One of the most important aspects of marketing and sales is the detection of intent. At the top of the sales funnel, measuring intent is relatively straightforward. If a prospect searches for a keyword, visits your site via organic search, and performs some action to become a lead, you can be relatively certain that they have at least a minimal level of intent for your product or service. Depending on the level of commitment that your product or service requires, that minimal intent may be all that is needed in order to do business with them; after all, purchasing a pack of gum or a book requires far less commitment than a house or jet airplane.
If you have a product or service that requires more commitment than a simple retail transaction, you’ll find that a certain percentage of your audience will display initial intent, but will then have significant changes in their level of intent as the sales process goes on. In order to successfully do more business, consider taking into account some alternative metrics available from your email service provider as a way of detecting continued, increased, or decreased intent in your prospects.
Open rates and click rates are good for purely transactional relationships, as they tell you quickly whether a message was received, processed, and acted on. They’re core metrics you should continue to pay attention to throughout the lifecycle of the sales process. Here’s a selection of other metrics and what they might mean for your sales process:
Increasing intent/positive intent
1. Social sharing. Those people who are in your sales process that share information you publish are indicating to their own social networks that they find your information valuable. By proxy, they likely find you valuable to some degree as well. Make sure that social sharing data is available to your sales team so that they can issue special thanks, offer loyalty rewards, or at the very least acknowledge the sharing in communications.
2. View in browser. The View in Browser link in your email is widely disregarded as being unimportant, but it does serve two purposes. First, it does help those people with less than perfect email clients to read your message as you intended to deliver it. Second and more important, it’s an extra step that someone takes in order to read your content, which in turn means that they find it valuable enough to at least click that link. You’ve established enough trust and reputation that a subscriber wants to read and is willing to take an additional step to do so, rather than archive, delete, or ignore your message.
3. Multiple opens. Due to the way that open rates are tracked (by image load), someone forwarding an email to friends/colleagues using the standard forward button will show an unusual number of opens. This is because there’s no individual tracking of forwarded people (which is a good thing as far as privacy goes!), so a forwarded message is instead attributed to the original sender as another open. Pay attention to subscribers with many multiple opens, as they’re sharing your content via the forward button and give that some added weight as far as intent goes.
Decreasing intent/negative intent
1. Visits to subscriber preferences. One of the simplest things you can do to improve your email performance is to provide a link to a subscriber preferences page on your web site that permits subscribers to unsubscribe or change their delivery options (opting down to lower frequency, for example) instead of a link to directly opt-out. Pay special attention to those people in your database who visit a subscriber preferences page, even if they don’t opt out – their visitation to the page indicates that they may not have time to read your email, conditions have changed at their organization, or they no longer find your material valuable.
2. Opt-outs. Pay very close attention to people who opt out of your company’s mass communications, such as the newsletter. If you have prospective customers who are opting out of the broad communications, their intent may have significantly decreased.
3. Soft bounces. If your email service provider offers such data, pay attention to soft bounces as a way of determining what might be happening in your prospects’ environments. A slew of mailbox full/out of the office/unavailable could indicate that subscribers simply aren’t around or are swamped with other stuff and will likely have less attention to devote to you.
These metrics, these data points, are often provided by email service providers to customers without any explanation of what they mean. With this article, you’ve now got more insight as to what a prospective customer or current customer may be thinking or feeling based on the actions they take with their email. None of these indicators should be interpreted as absolutes in a sales process that immediately make you embrace or avoid a prospect, but they all contribute to the larger picture of intent.
Christopher S. Penn
Director of Inbound Marketing, WhatCounts
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