The Proactive Marketer. Ensuring the safe arrival and optimum placement of s

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1 The Proactive Marketer Ensuring the safe arrival and optimum placement of s

2 Contents Introduction 4 Data integrity 5 Relevance 6 Reputation 8 Building a firm foundation 10 In summary 11 About the author 11 2

3 Introduction Today, ensuring that your s both reach and are read by your customers is a complex issue that s high on the marketing agenda. This paper looks at the ways in which marketers can work with internet service providers (ISPs) and customers to: ensure that s safely negotiate filters; are relevant to and appreciated by consumers; and are placed in inboxes in the formats and at the times that are most likely to drive engagement, transactions and healthy returns on marketing investment. Deliverability is assuming increasing importance. Once only talked about in tech-savvy circles, changes to the ways in which many ISPs filter s now means that customers are being empowered to take control of their inboxes able to discard or block all but the most relevant messages. Now, more than ever, every campaign has to generate maximum revenue; so s need to be hitting the top of the inbox and not the junk folder. To stay ahead of the curve, marketers need to understand best practice in marketing, and proactively put these into practice every time an is deployed. Whilst there are many elements marketers must take into account in delivering effective marketing campaigns, this paper focuses on the three pillars of successful deliverability: 1. data integrity 2. relevance 3. reputation All of these points require brands to measure, segment and respond to their customers. In doing so you can ensure that your marketing s hit the top of your customer s inbox every time. 3

4 Data integrity Validity, accuracy and permission Your campaign will only be as effective as the data it s built on. The old adage, rubbish in, rubbish out, has particular relevance here. In a 2012 Experian survey, more than 90 per cent of companies suspected that up to 25 per cent of their data is inaccurate. When applying these figures to an database, any campaign will have lost a quarter of potential returns before it even begins. And these could be customers who want your products but will never be given the opportunity to buy them, because they never received your . Take the time to audit and validate your data; ensure that you re capturing the right information to drive campaigns; cleanse it to remove duplicates and gone aways, and consider enhancing it with additional data sources that can give you greater cross-channel insight into your customers. Beyond this, even if the address information is accurate, the is doomed to failure if the recipient hasn t first given permission for the contact. Unsolicited s have the potential to turn customers off your brand, squander hard-earned trust and condemn all future communications to the junk folder. Know where each address originated and make sure that the subscriber provided clear consent to receive from you. If you worked with a third party, for example, perform some due diligence to understand where and how they obtained the addresses, and if they properly disclosed to the subscriber how these addresses would be used. Proactive database management also delivers a resource that s far more than a repository of address information. Maintain good database health by recording and analysing the activity level of your subscribers across the lifecycle. It allows you to take in the bigger picture: are they responding to your offers? Have they stopped clicking on links? Are they interested in different products? Are you reaching them with the right offers at the right times? Having this kind of information at your fingertips means that you can refine and target engagement and engaged subscribers are far more likely to buy your products. In a 2012 Experian survey, more than 90 per cent of companies suspected that up to 25 per cent of their data is inaccurate. When applying these figures to an database, any campaign will have lost a quarter of potential returns before it even begins. 4

5 Relevance Analysis and understanding for real engagement In the digital world, customers have grown accustomed to getting the information they want, at the times they want and from a variety of sources. With figures from Experian Hitwise showing that users open an average of just five s per inbox visit, but there are 500 million -driven website visits every month, their attention is a precious commodity. It follows that they want information in a format that they can scan for relevance before investing time in exploring the detail. This has led to discerning customers who can make smarter decisions about marketing messages, choosing the brands that they associate with meaningful communications and treat them as individuals, not a face in the crowd. Start a dialogue In such a fast moving information environment, brands rarely get a second chance. You need to deliver relevant content first time, every time. The digital revolution provides many new ways for effective dialogue and brands have to tap into this to hear and see their customers. In better understanding them, designers and marketers can identify what customers want to see as they scan their inbox and construct s that deliver results. Remember that is there to help foster a relationship, and all good relationships are about listening. In the information age, knowledge is power, so it s wise to treat any data your customer gives you as the valuable commodity that it is. 5

6 By capturing, analysing and learning from customers, your s can be delivered at the right frequency, be optimised for the right device (desktop or mobile devices, for example) and provide the most attractive offers to encourage click through and transaction rates. Effective CRM is critical here, because it s all about closing the loop constantly checking that the brand is engaging with the customer and spotting the warning signs of disconnection early enough to give time to refine and perfect tailored content. It brings you closer to the Single Customer View, where deeper customer understanding allows you to engage at the right time with the right message using the right channel. Enhance content One of the best ways of ensuring that your content meets customers needs is through a welcome programme. Once they ve subscribed, welcome s can clearly articulate the benefits of subscription and also encourage the sharing of more information, with questions on the type of content desired, its frequency and the preferred channel. Experian CheetahMail research¹ shows that this initial phase of engagement is a critical time to set the tone for all future contacts, with welcome s showing 63 per cent higher open rates and 105 per cent higher unique click through rates than other forms of . The format of your message is very important, with a good balance between text and pictures. s containing only pictures are put through more stringent filters because with no words there s no ability to analyse content, which can be seen by ISPs as an attempt to circumvent the system % 20.00% 22.35% 63% 15.00% 10.00% 5.00% 13.68% 5.79% 105% 2.83% 0.00% Unique Open Rates Unique Click Rates All Welcomes Other mailings ¹Research carried out by Experian CheetahMail in November

