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Interview (emailing) : A. Chandra Shekhar, C.E.O. of Success Planned

bsoco : Are e-mail campaigns still a true source of business or has the annoyance of spam caused a decrease in email marketing?

A. Chandra Shekhar : Email marketing certainly generates a better ROI when compared to other marketing methods. Yes, it’s true that spam is a major headache for most recipients, but if you have engaged with your customers in the right way, getting through to their inbox shouldn’t be an issue.
If you don’t have a list which is opt-in, ask them to enlist you first before you start sending out marketing campaigns. And never purchase/rent a list. This is a sure shot way of ensuring that your reputation goes down and your emails won’t reach even the genuine audience.

bsoco : Could you give us some benchmarks in terms of stats? What’s a good rate of openness … 0.5%, 2% 10%?

A. Chandra Shekhar : There is no set benchmark when it comes to the open rate. This is a variable factor and depends on the industry segment you take. For instance, if you take the IT/Technology industry, the acceptable rate could be about 18-20%. Of course, these numbers could also depend on the region you are targeting.

bsoco : What are good monitoring indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns?

A. Chandra Shekhar : How you define as “effective” pretty much depends on the campaign type sent out. For example, if you send out a New Year greeting, you would expect a higher percentage of views maybe 40-50%.
However, if you send out information about a product to the same recipient list, you may record only about 15% views.
This variation could happen for various reasons. One of them is that users do not enable images by default in their email clients. They would enable it only if they find the email interesting. The subject of the mail should catch their attention. Emails are tracked only if images are enabled.
The other attributes you should watch out are the click-through-rate (CTR) and the Unsubscribe rate.
Click-through-rate may not be applicable for all email campaigns since you may not have any links defined in your campaign. A link to Unsubscribe/Opt out is a must according to the CAN-SPAM Act. If your campaigns have a higher rate of unsubscribes, there is something definitely wrong with the content.

bsoco : If you had two tips for a successful e-mail campaign, what would they be?

A. Chandra Shekhar : First and foremost, make sure your recipient list is “Opt-in” and “Clean”. If your list is old, ensure you check the accuracy of email addresses before you start your campaign. And don’t forget to remove those emails for which recipients have “Unsubscribed or Opted out” previously or those that had a “Hard” bounce.
If your campaigns are sent to a large list, never ignore A/B Split testing. It’s always better to take a sample of the complete recipient list (normally 5% of the list size) and send out a campaign with at least 2 different subject variations. Depending on the outcome, you can select the subject that has the best open rate and use that for the remaining recipients.

bsoco : What has been the most surprising email marketing campaign for you in terms of client response?

A. Chandra Shekhar : We have customers of varied requirements across industry verticals. In one instance, we were trying to position BitFaster to one of our customers in the hospitality industry where we had fierce competition from 3 other global vendors.
Our sales pitch was quite simple – “You pay only if BitFaster pays you first”. The campaign was sent out to about 30,000 recipients from the customer location. To our surprise, we got a call on the third day from the Director of Sales, who had signed the order in our favor. How did we clinch the deal? BitFaster gave them the reports they were looking for. And the campaign had exceeded their sales target that was set for that particular campaign.