It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

It’s Monday, and I hope you’ve made it a great one.

You can wake up, on a Monday, and dread the day — and the week.  I imagine it’s dreadful if you’re going to a dead-end job where you’re in it for the weekend, and just to get a paycheck.

But I actually like my work.  I often love it.  I am impacting lives, creating value, and doing good things.  Plus, I’ve worked my butt off since 2005 to make sure I’m in a situation that I control.  Where I’m doing the work I want to do, with whom I want to do it!  And getting paid well, to boot.

So when Monday comes, I think, “How can I make it great?!”

I actually started off the day looking at my quarterly goals as well as my goals for this month and next, and created a list of things I need to accomplish this week.  It was energizing!

This doesn’t happen accidentally.  You don’t wake up one day to find the world bestowed this on you.  This only happens when you create it.  If that’s your goal, you need to figure out who you can provide value for in such a way that you can shape the day and your life to your liking.

I also dig Mondays because it’s my opportunity to open up my inbox, and answer your questions…

That’s right, it’s Mailbox Monday!  And today’s question is about what “good” email looks like.  Not the design, so much as what metrics you want to look at to determine if you email strategy is any good…

Roy,

Got a Mailbox Monday question: How do you measure email success?

The easy answer might be something like, “Duh…by sales.”  On the surface, it’s a logical answer.

But there are many variables involved:

  1. Has the list been actively emailed?
  2. How engaged is the list?
  3. What is the goal of the list?
  4. Are there competing messages?
  5. Is the list sanitized and pruned?

You get the idea, I could stretch this list out like a giraffe’s neck.

If I was to throw an irresistible offer to a prospect to take over email campaigns then how do I structure the offer based on a moving success target?

Each email campaign is different for each company and a different baseline for each prospect but how would you approach this?

Thanks,

Peter

This is both a simple, and a tricky question!

The simple question with the simple answer is definitely about sales.

What defines “good” or successful email marketing?  In short, ROI.  Bottom line profits.

But as Peter pointed to, it’s tricker than that.

Because email can have multiple purposes.

And items that can have a great short-term impact on sales may have a negative long-term impact in other areas.

For example, if you craft a really aggressive sale, you may generate a rush of short-term revenue.  But if it causes the rest of your list to disengage — or worse, unsubscribe — the longer-term impact may be net negative.

As an email list owner, I have one primary goal from my email…

In short, I’m trying to form relationships with my “1,000 True Fans.

That’s based on a concept from Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, aimed at artists and other creators.

His argument, at the core, is that creators reach escape velocity once you have 1,000 true fans who will basically buy whatever you put out and talk about you to their friends.  You can make a great living from what you create, and will continue to grow as long as you cultivate your relationship with those fans.

Now, the number 1,000 is both important, and it isn’t.

It’s important in the context of Kelly’s argument, because I think he’s probably pretty accurate with it, especially when it comes to artists of the kind he was thinking of when he wrote his original essay on the topic.

But in the context of emails, the number’s not important, except for the fact that I want it to be growing, and that it needs to be big enough to support whatever infrastructure I have in place.

So 1,000 true fans is naturally a smaller company than 10,000, or 100,000.

The more I grow, the bigger my company can be.  (And I’ll have more resources to turn around and deliver more value, and then keep growing because of that, etc.)

Before we talk about what “good” looks like, let’s talk about how you can screw this up…

The sale example above is a good one.  If you really abuse a list for short-term revenue, it may actually work toward that short-term goal.

But there are consequences beyond the immediate.

The short-term wins may yield bad customers.  Or to get the short-term sales, maybe you over-promised, and your reputation is in tatters.  Or maybe everyone who didn’t buy is now pissed off, because you crossed the threshold from “helpful selling” to “annoying selling” and your open rates, engagement, and total subscriber base are about to go way down.

There’s a great little book called “Economics in One Lesson” that basically talks about this.  The greatest fallacy in economic matters is to only look at the short-term effects, and consider that to be it.  To call an economic policy successful, you have to look at the first order effects, as well as the second, and the third, and so on…  And decide what’s best for the long term, based on ALL the cascading effects.

What does this all have to do with email?  Glad you asked…

Here are the factors I would use to determine the total effectiveness of an email marketing strategy…

In short, it’s about getting the most customers to spend the most over the lifetime of their relationship with your business.  That’s true fans, showing how big of fans they are.

That’s the main metric.

Now, what leads to that is perceived value.  A quote from Joe Polish that I’ve been thinking of a lot recently is, “All money earned ethically is a byproduct of value creation.”

That is, the way to get the most money from the most people is to give the most value to the most people.  The money you earn is a scorecard measurement for the value you create in other peoples’ lives.

What does this all have to do with email?

Everything.

Although the metric is a little different.

My big goal would still be growing my total customer base, and increasing customer lifetime value.

But more direct to email, the measurables are email list size and monthly revenue per subscriber.

And actually I believe that most of Peter’s goals would contribute to this on a TREND basis, even if on a monthly basis they could cause either number to dip.

For example, a list that hasn’t been actively emailed, that’s not engaged, that needs to be cleaned up may need to shrink in size in the short term, but the net effect will be a higher per-subscriber revenue number, reflecting more value delivered to those who stick around.

If the list has multiple goals or has competing messages, such as content plus marketing, don’t fret on that, either.  For example, these essays often don’t sell hard, but when it does come time to make an offer, the relationship cultivated through the content leads to very warm response to the offers I make.

As long as the overall goal is about building relationships with true fans and making relevant offers of value exchanged for money, I know my business will go in the right direction.

If you’re trying to sell email marketing services…

Such as I believe Peter is, based on the details of this question, I’d remember a couple things, on top of just how to measure email success.

First, I’d remember that part of your role, in consultative selling, is to actually get on the phone with a prospect and figure out what their goals are, and figure out if you can help them.  So, for example, if a prospect wants to increase their email list size and per-subscriber value, maybe my methods would be great for them, but…

Second, remember also that it’s as important to figure out who you’re NOT a fit for.  I actually turned a client away today.  Had a call scheduled for tomorrow, told him no.  That I wasn’t a fit, right now, for his business.  You have to be willing to do this.  So let’s say you specialize in growing list size and per-subscriber revenue, and someone just wants a monthly newsletter to keep their customer list updated.  Well, maybe they’re not a fit for you.

Third, focus on what you’re best at and where YOU provide the most value.  If your value is one thing but a client is asking for another, accepting that client means you’re stealing additional value that could be created for another client, that you now don’t have time for.  Go to where you can create the most value, and you will reap the biggest rewards.

Simply by asking that question, I believe Peter has a very rounded understanding of email marketing.  Most marketers would benefit from at least having him take a strategy-level look at all that they’re doing, and share some insights and specific action items.

His biggest challenge isn’t knowing what to do — at least from what I see.  Rather, it’s about knowing what not to do, and who not to take on as a client.

Of course, that requires significant client flow, to be comfortable turning away all but the best fit.

The Client-Getting Blueprint may help with that.  The kick-off webinar is available to BTMSinsiders members now, and additional training to help you build your client-getting system will be added soon.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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