Email, Email Marketing Advice

Your ESP has ESP – Use It

Is there a marketing medium in history as routinely underutilized as email? Not in terms of volume – few folks outside prison are clamoring for more messages in their inbox. But in terms of using the full capabilities of the medium, the vast majority of email marketers are just scratching the surface, and I don’t get it.

Email marketing ESPEven the most basic email program should provide you with this data about each of your recipients:

  • Whether they routinely open email from you, and if so, when (for today, let’s set aside the fact that open rate is an unreliable metric)
  • Whether they routinely click links in emails from you, and if so, when.
  • What types of links they click, images or text
  • What types of links they click, by content type
  • Whether they keep your email in their inbox and open and click over and over

If you add some simple subject line testing, from line testing, time of day testing, and day of week testing to that data, you could (and should) create a robust, scientific email program that geometrically improves your results.

  • The right subject line
  • The right from line
  • The right time to send
  • The right layout
  • The right type of content

Sound Email Marketing Isn’t Hard

I recognize that this may sound complicated, and impossible to lasso with declining budgets and marketing staffs. But it’s not. If you’re using any sort of legitimate Email Service Provider (ESP), the tools necessary to test and optimize your email programs are built right into the software. You have to be mildly comfortable with math of course, but the same is true of Fantasy Football.

With the economy stumbling along like Lindsay Lohan leaving the Viper Room, shouldn’t all marketers do more with less? And to me, the easiest way to do that is to take the time to learn how to improve the emails that you’re already sending.

A Call to Action

But perhaps the ESP industry has done a bad job explaining and demystifying email testing and optimization, because often when I talk about taking email programs to the next level scientifically, people get all skittish and worried – like Luke and Han and Leia in the trash compactor.

So, I’m going on the record to ask for two things. First, I want the ESP community to spend less time rolling out features that customers are scared of, and more time making features approachable. And second, I want you to commit to just trying one email test between now and the end of the quarter. Start with subject line. Split your list into 4 even pieces and create 4 subject lines. See what happens. A little spreadsheet action won’t kill you, and you might be very surprised to see how much you can improve your results.

(disclosure: the largest ESP in the world, ExactTarget, is a client)

(photo by Willie Lunchmeat – seriously)