Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) means many things to many marketers but it starts with a single survey question about the interviewee’s likelihood to recommend an organization, product, service, etc.  To calculate NPS, you subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.  The idea was first published in Harvard Business Review but you may have read about it in Advertising Age, Journal of Marketing or any number of publications. 

A friend asked for my thoughts about NPS recently because he was getting two different results for NPS depending on how he asked the question.  One question asked, “On a scale of 1-10, how likely is it that you would recommend company X to a friend or colleague?”  The scale ran from 1 (Not likely) to 10 (Very likely) with 5 described as Neutral.  The scale on the second question went from 1 (Definitely would not recommend) to 10 (Definitely would recommend).   No qualifiers were given for numbers 2 to 9 on the scale.

I correctly guessed which question produced higher results.  Can you?  In my next post I will write more about NPS because both questions were wrong. 

However, I would like to focus on the art of writing survey questions.  The only difference between the two questions are the scales used.   The second scale was more extreme than the first.  “Definitely would not recommend” is much stronger language than “Not likely”.  The first scale also highlighted position 5 by using the word “Neutral” instead of the number.  All the other positions on the scale had numbers.  This had three consequences.  First, this made it appear that 5 was the midpoint.  However, On a scale from 1 to 10, the midpoint would be 5.5.  Second, by replacing the number 5 with a label, it calls attention to the middle of the scale and could skew answers as a result.  Third, position 5 should not have been described as neutral when in fact a 5 is considered a detractor according to the published methodology. 

This real life example reiterates how difficult it can be to write good survey questions.  How you ask the question can determine the answers you will receive.

Compared to what?

A client asked me how her campaigns compared to industry standards. It is a common question and there are many resources available. The DMA compiles statistics and reports on response rates. Most recently they published the DMA 2007 Response Rate Trends Report. MarketingSherpa produces reports such as the 2009 E-Mail Marketing Benchmark Guide. Then, of course, there are websites offering benchmark rates for e-mails such as

Just because there are resources available does not necessarily mean that you should use them. Finding the right benchmark rate requires finding comparable campaigns. That means looking for rates based on campaigns having the same:
1. target (i.e., business or consumer)
2. channel (e.g., direct mail, print ad, web banner, e-mail)
3. industry (e.g., retail, financial services)
4. message/offer (e.g., sales)

Even if you find rates for campaigns that meet all of those conditions, how can you be sure that the campaigns are truly comparable? As noted in a recent Molecular blog post, you do not always know the context of the numbers.

The question of industry standards can also obscure another great resource, your own past campaigns. Again, you need to consider the factors above, but these will also provide a benchmark against which you can measure the success of current campaigns.

My Daily Ulysses

To keep my niece entertained during long car rides, I tell her the story of Odysseus (also known as Ulysses).  If you start with the Iliad, which I do because it was Odysseus’ idea to build the Trojan Horse after all, and then move onto the Odyssey, you can pleasurably fill quite a lot of time.  So she’s 6 years old.  Can you ever be too young for Homer?

Well, there’s another Ulysses I was hoping to conquer.  This one was written by James Joyce.  I have begun subscribing to an e-mail service that provides excerpts of books.   It is from DailyLit.  I tried it on a lark and am enjoying the brief but intense dose of literature in my inbox each weekday.  That is, once I get over the dread and open the e-mail.  I loved Dubliners so why the dread of Ulysses?  It certainly has a reputation for being difficult but that is partly why the e-mails are perfect for me.  I can savor the book in small doses and read them when I have the time and focus needed.   Further, seeing them in my inbox each day encourages me to read them.

The e-mails from DailyLit are what e-mails should be — relevant, timely and meaningful to the recipient.  In this case, I selected the book from a myriad of choices and set the frequency.  My choices were daily, weekdays or Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Further, I was able to schedule the time of the e-mail or RSS feed.  Other e-mail senders can learn from the customer preferences provided by DailyLit.

Book Vending Machine © Craig Alexander
Book Vending Machine © Craig Alexander

Sybil and E-mail Marketing

Have you heard this one before?  If you put two analysts together what do you get?  Three opinions.  Okay, so it wasn’t a very good joke but I have certainly had conversations with analysts where it seemed like I was talking to Sybil.

This is my way of saying that I understand if you are sceptical about the following link to Email Marketing Q&A.  However, it was created by the Email Experience Council of the DMA.   Also, if you are new to e-mail marketing, you might find it helpful.  If you don’t find it useful or relevant, please let me know.

Building on what Seth Godin wrote…

Now is the time to start a business according to Seth Godin. I was reading through the last several posts on his website and came across this one. I would like to build upon his idea. Now is also the time for strong companies to leap frog over their competitors through strategic expansion and investment. In this market, there are opportunities to purchase undervalued assets. Think JP Morgan Chase’s purchase of Bear Stearns. There are opportunities to strategically invest. I heard Warren Buffett speak 5 or 6 years ago about a decision early in his career to purchase IBM shares at a time when he believed the stock was undervalued.  Since then he had seen an incredible return on his investment. I am betting his investment in Goldman Sachs will also prove his reputation as a savvy investor. By purchasing perpetual preferred stock he receives a 10% dividend.  Don’t forget the opportunities to invest internally. A few weeks ago I wrote about iKnowtion which is investing in their staff and their future.