Best Practices Exist for a Reason, Part 3: Email Results Analysis

For many marketers, the bulk of their time is taken up with list selection, subject lines, email design and ensuring the email links to integrated landing pages. But not enough time is spent analyzing the results of those efforts in order to learn and apply it to the next campaign.

For many marketers, the bulk of their time is taken up with list selection, subject lines, email design and ensuring the email links to integrated landing pages. But not enough time is spent analyzing the results of those efforts in order to learn and apply it to the next campaign.

Whenever clients ask us to help them with new creative, our very first question is “Can we see what you’ve done before and the results associated with it?” You’d be amazed how many don’t have this information — let alone know where they can find it.

And on many occasions when they do provide us with it, they are unsure how to interpret the results or use them to influence the next campaign effort. So here are a few best practices worth considering:

  • Maintain a Historical Record: You should have one digital file that contains the creative for every email you’ve blasted. Organize them by target audience (existing customers, warm prospects, cold prospects). This makes them much easier to find when you’re thinking about your next campaign by audience type.
  • Target Audience: Ideally your notes should include the parameters you used to select your target from your house file (e.g. customers who haven’t purchased in 60 days from X/XX/XX; or inquirers who downloaded whitepaper “ABC” between X/XX/XX and X/XX/XX”). If you rented or purchased an outside list, include additional information like the company you rented from, the name of the list, the parameters you provided to them, and the price you paid (you’ll want this to measure your ROI).
  • Blast Quantity: While this is important, it’s NOT the metric you should be using to calculate your open rates. You’ll also want the number of hard and soft bounces, and whether or not your email system is automatically re-blasting to soft bounces at another time. You want to start measuring results based on how many recipients actually received your email which requires you to subtract hard and soft bounces from your gross blast quantity.
  • Open Rates: While this may seem like a no-brainer, emails can get opened up to 10 days after you blasted, so be sure to take a “final” tally a few weeks after your initial blast date instead of creating your only results report within a few days of the blast.
  • Clickthrough Rates: This number should be based as a percent of the number of unique individuals who opened the email. I’ve seen lots of email companies report click thru rates as a calculation of clicks divided by the number blasted—and I just find that irritating. Your audience can’t click unless it opens the email, so the most important stat is to understand how many of those that opened, clicked.
  • Conversion to Sale: What was the objective of the campaign? To sell a product? To download a whitepaper? Don’t assume that just because your target clicked on the link, they took the next step. Using Google analytics (if you don’t have any other source of intel) will let you see which links a web visitor clicked on, including the “download” or “shopping cart” button. If your email is the only source of driving traffic to this page, then you can match this rate back to your email campaign. If your email drives the recipient to your website, shame on you. Read Part 2 of this series about Best Practices for Landing Pages.

If you achieve a high open rate (there are lots of recent industry stats here for comparison), then your problem is not your subject line.

If you achieve a high click thru rate, then you’ve designed great email creative with a great offer (and may want to examine/test your subject line to see if you can get better exposure of your message).

If you achieve a low conversion rate, reexamine your landing page. Does it match your email offer? Is it working as hard as possible to lead the visitor to the desired next step? Is your button obvious and clear what the recipient will get when they click?

The truth is, you won’t really know if YOUR email campaign is working until you establish some benchmark metrics, and then begin to compare additional email efforts against that benchmark (while always keeping an eye on industry averages).