List Growth Alone Won’t Drive Success in Email Marketing
Folio: and WhatCounts team up on a survey revealing how publishers need to get a better handle on ROI and content value. [Sponsored Content]
Email is still a primary marketing vehicle for publishers, whether strictly as a promotional tool or as a subscription-based newsletter product. In the never-ending pursuit of growing open, click-through and conversion rates, publishers are relentless in their list growth efforts, according to a new survey that Folio: and email marketing services provider WhatCounts teamed up to produce. But the survey results also reveal that publishers can get too greedy with their email collection tactics and should never forget the value that quality content brings to the equation.
The survey was conducted via email in September to gain an empirical dataset around some of the fundamentals of email marketing and how publishers rank their challenges, opportunities and investments with the platform. There were 184 complete responses tabulated.
List growth was ranked as the top email marketing challenge, with a score of 5.51 out of 7, even beating out monetization, which came in second with a score of 4.04. Whether it’s true of most publishers or not, WhatCounts CEO Allen Nance has seen a pattern of prioritizing email collection at the expense of other, equally important factors that contribute to a successful email marketing platform.
“My point of view around it is that there is a huge disconnect between whether it’s a challenge or an opportunity,” he says. “Organizations are looking at it from a ‘give me your email address’ perspective and not paying more attention to the value they could be providing. They should be asking, ‘what can I do so that the visitor would be delighted to give me their email address?’
Nance points to an abundance of poorly designed subscription forms and prompts that turn what should be a breezy process into a chore. “It’s not everybody, but certainly seven out of ten web pages could stand to stop and rethink their email subscription process on the site,” he says.
In order to grow a list more productively, Nance advises publishers to make sure that content value is given equal priority. And that comes out of editorial quality and user experience.
“List growth has two components to it: One is churn and the other is new subscribers. List growth has to be thought of from a value standpoint. What value can I provide on the front end so I don’t have as much churn? And what value can I provide afterward so they’d be delighted to give me an email address? On the editorial side, stop and ask whether you’d want to receive that message. If the answer is no, then don’t send it. On the subscriber side, don’t hide your email subscription process. Bring it front-and-center, add it to the navigation. Have a very clear value proposition. Too many sites ask for first name, last name and email. Why? What am I getting? Have a clear next step. Offer a value proposition on why they should be giving you their email address.”
From there, it’s not a surprise that publishers are focused on list growth trends, inactives and the traffic that email drives to the website (question 6). But Nance says it’s important to create a KPI that includes conversions, too.
“Focus on a KPI that says how much traffic you’re getting, but also what your visitor-to-email conversion rate is. It’s one KPI that waterfalls into every other one,” he says. “If you’re focused on that one KPI, you’ll get more email addresses and think through that value proposition. If you collect more emails, you’ll have more monetization, more traffic and so on. If you get it right at the beginning, the rest will naturally improve.”
And conversions also make ROI calculations that much easier. In question 4, most respondents note that email is one of the top three marketing channels—only a quarter of respondents put it at the top. “This one I take issue with,” says Nance. “I have a sneaky feeling this question is a false positive. People are saying it’s in the top three, but I think they don’t have a measurable ROI.”
And that conclusion connects to question 9. With its scattershot responses, Nance suspects that marketers aren’t effectively measuring ROI. “How the hell can 26 percent of people pick ‘Other?’”
Nevertheless, measure factors that contribute revenue directly, such as advertising and/or paid subscription conversions. “Direct advertising revenue and number of paid magazine subscription conversions are the ones I like,” Nance says. “The reason why is I can equate an exact dollar amount. I can figure out from there what an email address is worth.”