MH900399031It’s a new year and it’s time for a nice fresh look at your email marketing. Regular maintenance of your mailing lists, combined with regular testing can work wonders for your results, so make 2013 the year that you really put the effort into this valuable channel.

The following three common email marketing errors should help to open your eyes to some of the mistakes that could be having a negative impact on the performance of your campaigns.

Not understanding the delivered metric

As a sender it’s likely that you’re probably reporting on a monthly basis, possibly even more regularly depending on how often you send. Now the reports you’ll be downloading from your ESP will show you a delivered metric, probably somewhere between 95% and 98% (if this figure is much below this then you really should carry out some investigation into why your bounce rate is so high).

Now most will see this figure and think ‘I’m doing pretty well, no delivery issues here’, however one thing that this metric does not account for is the percentage of emails that are going to the junk/spam folder and this is vital.

I dealt with a client in the past whose delivery figure was 98% but low interaction levels seemed to suggest there was definitely an issue. Upon some work with Return Path (these guys provide the facility to look at your Inbox placement, and highlight metrics that your ESP probably doesn’t provide), I actually discovered that they were having some serious deliverability issues with Hotmail, who were delivering 100% of their emails to the Junk folder. Hotmail email addresses accounted for around 45% of their database, so it doesn’t take a genius to see why interaction levels were suffering: bluntly speaking, if it hits the Junk folder, it’s never going to get opened.

Assuming high revenue means you’re doing well

Email is a great channel for generating revenue, and many retail businesses will see very impressive revenue figures as a result of their email activity, however, in the same way as delivery rate can mask serious email placement issues, good revenue stats can lead retailers to believe that there are no problems and they can quickly fall into a routine of doing the same old thing every month.

You need to bear in mind that as much as the email channel is making you a lot of money, are you still paying attention to your delivery rate? Think about how much you could be losing as a result of emails that aren’t being delivered. Are you still looking at your open and click-through rate? Is your conversion rate really as good as it could be? Are you still carrying out regular tests to improve the results of each campaign? All questions worth bearing in mind.

Good revenue figures can mask a lot of errors and cause people to become lazy. There is always room for improvement so keep improving and this will be reflected in your results.

Being reluctant to delete inactive email addresses

Many of us are guilty of this crime and it’s one of the worst. Engagement levels matter, and to put it bluntly, if your recipients are not engaging with your emails, your reputation as a sender will decline and over time, your ability to deliver to the Inbox will be negatively affected.

In a blog post by Return Path’s CEO, Matt Blumberg, he reveals that during 2012 Return Path diagnosed more engagement-based delivery issues than ever before. It’s not the only factor affecting delivery, but it’s up there.

Email addresses churn, people become disinterested, people subscribe for the sake of an offer but aren’t actually interested in your company or your offers…the list goes on. The fact of the matter is, addresses become inactive and there is very little you can do to prevent it.

Carry out some filtering on your own database and see how many people haven’t opened an email from you in more than 12 months. I’ve seen clients where their database has been building for many years and is of an enviable size, but they’re having delivery issues due to lack of engagement. Upon investigation I’ve encountered databases where over 50% of those on the list are completely inactive. Once the data had been cleaned, open and click through numbers soared because delivery to the Inbox was restored as a result of increased interaction levels.

As much as you may not want to part with any of your data, if these inactive recipients are not engaging, you’re doing nothing but wasting your volume allowance. Is it really worth risking a potentially valuable contact never seeing your email, for the sake of hanging on to a bit of data?