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How Effective Is Your E-Newsletter? Do you know what clicks with your customers? Reporting data reveals which content works best to engage customers' interest and ultimately drive sales.

So you've launched your e-mail newsletter. Is it working? Do your customers and prospects get value from it--and are they more likely to buy from you as a result? Is it really worth your time? The great thing about e-mail marketing is that everything is trackable--your e-newsletter reporting will help answer these questions.

Most e-mail marketing solutions provide reporting data so you can analyze and optimize your campaigns. Reporting tracks how many and which customers opened your e-mails, which of your e-newsletter links got the most clicks, which links a subscriber clicked on, and how often they clicked.

By reviewing this incredibly useful information, you can...

  1. Improve your e-newsletter content,
  2. Know when customers signal their intention to buy, and
  3. Send targeted campaigns to those people most likely to respond to your offer.

To help you analyze your reporting data, first let me explain two basic reporting terms:

Open rate is the percentage of e-mails opened in any given e-mail marketing campaign. Click-through rate is the percentage of recipients that click on a given link or URL in your e-mail.

Now that you know what these things mean, here's a guide to interpreting and acting on your results:

Are People Reading Your E-Mail?
Your open rate tells you whether your audience is actually reading your e-newsletter. Today, open rates average around 30 percent (though not the same 30 percent of your audience reads your e-newsletter every time). If your open rate is low, the two most likely culprits are your "From" address and your "Subject Line." People open e-mails from companies they know and do business with. In Make sure your business name--not the specific name of the person who sends it--is in the "From" field. People also read e-mails that interest them. Your subject line tells readers what they can expect to read about or learn, so try to give them a taste of what to expect and make sure it's interesting enough to avoid the delete key.

Are Readers Interested In Your E-Newsletter?
Rather than including all your content in your e-newsletter, you should include only part of an article or a topic teaser that links readers back to your website to read the entire article. If they click, they're interested, and that "click through" is your sign that you got them. Bringing them back to your site gives you other opportunities to engage them. On the page with articles, consider adding ways for them to connect with you--"Call us for a free quote," "E-mail us for more information," "Buy now" and so on.

A good e-mail marketing system won't just show you how many clicks you got, but which articles got the clicks and which people clicked on the articles. This gives you two important clues. First, it tells you what topics are of most interest to your audience. This should help you decide what topics to write about in the future.

Second, tracking click-throughs sheds light on your prospects' and customers' interests. You can now segment your audience based on their interests. You can send follow-up emails to those individuals who read a particular article. Or give them a phone call to follow up. Which leads to the next big question...

How Do I Know When a Customer Signals an Intention to Buy?
Click-throughs tell you which individuals are interested in specific subjects. This is where you find customers ready to buy and waiting to hear more from you. Your newsletter was the soft sell, now you can sell a little harder. Offer them a free consultation, invite them to a seminar or a private sale--whatever works for your business. Start your follow-up e-mail with "Based on interest from our earlier article...."

And here's a rule of thumb worth taking to heart: If someone clicks on your articles three times, that's a warm lead worth following up on, whether that's with a targeted e-mail or a phone call.

In DoubleClick's recently released ( DoubleClick Q1 2005 Email Trend Report ) survey results show that while overall industry open rates have dipped--as so much information competes for consumers' attention--both click-to-purchase conversion rates and orders per e-mail delivered are up in 2005. Moreover, the report shows that consumers respond to e-mails when they are cyclically "in market" for particular content for which they've subscribed. That means valuable, relevant e-mail content sent to customers and prospects who welcome it works to drive sales.

Reporting data is a goldmine of information about how your customers interact with your e-newsletter. So take time to review your reports--note what works, where new opportunities to target market segments may exist, and what needs improvement. Make changes, then measure the results next time. In the long run, you'll save time by using that feedback to create effective e-newsletters that call customers to action. Give them something of value, build your brand loyalty, foster sales and keep them clicking back for more.

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