How an email audit can put your email program on the right path
When your email program doesn't deliver the results you expect or help you achieve your marketing goals, where do you look first to fix the problem? You probably don't have a big red warning light on your ESP dashboard alerting you to problems, the way your car warns you about engine trouble or a flat tire.
So, you have to start hunting. The problem could be hiding deep in your technology platform. Maybe an acquisition source you've used for years no longer sends you reliable email addresses. Someone on another team might have changed a setting without realizing how it would hurt your program. Your sender reputation took a hit somehow, and your emails don't hit the inbox as often anymore.
But suppose your email program is ticking along just fine - so well, in fact, that you’ve been given some pretty challenging KPIs for the next quarter or year, and you have no idea where to begin to generate the additional revenue.
Whether you need to solve a problem or figure out how to take your program to the next level, you need someone to help you identify the opportunities you might be overlooking right now.
The solution: Conduct a rigorous email audit that takes a systematic approach to the investigation, uncovering not just problems but also opportunities you're overlooking now to make your email program even more effective.
One recent client's experience
When performing audits for our clients, we aim to experience the entire consumer journey from start to finish, calling on Google Analytics, CRM/ESP reports and many other sources.
During this process in a recent audit, we discovered that consumers who had abandoned their carts on our client’s site were receiving not one but two abandoned cart emails at the same time. And, each email was entirely different from the other!
One email was sent from our client’s ecommerce system, and the other from their ESP. Talk about a bad (and confusing) customer experience!
Had we not audited the program from top to bottom, our client would have taken much longer to track down the reason why their cart abandonment program appeared to not be performing as well as it should be.
Once we discovered this dual messaging problem, we corrected it and got back to the business of working out a new strategy with our client.
Why an email audit is like cleaning out a closet
Organization experts say the best way to clean out a closet is to pull everything out and then put back only the things you really want. Better yet, sort through your stuff with a friend who gives you unbiased advice on what to keep, what to toss and what to give away.
An email audit is a thorough review of everything in your email closet. You could do it yourself, but you'll get better results when you bring in an outsider who can review all aspects of your email program objectively.
An auditor brings the outsider's perspective to your email program and can pinpoint problems (and solutions) your team either overlooks or has learned to live with or work around.
An external auditor isn't beholden to anyone in your company, either. You'll get an unbiased report on both the strengths and challenges of your email program. You might even discover ways to use more functions that you're already paying for in your technology platforms – a move that can save you the time and money you might have spent searching for new vendors.
When to call in an auditor
Don't wait for something to fail before auditing your email program! You can put your findings to work in many ways. Here are a few:
- Discover insights to lay the foundation for a new strategic plan, from mission and vision to the practical aspects of acquisition, deliverability, content and technology.
- Do the groundwork needed before moving to a new ESP, CRM system or other marketing technology providers. Your audit could point out platform features you're not using now and how to take advantage of them – thus saving you the heavy lifting that comes from switching providers.
- Get an unbiased report on program performance. Whether you've set some challenging KPIs or you’re a new email team leader, an audit can help you set priorities for new directions or discover new ways to optimize your existing programs, automations and content. This is essential if you need to turn around a failing program.
What does an audit cover?
Whether you audit your program yourself or call in an outside auditor, these are some of the areas that could be reviewed:
- Email objectives and overall strategy
- Deliverability status and trends
- What your competitors are doing and how your program compares
- Your customer journey, including PPC, website, landing pages and social media touch points
- List growth trends and statistics
- Lifecycle programs (welcome/first purchase, loyalty, win-back, etc.)
- Newsletters, including frequency and content
- Design and copy for both promotional and transactional emails
- Data use in personalization and segmentation
- Your testing program
- Analytics and metrics
As this list shows, an effective audit program covers every aspect of your email program. This is important because if you were to overlook one area in a self-audit, such as deliverability, you might overlook some major challenges.
You should also expect a robust report (or deliver it, if you’re doing the auditing) at the end of the audit. This report should present all of the auditor's findings in detail, note what works and what doesn't and outline clear next steps. (I’ll share more on this in the next section.)
What to expect from your email auditor
After performing hundreds of email audits over the last 20 years, I've come up with a list of traits an auditor needs:
1. Experience across verticals and subject areas.
As my list of program areas shows, a thorough email audit covers a lot of ground. You need to hire someone who is well-versed in all aspects of a successful email program and knows just where to dig to uncover hidden opportunities or problems.
Look for an auditor who has worked with both B2C and B2B clients. This person can bring in a wider perspective on what is working for other programs. Be cautious about hiring someone without references or demonstrated knowledge, especially in technical areas like deliverability.
2. Ability to work alongside you.
Your email program doesn't go on hold when the audit starts. Your outside auditor should be able to do the required research while you keep everything working normally.
3. Practical advice for improvement and next steps.
It's not enough to identify what's wrong. Your audit report should recommend how to convert findings into action. An experienced auditor can advise how to correct problems but also should be able to recommend changes and improvements, therefore addressing your missed opportunities.
Find the direction you need to succeed
Perhaps you don't enjoy a well-ordered closet as much as I do. But being able to find everything I need in one glance quickly justifies all the work involved in sorting through the mess, throwing out what I don't need and organizing what's left. I also know what to buy to fill in the gaps – no more surplus boxes of Christmas lights because I couldn't find the ones I stashed away last year!
A good email audit will give you the same feeling of satisfaction and control. You'll be able to plan more confidently, know what needs to be corrected and discover missed opportunities both for quick wins and long-term gains. All of these can accelerate your email marketing program, leading to more conversions, higher revenue and greater customer satisfaction.