If an Open registers but nobody sees it...

Every pointer for improving email campaign results seems to center on strategy, creative, or both. Suggestions such as mobilizing the creative, using embedded video and strategies such as 'gaming' are wonderful ideas and certainly should be explored. My experience as a provider of 3rd party prospect email is that far too many acquisition/prospect campaigns put too much energy into the glitz of the email and far too little attention to the critical performance metrics that are fundamentally most important: Opens and Clicks. Don't get me wrong, at the core of all marketing campaigns is selling widgets, collecting donations, garnering support, obtaining feedback, or even branding if direct response isn't feasible (e.g. pharma offers); but before we can run we have to walk and ignoring or not understanding the foundation of performance that Opens and Clicks provide is totally unnecessary and frankly inexcusable with the wealth of resources at our disposal in today's email marketplace.

To understand the issue, we have to agree that marketing IS communication. And the most effective way to communicate the value of a good or service is to message those who show the most interest. A steady diet of communications that relay the benefits of the future purchase positions the offer appropriately when the prospect decides they are ready to act. In order to be in such a position, it's necessary to wet the prospect's appetite in a compelling manner leading to CRM messaging opt-in. Those most engaged tend to arrive via 3rd party email due to the medium offering the most content and therefore engaging a more vested prospect. But how do we best evaluate the effectiveness of various 3rd party email options (since there seems to be an infinite number of such providers!)? Especially in light of the fact that 6-8 'touches' is generally required before a response should be expected???

Testing budgets are limited so we need to make effectiveness decisions by proxy when testing 3rd party lists. Opens and Clicks are the vehicles that should drive these decisions. However, most marketers don't think twice that these metrics are provided by the list owners who have major incentive to show strong performance. Vigilance is the answer; technology that validates these numbers should be at the core of any 3rd party email deployment along with these 2 facts:

  1. Opens are less reliable. Since the email owner handles deployment, that metric is fuzzy at best and should be weighted accordingly. Available tracking mechanisms can compromise deliverability so layering on top can doom a campaign.
  2. Clicks are 100% verifiable and should ALWAYS trump the Open metric in importance. It also gives a directional validation as to the legitimacy of the reported Opens.

If your goal is adding new emails to your house prospect file or branding and 3rd party email rental is part of your plan, then verifying the metrics by which to base roll-out decisions is critical. Opens cannot be validated; Clicks can. And so that is where you need laser focus for 3rd party list evaluation.