The number one factor in creating an excellent mail-campaign

As a UX-specialist at Survey Sampling International I manage content for our European web properties (texts, images, emails and websites) and assist other regions in building up the same quality as our US and EU panels.

As with any task there are up- and downsides, but one of the best things is that I get to work on managing content for such a huge number of countries and languages. This created challenges that – for example – similar panels managed by my US-colleagues do not have. (And I’m sure, they have other challenges that I can ignore.)

One thing I want to have a look at today is managing e-mail campaigns. I design and maintain (HTML) mail templates for our panels and this means I have been responsible for the look and feel of aa lot of e-mails. If you think you’re sending a lot of mail, I’m probably sending way more. Or actually, we are sending more. I’m just making the templates, but as a colleague reminded me, means millions of mails can get send out using a feature that I thought of changing one time…

In any case. Maintaining a certain standard in our mails can take a lot of work, all the while working on improving them and getting a good opening rate, for example. Our opens are amongst the best of the industry, and trust me, I always say ‘despite all my input’.

For the most part, our excellent results come from the input of my colleagues who maintain good campaigns and take extra care in sending excellent surveys that are fun and useful.

Many in the mrx-industry have said we shouldn’t talk about ‘panellists’, as they are real people we’re dealing with. I’m usually not to bothered to make this change in my wording, just because I’m using technical terms doesn’t mean I’m forgetting what I’m doing.

Still, they have a point; we should realise these panellists are people, who have thoughts, motivations and emotions and are not just numbers filling up a database. Some time ago I wrote an article about what can go wrong with lead generation if you forget you’re recruiting people.

The fact that you’re sending all these mails to actual people also explains the single most important factor in creating good e-mail-campaigns.

This can boost your mail-campaign

Of course you have excellent copy for your e-mails. You have prepared a great design that works in all browsers and in all clients, including all important – but dreadful – Microsoft Office. We had the same thing, and we did tests on opening and response rates.

Changing and optimising your mail campaigns in this way makes for a good solid (marketing)campaign. But after a while you start seeing patterns and realise again you’re engaging people, not just ‘managing email campaigns’.

The single most important factor in engaging our readers was making them realise that, yes these are automated mails but they are made by an actual person, waiting for your response.

If you’ve ever A/B tested mail campaigns you might have noticed that the effect of new improvements wane and response- and opening rates decline again. Has your mail become worse somehow? No, you’re just making your reader another cog in your machine, something they do not want to be.

Sometimes the best improvements do not come from a single change in your setup, but from constantly changing and creating new engaging content.

This goes for colours, text, images and the design of your templates.

Sending better marketing emails

I wouldn’t want you to make mistakes on purpose but small errors I made usually resulted in better response rates, if it didn’t break anything, and people politely pointing out mistakes ánd still responding to our actually content.

Thus: the most important factor in managing your mail-campaigns is making them personal. Sign them off with a name of an actual employee, send a separate mail thanking them for their involvement for such a long time or mail them some insights.

This is also the reason why feedback from surveys work: if people feel they really contribute, they are more likely to contribute again. Also why stock images do not work as well as more lively images, people can tell of you didn’t put in too much effort. Don’t overdo it: a worrying new trend seems to be having a real name + company name as the sender name, to me this comes across as ‘too much’. Yes, Debby from iDoodle, I know you work at iDoodle because your domain is and we’ve been communicating for years… anyway… personal e-mails is the thing, but don’t let ‘personal’ be the trick in itself. A thin line, to be sure.