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Do You Know What Clicks With Your Customers? Those e-mail tracking reports have an important story to tell.

By Gail Goodman Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

To grab and hold readers' attention and move them to action, e-mail newsletter content needs to be relevant and engaging. So how do you know if your e-mail content is succeeding at what you want it to do (take your customer relationships to the next level of engagement)?

The good news is that to answer this question, you don't have to be a Fortune 500 company with a staff of marketing analysts. In fact, the answers are right there in the tracking and reporting data you get from your e-mail service provider. Your campaign results shed light on where you're engaging customers and where you could make improvements. They also reveal trends that could point to potential audience segmentation and business development activities.

Clicks Are Where the Action Is
When someone clicks on a link in your newsletter, what does that tell you? It says that the person wants more information from you or to take action--whether it's reading more of your content, buying a product, booking your services, registering for an event or donating to your cause. Here's how you can use your tracking reports to learn what clicks with your customers:

  1. Give them something to click on. You work hard to create newsletter content that's useful, interesting and valuable to your customers. But that content isn't fulfilling its marketing potential if you don't include links for customers to click on! Your newsletter should include multiple types of content (e.g., a featured article, tips, a promotion), each with a link back to your website, where you can engage people on a deeper level. Well-written newsletter links are calls-to-action that entice readers to click, whether it's to finish reading an article, get more information, take a survey or complete a transaction.

  2. Look at the click-throughs. What links are your readers clicking on? Are certain article topics clicked on more often than others? Listen to the story your click-through data is telling you. That's one way to learn what content is most relevant and engaging to your customers. The other way is to ask them in a survey or poll, or by inviting them to e-mail you with their article suggestions. It's not so much about what you want to write--it's about what your subscribers will find engaging and useful.
  3. Look for special-interest groups. As you're looking at data to see what topics spur the most clicks, think about creating special-interest groups for those who might benefit from targeted mailings. For example, say you're a financial planner who published an article about wills and trusts. Keep a file of the subscribers who clicked through on that article, as that's a different audience segment from people interested in high-yield funds. Also note patterns among customers who have bought from you in the past. What do they click on? Could you target campaigns offering them "VIP" specials based on past buying habits?
  4. Now that you know what clicks, follow up. A click is no accident; it's a deliberate action on the consumer's part. Now it's up to you and your sales team to follow up on that expression of interest. You can do that with a phone call or an e-mail that says, "We're following up on our recent e-mail. Can we interest you in more information about our [service, product, event, charitable cause, etc.]?" Note: It's best not to tell customers that you're tracking their actions in your e-mail reports. If feels a little creepy to be watched.

Clicks Don't Tell the Whole Story
Other things to look at in your e-mail tracking reports include your open rate and the timing or frequency of your messages.

You should know which e-mails have had the highest open rates. Take a look at what may have prompted those numbers. Did certain topics or words in the subject line prompt more people to click? Could your subject lines be more compelling by adding a number, a question, or a sense of urgency? Learn from your own best practices what has worked and use that information to improve your overall efforts.

Take a look at your reports to see if, when and how often you send your campaigns makes a difference in your open and click-through rates. Experiment with varying your frequency and timing, taking note of the results. The right time and day can make a big difference; it's about knowing your audience and when is the optimum time for your content to appear in their inbox.

Also, make sure a recognized name appears in the "from:" line. You could write the most enticing subject line ever, but if your recipient doesn't recognize the sender, your newsletter might go unopened.

Create the right content for your audience--and monitor your reports for what's working best to engage them--and you'll keep them clicking back for more.

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.

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