The breadth and depth of available email metrics, however, is something that a lot of email marketers don't take advantage of. Or, they simply don't delve much beyond the basic open, click and bounce metrics.
Too many marketers still focus on these process email metrics, using them to draw conclusions about whether "free shipping" in the subject line produced a higher open rate than "20% off."
While process metrics play a valuable role in your email marketing program, they are really just step one out of three steps in your analysis efforts. Using the following three key questions as a framework can help you take better advantage of email's inherent measurement strengths.
1. How are we doing? Benchmarking your email metrics internally and against peers provides a report card for you and your managers. It provides a snapshot of progress, such as open rates are declining, click-through rates are increasing and the unsubscribe rate is relatively flat.
When conducting these "benchmarks," keep the following in mind:
· Your email database, opt-in process, sources of new subscribers and other factors are not static. Don't draw conclusions unless you are comparing apples-to-apples.
· Focus your internal benchmarks against goals, rather than past performance. If your model says that you need a 10 percent click-through rate, the fact that your industry average 4% rate hasn't declined in a year is somewhat meaningless.
· Use industry statistics carefully. The fact that your open rates are close to industry averages is probably not a good thing. Compare your email statistics against the top performers, not the average.
· Categorize and drill down into the different types of emails. A 45% open rate might be phenomenal for your broadcast emails, but may be disappointingly low for your cart abandonment emails.
2. What do we need to optimize or change? The second role and value of metrics is using them to understand what's working and not working and where you need to optimize or change your email approach. Now that you've determined that your unsubscribe rate is about double where you believe it should be, how do you get it where you want it?
When basing optimization decisions on metrics, keep these tips in mind:
· Look for drivers. Is an issue endemic to your program, or something in response to specific actions on your part. Is a recent increase in spam complaints a result of a short-term increase in frequency, or did you switch to a pre-checked opt-in box?
· Segment your metrics. Perhaps you are excited because your recent approach of more aggressive subject lines is increasing your open rates. However, when you analyzed the data by high- versus low-value customers, it had a negative impact on customers that are delivering the majority of your revenue.
· Focus on the end result. Perhaps your open rates are less than you'd like, click-through rates are strong, however, revenue or conversion rates are off. The priority fix in this case is probably a bad landing page or poor Web site design, not sub-par open rates.
· Test wisely. Be careful not to jump to conclusions after a single test mailing or program change. Test multiple times and variables to be sure that the improved performance is a direct result of the changes you've made.
3. What is email's role in my company and how does it contribute? Email marketing doesn't operate in a vacuum. A well-run email program can improve brand awareness, reduce operating costs, impact revenue in other channels and beyond.
Your analysis outside of the core email metrics is critical to obtaining the appropriate resources for email but also in uncovering additional opportunities to create tremendous value for the company.
When thinking about emails' role and value, start by looking at the big picture and metrics from other departments or external sources.
· Are you missing opportunities? In the B2B world, Webinar programs are a perfect example. The majority of companies focus their Webinar marketing activities on getting people to sign-up for the Webinar. However, the typical attendance rate for Webinars is in the 40% range. In this example, email can play a significant role in reminding the 60 percent of no shows to watch the recorded version and then nurturing them through the sales funnel.
· What problems can email solve? Increased direct mail costs, calls to the customer support are exploding, minimal usage of your product once on board. These and other challenges that your company faces can be a ripe opportunity for email.
· How is email affecting other channels or lifetime customer value? A video rental company was a sophisticated user of email marketing and after significant testing made a fascinating discovery. Their weekly emails promoting specific movie titles had little effect on rental of those titles, but in fact drove a large volume of customers to their stores who rented other titles.
Metrics are one of email marketers' greatest assets. If you haven't already, move beyond the report card phase and allocate the necessary time and resources to uncover a potential goldmine of opportunities for improvement and increased value within your company.
Until next time, take it up a notch!