Relevancy, Transparency, and Testing

Relevancy is the mantra of email marketers, and I’m very interested in finding marketers that aren’t just chanting it, but measuring it. While chatting with the EVP of Business Operations at one of the leading email marketing vendors the other day, I asked if any of the firms he works with is doing anything creative or interesting when it comes to measuring relevancy.

He chuckled, and said: “Oh gosh, no. But really, when you think about email marketers are first beginning to move from completely irrelevant to just barely relevant. I’m not sure there’s a lot to measure there.” After further discussion, he suggested that relevancy might be measured by tracking response rates.

My take: I disagree. While response or conversion might be an good indication of relevancy, an offer or email message might still be relevant even if it doesn’t produce a response. Suppose I’m in the market for speakers, and receive offers from Bose and Koss. If I choose Bose offer Koss, should Koss assume their offer wasn’t relevant? No way.

The challenge, of course, is how would they know.

That’s where transparency comes in. I also spoke with Kenneth Lin, CEO of Credit Karma recently. I had seen him present at the recent Finovate conference, and thought Credit Karma would win a best of show award (I obviously thought “great business model and promising business opportunity” was the criteria, not “entertaining presentation”).

Like many Web sites, Credit Karma presents marketing offers to site visitors. What it does that few (if any) sites do is give visitors the ability to rate those offers, and comment on them. Visitors know that an offer is made to them based on their credit score. And Credit Karma users can sort offers by recency, popularity, or number of comments (see screenshot below).

In other words, marketers who make offers on Credit Karma can begin to measure relevancy. And there’s no reason why email marketers couldn’t emulate this approach and ask for feedback on the relevancy of their offers. Since many offers are repeated in multiple campaigns, the overall score for a particular offer in one campaign could be shown in subsequent campaigns.

Is this a better approach to what email marketers do today? I think so, but I don’t know. And that’s where testing comes in.

Plenty of direct and email marketers test, but most focus on testing creative elements and offers. They don’t test whether the same offer performs better if accompanied by a request for feedback and providing other customers’ ratings of that offer.

So, c’mon marketers: Give transparency a try. Test it out and let us know how it performs.

[Endnote: If, on the other hand, you subscribe to the notion that “customer service is the new marketing“, forget my suggestions here, and just sit back do nothing, make no offers to prospects or customers on your Web site or through email, hold hands, sing cumbaya, and pray that customers will require customer service, have a “great experience” and tell their friends and family who will come flocking to you]

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