I’m Alan Ferguson, Web Manager for Central Bedfordshire Council. Last year I talked about Central Bedfordshire Council’s success using Gov Delivery to deliver our email updates. This year, my presentation reflects on my recent experiences of looking beyond the open / click through rate.
Earlier in my career, my manager said “if you cannot measure the success in a campaign, then why you are doing it?” That’s around about when I began my love affair with Excel. I’m not ashamed to say it. I love figures. I love stats. I’d say I love pivot tables too – well, most of the time. I send out emails and then drool over open rates, click through rates. I am forever analysing what works best. Best subject lines, best time of day, best day of the week. I cannot pass up an opportunity to A/B test an email campaign. I love to prove the value of email marketing and all the other web work I do through my figures. Yes, I am that sad.
But, recently I realised I’d forgot to do something. I had forgotten to stop for a moment, take a look at the work we had done over the past year and go beyond the spreadsheet and LISTEN to what our customers had to say. Click through rates and open rates give you patterns and trends about what customers find useful from your campaigns, but they don’t tell you what they’d like to hear more / less about, or if there are other areas of your business they would like to know about.
When we launched our email updates, we had a simple quantitative target – to get 1080 customers signed up in the first 10 weeks. We blew that out of the water. We also wanted to hear positive feedback about the service from our customers. We didn’t have a specific target, but we knew it would give us a good benchmark to work from and let us hear, in customers own words, what they thought of the service. We revisited the simple questionnaire we sent out last year to allow us to benchmark. This was built in-house, using SNAP surveys and designed it to only take around 5 minutes to complete.
We used a mixture of multiple choice questions, to find out: How customers had heard about the service? What topics they were using? How useful the updates have been? What devices they use to read the emails? Would they recommend the service to a friend?
We also asked a number of open / free text questions to let customers express their opinions: Did you have any problems when registering? How would you like to see the updates improved? Are there any other topics you would like to see email updates about? Any further comments about the service?
So, we had our statistics to benchmark against. But, this year the numbers were a bit different. Our database has grown to 28,000 customers. We got just under 600 responses to our survey. Not amazing but still a large enough sample to draw conclusions from. We can also assume that if a customer REALLY doesn’t like what they are reading, then they have the UNSUBSCRIBE button! Here are some of our top line results.
We are still getting the thumbs up with 78% of customers finding the emails either very useful or quite useful. 76% of customers said that they would recommend the service to a friend. That’s brilliant news! If everyone in our database recommended the service to one person we’d be up to almost 60k subscribers overnight!!
But the harsh reality is that this isn’t happening. This is summed up from this customers comment. Customers want to hear what we are doing, but it feels like it is a guilty pleasure to share this with others as only 3.2% heard about the service from a friend. We therefore have the opportunity to target existing customers to encourage them to recommend the service to friends and family. That stat once again: 76% say they would recommend the service, yet only 3.2% heard about it from a friend.
We have developed our template to suit multiple devices, so it is reassuring to see that this is worthwhile, with 21% of customers saying that they read our updates on mobile or a tablet. These numbers relate very closely to how customers view our website and reinforces our need for a mobile version of our website – something which will be launched this year. It’s important to check how the emails you send out look on a variety of devices and email providers. Could we improve – probably!
Our analysis shows that 74% of our customers are aged 45+. So we need to make sure we are pitching are messages to our audience using the right tone of voice. We know our biggest groups are signed up for Adult learning and Libraries information, so we need to remind ourselves each time what services and events are going to be of real interest to them.
I have a few hundred customer comments to go through from the survey, so have just picked out a few on the roadworks theme. Comments relating to roadworks accounted for 15% of all comments. So, we need to tell people more about how we deal with potholes, resurfacing, and future plans for improving their roads. This allows us to share these comments with the Highways team to build our communications plan for the coming year to include better and more frequent updates.
The final thoughts threw up a few interesting points of view. We have had our email template for over a year now and its worth revisiting and then testing to see which templates work best. It’s always going to be a balancing act with having a template easy and quick for authors to use, which gets better results. As with the previous open question I still have a few hundred to go through and cluster into themes.
I said at the start, I love Excel. Excel can be an addiction. Don’t be ashamed of it. If you are an Excel addict, then perhaps today is the day to think about cutting down a bit and like me hitting the pause button to stop and ask your customers what their opinion is. It will help you see the bigger picture of where you are now and then prepare to take your email marketing to the next level.
Email marketing | Beyond the Open / Click through rate | Alan Ferguson | MailCamp13
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk@alanfergsAlan Ferguson – Web ManagerCentral Bedfordshire CouncilBeyond the open / click through rate
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.ukA/B testingCTROpen rateSubject lineTime of dayDay of weekBenchmark
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.ukLook beyond the CTR
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.ukKeep it simple• Simple questionnaire• 5 minutes to complete• Designed in house using Snap surveys
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.ukMultiple choice tick box questions• How did you hear about our emailupdates service?• What topics do you use it for?• How useful have the updates been?• What do you read the updates on? (PC,mobile, tablet)• Would you recommend to a friend?
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.ukOpen / free text questions• Did you have any problems whenregistering?• How would you like to see the updatesimproved?• Are there any other topics you would liketo see email updates about?• Any further comments about the service?
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk1,000 V 28,000
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk78% find the service useful and 76% wouldrecommend it to a friend
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk“Even if I find news from you interesting, I wouldntnormally talk about council updates with my friends.”Just 2.3% HEARD about the servicefrom a friend!
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk79%13%8%
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.ukOMG, check out the latest AdultEducation courses
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.ukPending roadimprovementsPerhapsroadworks?Road repairs –where andwhenPavement repairsRepairingpotholesProgress withroad worksWhen roads arebeing resurfaced
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.ukInterested in jobopportunitiesFont size is ratherlargeEmails need amore modern feelNot a huge TwitterFB fan so emailssuit meThey are clear andshortYour colourscheme is ugly
Central Bedfordshire Council www.centralbedfordshire.gov.ukAre you listening to your customers?