Spend 60 minutes a month on your conference email marketing and reap the rewards (part 1)

Budding in the sun There are many things to consider when putting together a comprehensive and effective email marketing strategy for your next conference.

Whether you’re using good old Excel to manage your lists or professional email service providers, spending as little as one hour a month on a few tasks will increase the effectiveness of reaching your delegates. The four areas we recommend looking at are: list cleanliness, relevance, fairness and deliverability. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

In this first part we’ll look at list cleanliness and relevance:

Keep your list clean (15 mins)

Keep your email recipient list clean by making sure you limit sending emails to contacts who return a “hard bounce” as this affects your email reputation and your ability to effectively deliver email communication to attendees. Whether these are promotional emails around your conference or transaction emails related to for example successful conference registration, it is equally vital to make sure your emails are actually successfully delivered.

Keep your lists clean by:

Removing duplicates

Email marketing providers such as Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor or MailChimp automatically remove duplicates when you import your list or add new contacts. If you have a smaller list or no specific email provider, you can easily manage duplicates in Excel.

Removing “bad domains”

Bad domains are those with a poor reputation or associated with scammers, virus spreaders and similar shady organisations. Web of Trust (WOT) has a great list of bad domains to watch out for. Open your contact list in Excel. Copy the list of bad domains from WOT and paste it into a column in Excel. Remember to "paste special" and paste as "text". Then follow these instructions on how to compare data in two columns to find duplicates. Remove those duplicates and voilà you have just removed bad domains from your list.

Removing inactive contacts

All email marketing software should provide an ability to see when each subscriber last interacted with your emails. Look at your oldest users and see if they are worth keeping. Sometimes they are simply dormant but if they are marking you as SPAM, or are simply returning as bad domains, you should consider deleting them. See how to remove contacts in Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor and MailChimp.

Be relevant (15 mins)

Make sure your recipients know you. This starts with the from address and the subject line. They need to recognise either the name of your conference, your conference acronym, or a person from the organising committee/marketing team whom they have previously been in contact with.

If they recognise you they then need to find your email actually relevant. Take time to understand which recipients want to interact with you and when. This intelligence can often be at least semi-automated with email service providers (ESPs). Employ quick A/B tests to find out which prospective delegates react to which content. And doing so makes you more relevant.

Stand out from the crowd of mailboxes

A/B testing in a nutshell

An A/B test means splitting your email list into two equal segments and testing small differences between the two to see which performs better.

Test a part of your whole list, for example take 20% of your list and split this into two parts. Based on the results, considering extending the experiment to the rest of your list. If most people prefer the registration button in test A, send the remaining 80% the registration button which was sent to test A.

For example, let’s say you want to find out which of your delegates prefer more practical conference information such as city, weather, transportation, lodging or restaurant information versus those delegates who prefer more transactional or conference-only information. You would:

Figure out what to test

You can test body content, from name, subject line, email personalisation, images used, offers, calls to action buttons and more. In this example consider testing a subject line with very practical information such as hotel and weather information. Try a subject line with “Hotel information ahead of the conference” or “Get your room booked ahead of time”. In a separate test change the body text of the email to include a list of some hotels and even their preferred rates. Place some links to nearby restaurants. Compare both tests with more non-practical content such as simply information about the conference programme, the timetable and speakers.

Set goals and measure your results

Success criteria usually boils down to open and click rates as well as website conversion rates. This test will help you not only in figuring out whether your contact lists as a whole prefers more practical information or more conference-only information but it also helps you find out which specific contacts prefer which. This makes you much, much more relevant. If person X opens your hotel email and clicks on all your practical hotel and restaurant information (and does so repeatedly) then keep sending this individual practical information!

Rinse and repeat

Note down the results and repeat. You will slowly begin forming a picture of what content your contacts prefer.

A/B testing tools are often available in many email service providers (ESPs).

Do you have other tips to keep your email lists clean and maintaining email relevance? Share them below and check back here for the second post where we’ll cover fairness and deliverability.

Read part two here.

Image credit: Wing Hei Choi Photography

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