5 Tips for Monitoring Your Competition’s Email Program

Posted by Julia Peavy 

As marketers work to ensure their emails arrive in and stand out in a crowded inbox, keeping an eye on their competition (and top-tier marketers) is a tactic that is becoming increasingly important. While monitoring other marketers’ email programs can provide inspiration and insights, it is often difficult and time consuming.  Here are five tips for monitoring the competition to help make your email program best in class.

Preference Center
Monitoring the subscription process and preference center of your competition can help provide clues to many elements discussed below. What data are they collecting during the subscription process? What choices are provided to their subscriber base when it comes to interests, mail streams, and frequency? Are they collecting data fields that you are not collecting, but should? Are there email streams you were not aware of? How are they integrating social media and mobile into their preference center?

Subject Lines
At a minimum, monitoring the subject lines of your competitor’s email program is a must. It provides a glimpse into the type of content your competition is sending and the focus of their email program. In addition, it can be done quickly. Are they focused on clever or direct subject lines? What keywords are included? Do the subject lines generally focus on product or price? Are subject lines generally the same or are their new topics or areas of focus being introduced?   Use these insights to keep a pulse on the competition and work these subject lines into your subject line testing program.

While monitoring the content your competition sends might be the most obvious thing to monitor, it can also be the most insightful. Rather than looking at individual messages, look for patterns in their content to determine what is working best for them. Use your subject line insights to help uncover unique/new message types and dive into these specific messages.

  • Are their templates generally long/short?
  • Do they include a lot of images or include a balance of images and text?
  • How are they potentially segmenting their audience (gender? past purchasers? lapsed subscribers? List source?)
  • What kind of targeting and personalization is being employed across message streams?

An increase in email frequency is one of the main reasons subscribers unsubscribe from an email program. And yet, many marketers simply increase email frequency without regards for the consequences. Before embarking on sending more emails, get a sense of how many emails your competition sends. 

Are they able to send more emails because they provide extremely targeted emails based on subscriber preferences? Do they utilize triggered messages based on subscriber behavior which results in more emails, but also more response? Do they simply send the same email to everyone and hope it works?  Is their high frequency program landing their emails in the spam/junk folder? Are there specific types of messages only sent on certain days?

Read Rate
While all of the above can be done in a vacuum, there is one main piece missing: how the emails perform. Layering in engagement metrics helps provide a more complete picture of your competition’s email program. One of the key engagement metrics that can provide insights is the read rate. As I recently pointed out, read rate differs from open rate and is one of the key metrics ISP’s are using to measure your email program’s spam reputation.

By utilizing engagement metrics like read rate, you are able to more intelligently determine what is working for your competition and worth testing within your own program. Instead of blinding rolling out more emails because your competition has, you can use insights to determine which emails streams are most successful and which campaigns are likely to generate the highest engagement.  

While your email program is unique, keeping an eye on the competition is a strategic way to gain additional insights and keep your program best in class.

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About Julia Peavy

Julia Peavy is currently the Director of Partner Services at Return Path. In this role, Julia is responsible for supporting Return Path’s partners and helping improve the client experience through consistent, quality, and scalable services. When Julia's not helping partners and their clients, you can find her on the slopes, trying to lower her handicap, looking for bargains, or watching one of her boys' many sporting events.

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