How Should I Measure the Success of My Email Marketing?

posted this in
Content Marketing
on October 1st, 2013

Anyone who has ever used email marketing for their business knows that there are a plethora of different metrics available to them.

But which ones should you be paying attention to?

The answer: it depends.

You see, we believe that every marketing tactic your business uses, whether it’s direct mail, email marketing, blogging, social media, etc., should stem from an over-arching strategy. So rather than letting the medium determine how you measure success, you should measure success based on how the medium helps you achieve your strategy.

If this sounds complicated, it’s not. One of the best explanations I’ve seen of this is by Avinash Kaushik. He calls it a See-Think-Do strategy.

The basic principle in Kaushik’s strategy (and what we’re trying to say here) is that marketing tactics should be measured based on the goals they’re helping you achieve. Since this blog is about email marketing, here are a few examples to help you understand.

Measuring RSS Blog Emails

Many smart companies set up their blog to automatically email their subscribers when a new article is posted. If you do this, you likely have one of two goals (or both):

  • To nurture prospective customers to become new customers
  • To nurture current customers to purchase additional products/services from you

These are early-stage emails where you are nurturing a relationship. So they likely won’t directly create sales. So, while you should be measuring how many of these subscribers eventually purchase new or additional products/services from you, you can get a better picture of success by also measuring:

  • Click-through-rate (CTR) – How many people are actually clicking? This tells you how relevant/helpful people find your emails. Aim for a high CTR (8%+) on these, depending on your industry and list.
  • Responses – Many times these emails are very conversational and might ask questions. Measure how many people responded to the email, even if they didn’t purchase yet.
  • New subscribers – If you’re sending out RSS emails, you should have an easy way for people to subscribe to it. New subscribers will tell you that people are interested in what you’ve posted in the past and want to stay up to date.
  • Unsubscribes – Conversely, people who unsubscribe are saying your info is not important. This should stay relatively constant at or below 0.5%. If it spikes, you know your content needs work.

Measuring One-Off Email Promotions

While we like to encourage businesses to focus more on helping their customers solve problems over “selling”, when done right, a promotional email can still be very effective.

The goal for these is more obvious – to sell. So they should be measured that way. Make sure you are accounting for the whole picture by measuring both call-in and online sales and leads.

Note: Marchex estimates say as much as 70% of advertising-generated conversions happen over the phone. So don’t forget to use a call tracking phone number to get the whole picture.

Your conversion rate here can vary dramatically. If you segment your list (so your offer is very relevant) and create a very compelling offer, we’ve seen:

  • CTR’s as high as 25%
  • Conversion rates at 2-3%

Unfortunately, many companies do these email incorrectly – they send one offer to their entire list in order to get the most eyeballs on the offer. The problem is that you end up hurting your company’s reputation because the majority of your list doesn’t find your offer relevant. This leads to unsubscribes and spam complaints, and can cause your subscribers to flat out ignore future emails from you.

This may end up making your emails land in spam inboxes for others (who may have actually liked the offer) and can even get you blacklisted by some email service providers, hurting all future emails.

Measuring Monthly Email Newsletters

Many of our clients send out monthly newsletters, which are a hybrid of the first two types we’ve talked about. Newsletters contain both content/articles, usually designed to help solve customer problems, and specific offers (like coupons) to entice those that are ready to purchase.

And most of the time, these are sent to current customers, so the goal is upselling and educating/nurturing.

Because newsletters usually have multiple pieces with different goals, you should measure each part with the right metrics to determine effectiveness. Here are some metrics to use:

  • Click-through-rate (CTR) – Overall click rates usually hover around 3-7%. But more importantly, you can gauge the value of each part of your newsletter by seeing what was clicked the most.
  • Conversions – If your email newsletter has coupons or offers that direct people to a landing page, conversions will tell you how effective these offers were. (Don’t forget to measure your phone calls, too.)

Other Emails

If you’re only using the three types of emails above, you’re probably missing out. Email marketing is most effective when it’s personalized and segmented in order to increase the relevance to each recipient.

One of the easiest ways to do that is to follow up with customer actions. Here are just a few examples:

  • New customer welcome message – Send an email to new customers that thanks them for choosing your company and sets the expectations. Measure to see how this affects customer loyalty.
  • Product upsell/cross sell – Have a pair of products/services that go well together? Send an email about the other when a customer only purchases one. Measuring this one’s pretty easy – how many people purchase?
  • New subscriber welcome email – Similar to a new customer email, but specifically for new subscribers (who may or may not be customers already). Welcome them and send a few links to your most popular/helpful content. Measure if this helps engagement (opens/clicks) of subscribers who get this email.
  • Nudge to rate/review your product or service – Online reviews are huge, whether you’re a service provider or online retailer. After a specified amount of time, ask your new customers to review your company or product.

To Measure, Start with a Goal

The basis of all of this is simple – before you try to figure out what metrics you should pay attention to, figure out what the goal of the email is. Once you know that, it will be easy to see which metrics help prove you met the goal.

What kind of emails are you sending, and how are you measuring their success?