Are You Sabotaging Email ROI by Ignoring the Subscriber Experience?
As an email strategist, many of my projects include an audit of my clients’ existing email programs. This foundational check helps me understand the current subscriber experience and identify where breakdowns may be occurring. For many of my clients, this base level audit can be surprisingly eye opening. Despite the fact that many of them are singularly focused on the email program and its success, it’s very common for them to be disconnected from the subscriber experience that they are creating.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand how this can happen. As an email marketer, so much goes into keeping the program running. Just getting emails out the door can sap bandwidth and limit deeper thinking about program optimization.
What’s more, there is often an immense amount of pressure placed on owners of the email channel and the results they drive. The typical success metrics are focused on ROI, engagement, website traffic and the like. While important, these KPIs are focused solely on benefits for the business and can be poor indicators of whether the email program is providing a rewarding experience to end users. In addition, laser focus on business oriented KPIs can help deliver quick wins but may actually damage long term performance.
How NOT To Boost Performance
To illustrate how business oriented KPIs can send performance into a tailspin, here’s a common scenario that I come across:
- YOY email ROI has shown a decline, which means that Q4 performance is critical to balance declines (and prevent a reduction in email budget for next year).
- Pressure is placed on the email program to send more email, increase send frequency and mail to a broader audience.
- Increased subscriber impressions lead to an initial increase in ROI.
- These efforts are deemed a success, so this strategy is carried forward through Q4 and becomes standard practice going forward.
While this sounds like a good way to salvage end of year revenue, this approach often comes with damaging side effects:
- Along with initial revenue, negative metrics like complaints and unsubscribes increase. If the audience is broadened to include those with patterns of inactivity, unknown user rates and spam trap hits are also increased.
- Deliverability starts to decline, especially at Gmail, limiting visibility in the inbox and damaging engagement.
- The increased unsubscribe rate erodes the size of the active list over time.
- Subscriber dissatisfaction with the email program and brand becomes more prevalent.
This brings email marketers into the new year with deliverability issues, a reduced list and an audience that is checked out or worse — annoyed with the brand.
With nine years of experience in email, a knack for problem solving, and a love of consumer psychology and UX, Casey understands the email space and sees its potential. As a Senior Email Strategist with Return Path, Casey specializes in driving increased engagement and boosting deliverability. Whether working with niche brands on a Cinderella story or Fortune 100 companies that want to take their program to the next level, Casey helps craft email experiences that are more rewarding for businesses and recipients.