Measuring The Success of Your Email Marketing

Email marketing is something we’ve done a lot of.  When done correctly, it can have a fantastic ROI, despite the medium being very limiting for designers.  While there are many components to executing a great email campaign beyond simply building it in Campaign Monitor and hitting send, the most important parts are A/B testing, analyzing, and building on those results.  I’ll get to A/B testing another time, but in the meantime, if you’re just casually doing email marketing, there’s a good chance that you’ve been looking at the wrong numbers when reading reports.

Let’s Get This Out Of The Way

At the end of the day, the only number that really matters is the dollar amount attached to the sale that came from an email.  However, not every email is meant to generate a sale, and too much goes into the sales process to have revenue accurately measure the success or failure of an email campaign.

There is also a large amount of data that comes in to optimizing your email efforts and building a higher conversion rate.  This comes from tracking opens, clicks, unsubscribes, complaints, and which links people are clicking. You probably look at the open rates and think something along the lines of “oh good, Email #1 got an open rate of 25% and it was a discount offer with fancy images, we should do more discount offers with fancy images!”  Logically, you would try one or two more emails like Email #1.  That’s the basis of analytics. That’s not to say that those metrics don’t mean anything – they are there to help you know what to test and to make better decisions with your marketing.

However, it takes regular review of results, commitment to change your plan based on what you learn, and most importantly a thorough understanding of what each metric means. So…

How Do You Measure The Success of Your Email Marketing?

Open Rate

For many email marketers, the open rate is the end-all, be-all number. It’s how many people clicked your message in their inbox and saw your pretty email. This is usually what most focus on and they’ll use this number to guide future decisions.  However, they are missing two very important things:

  1. The open rate is ONLY the performance (or strength) of your subject line
  2. Many email clients automatically open emails, so this number will always be higher than it actually is.

Ultimately, the open rate only tracks how many people read the subject and then click it.  At this point, no one has seen the copy of your email, the images, or knows any more information than the subject line gives them.

Click Through Rate

If the open rate measures just the subject line, the clickthrough rate (CTR) measures just the content and the call to action (CTA). Ideally, these two things should be intrinsically linked. Your copy should be brief, punchy, and immediately to the point of calling them to action. As the average email reader’s attention span is an average of 8 seconds, your goal is to get a click as quickly as possible.

Your email copy should not go much farther below the fold of a standard browser viewing Gmail.  The only exception is a transactional email, but also a topic for another day.  Anything much more than what a user can consume in a quick glance will lead to information overload and you will end up with your email getting trashed, or worse…

Unsubscribe and Complaints

This is a metric email marketers have come to dread, as it can dramatically impact the health of your list with just a few hard bounces or complaints (“mark as spam”) from the user or server.  As long as that number is under a 1%, you shouldn’t have to worry about it and if it’s much higher after your first few emails, you’re using an outdated or shady list and need to start rebuilding.

Clickout Rate

So if the above metrics measure the success of individual components of the email, how do you measure the performance of the entire campaign?  It’s called the “Clickout Rate” (or Clicks To Opens/CTO) and it’s the number of clicks / the number of opens.  This metric measures the performance of the body of your email AND the subject line. It shows how successful overall your entire effort was.

It’s important to be looking at all the numbers, but if you are going to report only one number, track this number, track it regularly, and be ready to change your plan based on what it tells you.

At the end of the day, email is the bait on the hook leading to your product, organization, or website. Make sure you’re putting the best content out there and are constantly looking at the right numbers to make sure that you’re using the right bait.

And as always, if you have any questions about email marketing or want to know more, please reach out to us! We would be happy to talk to see if email marketing is the right fit for your business!

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