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Relevance: don't underestimate it, measure it.

Ken Magill has an article today about a new service from e-Dialog called the Relevancy Trajectory. This product

identifies the specific factors that enable you to customize and time messages properly, encourage interactivity, and maintain flexibility in your e-mail campaigns. The six factors are:

  • Segmentation
  • Lifecycle management
  • Triggers
  • Personalization
  • Interactivity
  • Testing and measurement

Relevancy should be the new buzzword in email marketing. As ISPs have gotten better at blocking spam and identifying non-spam email, they are also getting better at measuring their users reactions to email. Once they measure the reactions, they can then put those reactions to the email into context and make decisions about the likelyhood that the email is wanted by their users.
In Spring of 2006, a representative of a very large consumer ISP reported at MAAWG that one of the measurements they were making when looking at classification of email was who the mailers were sending email to. By examining the population of recipients, they were able to make some very educated judgements about the quality of the sender’s email list.
What does this have to do with relevancy? While recently attempting to troubleshoot a client’s problem with this very same ISP the person I was speaking with told me that the recipients didn’t seem very interested in the email. Mail that was put into the bulk folder was not being marked as not-spam in any significant number. This led the ISP to judge that the email was not wanted and could be safely filtered into the bulk folder.
I took a look at the client’s program. They are not your standard bulk mailer, they are a petition and advocacy site. The emails they send out are to people who have signed petitions on their site in the past, asking them to sign new petitions. Because they send mail irregularly, recipients do not know when to expect the mail and do not look in the bulk folder to recover it. My client is always asking for something from users, but giving them very little feedback on what happens after the user takes action.
Based on my recommendations my client is now looking at sending a scheduled weekly email. This email will be short, just a couple paragraphs. It will contain a summary of the action emails sent in the past week, and a reminder for the user to check the bulk folder if they have not received the email. Additionally, it will provide feedback to the user on how effective their efforts have been at effecting change.
By making the email expected and engaging the user, the client and I expect that not only will their delivery be improved, but their users will be eager to participate in future petitions.
Email recipients are not mindless automatons, they are people. In order to motivate people to respond to an email by making a purchase, signing a petition, adding the sender to their address book or clicking ‘this is not spam’ the email must be relevant and expected. Senders must never forget that recipients are real and have their own needs and agendas.

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