You've probably heard the saying "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." When applied to e-mail marketing, a more appropriate variation might be "Relevancy is in the eye of the reader."

You know that your e-mail marketing communications need to be relevant to the interests of your readers. But how can you determine what information they consider relevant? Open and click-through rates give you some idea, but there's only one way to get the specific feedback you need from your readers--asking them.

Asking readers for their feedback on your e-mail communications will give you insights that result in increased sales, additional website visitors, and higher open and click-through rates. You will also show your contacts that you're interested in what they think and that you understand your e-mail communications are about them--and not you.

The simplest way to get detailed feedback that is easy to evaluate is to send a brief online survey. When you prepare your survey, think about what aspects of your e-mail communications you'd like to receive feedback on. Then think about the questions to ask to get the insights that can help you make improvements. Here are some key areas to focus on:

Overall satisfaction- -Before you get into the details of your e-mail communications, start out with a general question that gets a "gut" reaction from your contacts. Here's an example:

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, how do you rate our newsletter?

Most valued sections --Understanding what your readers value most in your current e-mails will focus your energy and effort. If there's a section of your e-mails that your readers don't find helpful, remove that section. If there's an area you find they really enjoy, explore ways to expand it and make it even better.

Here's an example of a question that a human resources consultant could ask her readers:

Please rate the following segments of my newsletter as extremely valuable, valuable, somewhat valuable or not valuable.

  • Articles
  • Industry statistics
  • Question and answer section
  • Customer profiles
  • Job listings

What you're doing right and what you can improve-- This is the most important information you can gain from your online survey. Ask your contacts how the newsletter helps them, what they appreciate most about receiving it and why. In a different question, ask them what you could do to improve your newsletter. When these types of questions are open-ended, your contacts can share their thoughts with you in their own words.

Day and time of day to send --Ask your contacts for their preference on when they want to receive your e-mails. You may find that there's a better day and better time for you to send your communications.

Frequency --How often do your contacts want to hear from you? Maybe you're sending too many e-mail communications or not enough. Considering your readers' opinions in this area can lead to better open rates and less unsubscribes.

Reader information --While the main objective of your survey is to get feedback on your e-mail communications, close with a few questions that find out more about who your audience is. Stick to one or two questions that reveal demographic information important to your business or organization. You can also use the responses to segment your contact list.

Create an online survey that addresses these topics and questions in just minutes. The responses will start rolling in right away. Online survey responses usually come in within 24 to 48 hours of when the survey is sent. Once you get your responses, spend some time looking them over and reading the comments. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What do people like about my newsletter?
  • What areas need improvement?
  • What did I learn?
  • What are three things that I will do differently as a result of the feedback I received?

Answer these questions and you'll have the valuable insights you need to take your e-mail marketing communications--and your business or organization--to the next level. By asking the people on your list for their feedback, and understanding what matters to them, you'll create e-mail communications that are relevant and successful.