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Data Is the Lifeblood of Great Email Marketing

by: Dave Walters (@_DaveWalters)
21 March 2012

I often admit the rise of Sarah Lacy’s PandoDaily has given me reason to love a tech blog again. And case in point, I was suitably impressed with Greg Kumparak’s in-depth look at how Facebook is adding multiple layers of measurement tags to its emails. It was a deep, balanced look at the topic without a boatload of page view-inducing hyperbole—well, maybe the word “creepy” in the headline was a bit much, but I’ve got nothing but love for the PandoDaily crew.

The gist of the piece is that Facebook is employing an alternate tag to measure email opens—an obscure, Internet Explorer-only HTML sound function that bypasses the image suppression issues regularly associated with traditional single-pixel measurement. I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the 30-odd comments skew away from the false privacy hysteria that’s all the rage these days.

So why is this important to email marketers? Clearly, campaign measurement and spend optimization are two huge issues for those who embrace email marketing at scale. Knowing who interacts with our messages—even at the open-only level—speaks volumes about our subject lines and “From” addresses. And understanding the differential between open and click metrics delivers insight on the quality of our offers.

While the rise of image suppression techniques within email clients such as Outlook and Gmail has rendered these metrics more directional than concrete, the data is still absolutely critical. So when data is better, our campaigns are smarter—and more relevant to our recipients, which is the real Holy Grail.

And when we’re talking about high-dollar budgets, a couple percentage points of effectiveness can have a monster impact on revenue and channel choice. For example, in my Agent ROI talks, I focus on how social and email work together most effectively. Some of the brightest marketers are engaging in conversations across many social networks, with a clear objective to drive an email opt-in. (See our infographic on using social to increase opt-ins.)

Once they earn the opt-in, it’s time for well-orchestrated campaigns and smart marketing automation tactics to kick in. If we’re doing a great job, the conversion event will be triggered by a beautifully timed email campaign. At a minimum, we’ll have deeply considered our prospect’s buying cycle and kept him or her informed and engaged until the conversion moment is upon us.

Let’s also give credit where credit is due—and challenge ourselves in a similar way. Facebook saw a reporting challenge in a major segment of its business and was creative enough to work closely with engineering to craft a solution. How many marketers have willingly crossed that chasm to include technical folks in solving real-world business challenges?

Not enough, I’d contend. And guess what? Solving difficult business problems can be just as rewarding for a developer as squashing a bug. Give your technical folks an opportunity to make your marketing life easier, and you might just be surprised how eager they are to help. (Granted, if you’re in a big enterprise you might need a secret contact or two —but I’d virtually guarantee they exist.)

So let’s continue to keep the discipline of marketing at the center of our world. The better data we can derive from targeted but aggressive testing, the smarter our campaigns will be. And this intelligence allows us to better live up to our users’ expectations of a compelling email channel, which in turns drives revenue and repeat business. Think of your marketing efforts as an ecosystem you should measure, enhance and protect as necessary. Cultivating a forward-leaning homeostasis should be near the top of all our to-do lists.


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