Thursday, March 6, 2008

Data and Reflections on the last monthly newsletter

Recently I listed Constant Contact as a top tool for entrepreneurs. Last week I used it to send February's edition of The Monthly Spank: Surf your Way to Hawaii by Skilled Procrastination (where, you'll see on the link, it's also now archived).

In this post I'll share some of my first experience and divulge data specific to Linkspank with a boldness that pretty much no one else in the Universe has.

Here's how the newsletter did:

That is, our newsletter was opened by about a sixth of recipients, and about a sixth of them clicked on something in the newsletter; so our open rate was 16% and our CTR (click through rate) was 18%. Anecdotally someone told me that an open rate of 16% was pretty good /average, and there are some old numbers claiming that 8% is an average CTR, which would make our CTR pretty good. Of course, we shouldn't be TOO impressed by that, because our Monthly Spank goes to registered spankers - people who have specifically opted in to Linkspank. So really I think we should be shooting for a much higher open rate and CTR rate.

Or should we? Consider the call to action of the email: Surf your Way to Hawaii by Skilled Procrastination. As indicated by this title, the primary message of the newsletter was about the contest. Realistically, the percentage of spankers who are going to consider gunning for Hawaii will be easily less than 50%, almost certainly less than 30%. So our open rate of 16% maybe is more accurately considered an open rate of 50% or so within our target segment (the one third of spankers who might consider gunning for Hawaii), which would be an insanely high open rate.

The CTR is less ambiguous. People have opened the email because they have some basic interest in the subject. From there, the question is whether we entice them to click. When you put it that way, I feel that the CTR is the main area for improvement in this case: surely we can get more than 1 in 5 who open the email to at least click on something! ...when, in fact, the Monthly Spank was asking much more of them - namely, to complete the checklist, spank on the email, and so on.

So the CTR was the main failure. From here, I dive into more speculative terrain. I think we could have improved in the following ways:

Guide the experience more. There were a lot of links in the Monthly Spank, while the call to action was specific and guided. Essentially we were making it easy for people to get lost. Only 27% of those clicking through "started" with the link we gave them to start with - the Orientation Page. Which invites the question, Why did we even bother providing the other links? We probably shouldn't have.
Rather than providing three steps here, next time I'll try providing one link,
which guides the experience from there

Of course, this takes guts-- sending an email with basically one link. But I think the more you think about it, the more you will agree that it's the right way to go. When people right emails with a bunch of links, I think they are either being chicken about the call to action, or maybe there is no call to action and they are just being informational (in which case a newspaper-like profusion of links makes sense). (I would question whether anyone using Constant Contact is really ever doing the latter goal but whatever.)

People are whipping through their inbox. They give any newsletter they open a brief moment, usually with the intention *not* to click anything but just to give it a glimpse. Hence you want a clear, obvious, seductive link to lead them away from their inbox, into a magical experience where you induce them to get spanky.

In retrospect, the call to action was mixed, which couldn't have helped the cause. Was the call to action really "spread the word about Linkspank" or was it "win the contest"? Surely the ideas are related, but we needed some better Pyramid Principle thinking here with an idea at the top. To make things worse, the call to action that was first in the list (completing orientation / spreading the word) was opposite that of the title (win the contest).

Were I to do it again, I would have focused on winning the contest. I would have cut the intro section, and shaped it as supporting text that explained that your procrastination, Hawaii-winning efforts not only further your sunbathing chances, but also support the startup, enrich the community, and spread the word to friends who will forever be in your debt and love you.

We'll see if we get those numbers up in future months!! As for you - winning a Hawaii trip all starts at the Orientation Page, which will educate you and win you points. :-)