Service businesses should track transactional email engagement, but probably aren't. Here's why and how to do it.

What is transactional email?

It is all email that is not happening in an email marketing tool like Mailchimp. Most likely you have an email service provider like Google (G Suite, like me), Microsoft (Exchange or Office 365) and whatever your domain registrar (123-reg or GoDaddy) gave you when you purchased your domain.
Mailchimp et al come with nice analytical tools baked in by default. But not so with mainstream providers such as Google Apps or MS365. What if you could generate insights from the hundreds of emails that your people send day in and day out?
What if you could begin to build an idea of the kinds of calls to action that cause your target prospects to take action?
That's what this article is about.

Why track engagement with transactional emails?

It is important to measure the engagement your employees have with prospects since there will usually be many back and forth conversations that ultimately lead to new business won and and value captured.
It's very easy to ascertain that a sale was won when an email response from a customer says "yes £12,000 + vat is an acceptable price, let's go ahead." But wouldn't it be fascinating to know that just before they responded to you they clicked a link in the footer of your staff member's email signature which said "learn why Michelle (a customer) has invested with us repeatedly each year for Service X for the last seven years".
I know that if I was teetering on the edge of writing you a cheque for a substantial amount of money, I would be looking for testimonials, I would be looking for anything I could find that your existing customers had said about you.
That link in the email footer could be the difference between my yes and no! Yet without some kind of tracking on it, you will never know what it was that finally tipped me over the edge. Unless (and this is always the caveat to any investment in analytics 'tools') you have a trustworthy follow-up process that helps you concretely establish the key touchpoint that led to a sales conversion.
My bet is that you don't. So do this instead:

Create trackable links in your email signatures.

Here's how.

  1. **Make sure Google Analytics is installed **and functioning correctly on all of your digital assets.

  2. Decide what content you are going to link to from your signatures. Ideas:
    2.1. Time-based promotional offers (these links should go to landing pages)
    2.2. A customer testimonial video page and or testimonial video galleries.
    2.3. Specific service sales pages ("Our Technical Site Audit")
    2.4. A refer-a-colleague landing page, where you incentivise current prospects, customers and partners to refer your services to someone they know.

  3. Create regular hyperlinks to those pages. Let's take an example of the time-based promotional offer: 20% off Our Detailed Business Audit. The page on your site is: https://yoursite.com/l/spring-20-audit

Note, the /l/ is my subtle way of hinting that all promotional pages on your website for specific campaigns should be landing pages, i.e. set-apart from the other pages on your website, and wholly focused on the promotional objective.

So, now build your regular html hyperlink as follows:

<a href="https://yoursite.com/l/spring-20-audit"> 20% off Our Detailed Business Audit</a>

  1. Build some UTM parameters. Now this is where some people might freak out at the complexity, but this is not complicated, trust me, it's logical.
    Some time ago, Google purchased a company that had come up with an ingenious method of 'codifying' and 'tagging' traffic they were generating across many different digital platforms (my definition of a digital platform is "anywhere you can click"), their name was Urchin. Their ingenious method was Urchin Traffic Module, or Urchin Traffic Monitor (see what you think when you read what [Google says about it], or UTM for short.

Worked Example

Take your hyperlink from earlier, and add in the UTM parameters as shown in this worked example:

<a href="https://yoursite.com/l/spring-20-audit/?utm_campaign=outreach&utm_medium=staff+email+signatures&utm_source=charlie+boorman&utm_term=20+percent+off"> 20% off Our Detailed Business Audit</a>

What will this hyperlink tell me?

  • Campaign: Staff Outreach & Interaction
  • Medium: Email Signature
  • Staff Member: Charlie Boorman
  • Call to Action (what triggered a response in the prospect): 20% Off Audit.
  1. Rinse and repeat for all staff members for that link. Then do the same for the other links.

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2. Look out for the newly gathered information in Google Analytics grouped under the 'Campaign tab' under the heading of "Transactional Email", seeing the segment "Staff Email Signatures" and then check out how each of your staff members do at generating those clicks and leads.
Tips
a) Create three (max) links for your staff email signatures, any more and it'll probably become a bit cluttered and your prospects won't see them.
b) Don't just use links to standard service pages on your site, use them to send prospects to offers on landing pages, such as report or resource downloads.
c) use a service like Bitly to shorten your URLs to get real-time 'click' updates, just like those that YesWare and HubSpot (explained further below) Will give you.
d) Make your life easier by building yourself a spreadsheet to generate these links and store them in a nice ordered list. I have built a Google Sheet that you can request access to that will help you make these links quickly and easily..=

More transactional email ideas.

Hook your emails into your CRM system

Good sales and CRM tools should give you an option to automatically BCC a universal inbox that links the emails in a conversation thread with any deal within your pipeline that contains the same participants.
This links all emails about a certain deal to that deal in your CRM. I know that Pipedrive, BaseCRM, and Highrise all feature this option.
The overview this gives you when reviewing your sales pipeline is invaluable. It's also great for training purposes.

Get YesWare, HubSpot or other email sidekicks.

These are not strictly anything to do with email signatures, but they are to do with helping you generate more sales and opportunity with transactional email.
Yesware is a powerful piece of [sales email software] that lets you track opens and clicks of transactional emails sent by your staff. But bear in mind, YesWare doesn't use UTM parameters to link what happens in your emails to what happens on your website, they just focus on opens and click information (and other cool features that sales people will like, such as scheduling calls and follow-up sequences).
HubSpot are also playing catch-up in this area, within their [Sales Hub tool] which integrates with their broader suite of tools.

Have one stand-out offer that you run at any one time.

I'm all for linking to service pages on your site, but here's how to go one better: Promote one thing above everything else … loud and proud.
People can only really spot one thing. So give them one thing to spot.
Two ideas:

  • Promote a referral scheme. If you have an incentive (£50 of Amazon vouchers if you refer a colleague) for referrals, link to that! . I've built a neat little referral system using a mixture of Instapage, Zapier and some javascript code that you can quickly copy and paste.
  • Promote a free download. If you have some kind of expertise in your industry, then you should have an asset such as a recorded teaching video, in-depth report that solves a single problem, or broader reaching ebook. Whatever it is, you should make it accessible via a landing page that captures information from a visitor in exchange for the download. I prefer Instapage for this kind of thing.

What other ingenious methods have you come across regarding tracking the performance of transactional emails?

Let me know, I am always adding these neat little hacks to my offering.
If you need any help setting up tracking systems, or want some inspiration to get digital technology working for you. Get in touch!