectives, while a confirmation message thanking someone for registering has a completely different set of objectives. Click-through rates on distinctive types of messages may differ.
Engagement — Of course the real measure of any email campaign’s success is what happens after the recipient gets to your site. There can be a number of different engagement measures depending on the objectives of your campaign. Some of the easiest to track are:
- Bounce rate (percentage of visitors who visit only one page, then leave)
- Time spent on-site
- Visits to target or goal pages
Ultimately, engagement measures will tell you how well your email campaign is working together with your site to meet your objectives.
Step 3: OPTIMIZE
Now that you’ve tested alternate messages and analyzed which are performing best, the next step is to implement what you’ve learned. In a highly regulated industry like pharma, you might think this would be the toughest part. But if you’ve taken the time to plan your tests, and you’ve closely analyzed results, the optimization stage is fairly easy.
Simply compare which messages or combinations of variables are working best, and alter your campaigns accordingly. For example, if your open rates are running below expectations, compare the subject line of your control message to those in your test group. If one has been performing better than the others, make that your subject line for all future emails.
On the other hand, if click-through rates seem to be lagging, perhaps the content of your message is failing to convey the value of your offer. Or your call to action isn’t compelling readers to click. Again, simply compare your control message to your test group, and identify which is performing best.
Unless these issues are addressed, your recipients will quickly learn to tune out your messages, unsubscribe, or worse — mark your messages as spam.
Ultimately, the only way to ensure your email campaign is a success is to test, analyze, and optimize. Doing a little bit of pre-planning and closely studying results will put you in a position to make the changes necessary to improve your campaign along the way. And since those changes (from addresses, subject lines, messages, calls-to-action, etc.) have already been pre-approved by your regulatory team, implementation should move fairly quickly.
Then your next round of testing and optimizing can begin!
Your quick reference guide for what to test: