As we start a new year, it's always helpful to take some time to slow down, look back and evaluate the year gone by. Examining the past year's e-mail marketing efforts and results can help you uncover new ways you can improve going forward.
To get started, take a moment to review the results of your e-mail campaigns from the past 12 months (this is where the reporting features of an e-mail marketing service really come in handy). Then, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What was I trying to accomplish with e-mail marketing, and did I do it? What was your goal for your e-mail marketing efforts? Did you achieve what you set out to do? Did you measure the results? Is your e-mail marketing adding significant value to your organization? Did you uncover other useful purposes for e-mail marketing? Asking these questions can help you set your goals for the upcoming year.
2. Did I grow my list, and is it better segmented? There are many great opportunities to grow a list. Looking back, how did you do? Did you collect e-mail addresses whenever you got the chance--at events, during networking, at point of sale and on your website? Does everyone in your organization ask for e-mail addresses? What can you do differently to grow your list even more this year? What about segmenting? Did you divide your list into groups so you could send more targeted e-mail campaigns? How can you further segment your list forwarding the future?
3. Did I send consistent, high-value e-mail communications? With e-mail marketing, you have a great opportunity to stay connected with your list members. Did you communicate with them as often as you intended to? Or on the flip side, did you contact them too often? What about the quality of your campaigns? Did you spend the time you needed to create compelling content that included images and well-written copy? Did you put thought into offering your list members information they'd value and find useful? (Hint: Your open and click-through rates can help you figure out their interest level.) How can you improve your communications next year?
4. Which of my e-mail campaigns got the best or worst results and why? Look at your e-mail campaigns and identify the winners and the losers. What can you learn from them? What topics were your readers most interested in or not interested in at all? What did you do (promotions, subject matter, etc.) that, judging by the response, you should do again? What day and time worked best? You can take this information and modify future campaigns based on it. Create a new e-mail marketing plan that includes what you want to do more of and what you won't do again.
5. What did I do to become a better e-mail marketer? Did you ask friends and colleagues for their input on your e-mails? Did you ask your list members for feedback and incorporate their suggestions? Did you take advantage of some of the free e-mail marketing resources available online, like webinars and articles? Did you read a book about e-mail marketing? Did you review campaigns from other companies for ideas? It might be overwhelming to think of doing all these things, but why not set a goal for this year that you'll pick one or two of these activities? You'll be glad you did.
By taking a moment to ask yourself "How did I do?" you can make positive changes to your e-mail marketing efforts that'll help you get even better results. After you answer the questions above, you'll be well on your way to having your best e-mail marketing year yet.
Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.