How well have you documented your email marketing program? Improve its functionality by using these 11 tips for capturing qualitative information to accurately assess how things work.

Many of my client engagements begin with an email marketing audit – a full qualitative and quantitative analysis of the organization’s email marketing program with recommendations for streamlining processes, improving bottom line performance, and anything else that will make it more effective and more profitable.

We held a kick-off meeting for an audit with a new client last week, and it occurred to me that the questions we use to lead the discussion would be useful for any organization, even if they aren’t going through a formal audit.

By documenting your program in this way you will:

  • Have a written record to provide consultants and/or new employees, to quickly get them up to speed on email marketing in your organization.
  • Be able to concretely illustrate on paper the strengths of your program – those things that you want to make sure you don’t lose and that you want to build on.
  • Identify perceived areas of weakness and/or pain points; things that you may want to address in the future.

I have four types of information I collect, for each item on the list:

When you’re talking about strengths, weaknesses, and pain points it’s important to ask “why” in addition to “what,” because the “why” will help you better understand and then prioritize them.

Now – without further ado – here’s the 11 point list I used to guide the kick-off discussion:

1. Strategy

Discuss the client’s current email marketing strategy as well as qualitative and quantitative goals for the program. Some clients don’t have a formal strategy. However, once you start speaking with them, you may realize that they have standard things they believe and actions they take that, when knitted together, form a framework for the program. It’s important to capture this, even if it’s not a formal strategy.

2. Policy and legal

You want to be aware of any internal policies related to email. Most often there are guidelines to keep from bombarding subscribers or legal opinions on CAN-SPAM compliance. An example of the former is a rule that each email address can only receive one email message a day from the organization. The latter might include guidelines on how marketing copy is to be included in transactional email messages.

3. Process

It’s important to understand what happens when and who the players are. Begin with how the decision to send an email is made, walk through the creative execution, and end up at reporting and analysis. I often turn this into a flow chart; the visual provides a quick understanding and is easy to reference in the future. It also provides a “before,” which can be paired with an “after” if we make changes to streamline the process.

4. Technology

No discussion of email is complete without taking about the email service provider, marketing automation platform, or other send solution. You should also include any other systems that integrate with these, like CRM, web analytics, or shopping cart. Any platform that provides or collects data and any other information related to the send or the resulting conversion – such as sale, lead generation, and so on – should be included in this section of the discussion.

5. Email address acquisition

List growth is essential for any successful email program. Learning how new people get on the list – including tactics which drive users to sign-up, key online registration pages, and other sources – is critical.

6. List management

If you plan on doing any segmentation, this is the place to discuss it. It’s also important to cover the basics, including where the database of record lies and how lists are managed throughout the process.

7. Content

What information is being sent via email? Key types of content like editorial, promotional, invites, and so forth should be identified and discussed here.

8. Creative

It’s good to include some recent email campaign creative, including landing pages, with performance metrics provided. I ask for two to three efforts the client considers successful as well as two to three that they found to be unsuccessful. The value here is in the discussion around the creative and the results, so be sure to document this as well as highlight the assets.

9. Deliverability

Hopefully there are no current issues here, but if there are it’s important to not just list them – really address them. If there were deliverability issues in the past, be sure to document what happened, how this was handled before, and (hopefully) how it was resolved. While ideally you will never need this information again, there is a possibility you may need to refer to it, so it’s just best to always have it handy.

10. Tracking, reporting, analysis, and performance evaluation

This is a huge deliverable, but for the kick-off meeting, we typically only walk through email metrics and, if appropriate, web analytics from the last three months to a year. Pull this out of your email marketing platform and have it in spreadsheet form for easy review and analysis.

11. Testing for continuous improvement

You want to document any recent performance testing done with email campaigns, including key findings and quantitative metrics to support it.

One more tip

This probably sounds like it will take a lot of time to pull together – well, it does. One way to get the work done with some added benefit is to have a new employee undertake this during their first few weeks. A task like this will give them a reason to speak to other members of the team – they’ll need to do that to gather the information.

Additionally, it will also provide them a hands-on way to get up to speed on the specifics of the email marketing program at your organization. Then you’ll have the full report to provide to other new employees. Perhaps you can even ask each new employee to not just read the report, but go back to the team and see if any updates are in order.

Until next time,

Note: This column was originally published by ClickZ on December 7, 2015.


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