Feb 19, 2007
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By Anne Holland, President
If you want to improve email campaign conversions -- at least incrementally -- the answer may lie in your customer service department. Here's why:
Every time you send an email broadcast, instead of clicking on hotlinks or order buttons, some percent of recipients will click on "reply to" and send you back a message.
What percent? Sherpa Reader Don Hoyt at Deerfield.com (who admittedly is in the business of helping companies handle these replies) says his own house mailings get 20% replies for big offers and 5% for non-offer messages, such as informational newsletters. That sounds a little high to me, but it probably varies a lot based on the quality of your list, your marketplace and your relationship opt-ins. Hoyt's list is B-to-B and includes customers.
Campaign replies fall into roughly four topical groups:
o Questions/response about the offer in the email - lion's share
o Questions about buying your other offerings - 10%
o Technical or service questions about past purchases - 10%
o Email preferences (i.e., Take me off your list) - tiny %
Hoyt's customer service team has a goal of personally responding to all these replies within 30 minutes of receipt. Their conversion rate from answers to the first two reply topics is 30%.
30% is a darn high close rate on an emailed offer.
So, you might consider a quick research project. Reply four times (once per topic above) to one of your own email promotions as if you were a "real" recipient. This will work best if you use a personal email account so it's not obvious that you're with the company.
Then sit back and see how long it takes customer service to reply to each and what's in that reply when it comes.
If it's gloriously and swiftly handled, give them very public kudos at the next interdepartmental meeting. If it's not, don't blame them. Instead, start a research program of your own to find out:
o What percent of campaign sends get reply-tos?
o How do the replies break down into topics by percent?
o How long does your email program or ESP take to sort these and get them back to your company for handling? (It can be as long as two days.) What would it take to speed this up?
o Who at your company receives them now and what training and tools has marketing given them?
o What about reply-tos for rented lists, affiliate campaigns or other partnered sends?
Your goal is to estimate how many possible conversions you're currently leaving on the table due to slowly answered or uncompellingly answered replies. And how much would it cost you to fix the problem.
You may discover that handling reply-tos will continue to be imperfect. The conversions won't be worth the extra work. Or you may find that you can optimize right away.
By the way -- I had a meeting with our own ESP on Friday on this very subject, so I've just started my own research project into this same thing for Sherpa. We'll see how it turns out.