7 Reputation Transparency, understanding and trust It s important to note that ISPs determine inbox placement based on the reputation of the sender. Reputation here can depend upon a variety of factors, such as complaint rates, unknown user rates and spam trap hits. This will only become ever more important, with increasing and constantly evolving threats such as phishing scams. Unfortunately, it s all too easy for even the most well-intentioned of brands to fall foul of these reputation pitfalls, so understanding how reputation works and following best practice is imperative. ISPs are constantly changing the way they filter to protect their customers from spammers and phishing attempts. Marketers can protect their reputation and deliverability by staying abreast of these changes by, for example, deploying all methods of authentication, signing up to feedback loops and enlisting in certification programmes. This must be combined with richer customer understanding, as more ISPs are looking at engagement metrics that go beyond opens, clicks and conversions. It s a trend that s highlighting the need for data integrity and the importance of engagement with ISPs. Brands need to send s that the recipient is likely to be interested in. Stephen Ford, Deliverability Specialist at Experian Marketing Services says, It s critical that marketers join in a dialogue, both with their customers and the ISPs. If you are part of a feedback loop with an ISP, you can quantify the number of s that are being complained about, begin to understand why and modify your communications so that subscribers are less likely to hit the dreaded spam button. By working together, ISPs and marketers can help to create an environment that s transparent to both parties. This means that threats such as spammers can be effectively countered and marketers can protect their own reputations and improve deliverability. 7

8 Opt-out and opt-down with ease It is important that the opt-out process is made as easy and transparent as possible. This might sound counter-intuitive, but ease of opt-out can be critical in protecting your reputation. Customers receive a growing number of s that they ve subscribed to but are no longer particularly interested in. Whilst clients are working to filter these, there is the very real danger that consumers can simply hit the spam button to permanently remove them. Given that spam reports are fundamental to your reputation with ISPs as a trusted provider this can have disastrous consequences on the deliverability of all future campaigns. marketers need to make it easier for customers to manage their subscriptions, even if this does mean that they ultimately decide to unsubscribe. Ensure that every is clear about where people have to click to opt-out and ensure the process involves as few steps as possible. If the process isn t instantaneous, manage expectations and let them know that they may receive some additional s over a specified and short period of time. Marketers can be smart here too, to lessen the risk of complete disengagement. Offer the opportunity to opt-down rather than opting-out by allowing customers to quickly and easily: reduce the frequency of s; opt out of some communications but also opt-in to new ones; further refine preferences so they get what they want. In either scenario, you can use the process to gain more valuable data from customers, asking them to share their reasons for leaving and provide suggestions on how to improve your communications. In making opt-out and opt-down more customer-centric, you can protect your reputation, both with ISPs and customers. 8

9 Building a firm foundation may now be an established channel in the marketing mix, but it s always evolving. The age of Big Data is honing into a precision instrument that can target customers in ways that maximise returns on your marketing investment. It s a huge opportunity, but as becomes more complex, so too does the business of successful delivery. Getting your messages to customers in ways that deliver meaningful results demands rich customer and ISP understanding, in-depth analysis and highly targeted content. Top Tips 1 capture the data that drives your marketing goals and ensure that it s constantly validated and always up-to-date 2 use your contact databases to store more than just addresses, incorporate information on permissions, propensities and preferences for example 3 start a real dialogue with customers to learn from them at every opportunity, building trust and reducing the likelihood of disengagement 4 move with your customers, with communications that are always targeted at their changing needs, and meet their expectations in terms of frequency, timing and channel 5 create content that encourages dialogue in the short, medium and long term 6 keep abreast of technology changes such as graymail that may affect your ability to deliver s 7 work closely with ISPs to ensure that you are a responsible marketer and your s don t end up in the spam filter. 9

10 In Summary Now and in the future, your marketing platform will be built on the three increasingly specialised pillars of data integrity, messaging relevance and brand reputation. A conversation with an Experian digital marketing specialist could well be the firm foundation you are looking for to ensure your digital marketing communications stay one step ahead of the competition. If you would like more information on how deliverability can help your strategy, then please visit our website us at us at or or call call us us on on About the author Stephen Ford Deliverability Specialist Experian Marketing Services After graduating from London Metropolitan University in 2007, Stephen began work with Experian Marketing Services in the Experian CheetahMail Client Services team. During this time, Stephen acquired invaluable experience in deliverability. His current role as a Deliverability Specialist involves developing and maintaining relationships with clients, technology partners and ISPs. 10

11 Experian Australia Level 6, 580 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, VIC, 3004 T +61 (03) F +61 (03) E

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