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You might be wondering if email is still effective. The answer is a loud and resounding yes! In fact, email is growing. According to our 2016 State of Marketing Report, 49% of marketers say email is directly linked to their business’ primary revenue source — a notable jump from the 20% of marketers who said the same in 2015. But how are successful email marketing ninjas optimising this investment for success? 

Measuring email marketing effectiveness 

Simply put, you need to set goals. By having a clear goal and measurable criteria for success it is easier to understand what can be classed as a good result or where there are areas for improvement. Jim Sterne says it best:

"Without clear goals, there’s no need to measure anything; without measuring, there’s no way to know if the work you’re doing is helping to achieve your goals."

But before you start defining your goals you'll need to identify the main email marketing metrics used to measure your success. All ESPs (email service providers) use slightly different definitions of metrics so it's important to understand and define a standard set for consistent comparison and benchmarking. The below 7 email marketing metrics are a great place to start but there are plenty more you may include such as “List Growth Rate” or “Complaint Rate”. 

  • Deliverability Rate: Percentage of emails successfully delivered. (Number Delivered / Number Sent)*100
  • Bounce Rate: Percentage of emails sent that bounced. (Number Bounced / Number Sent)*100
  • Open Rate: Percentage of recipients who opened the email. (Number of Unique Opens / Number Delivered)*100
  • Clickthrough Rate (CTR): Percentage of recipients who clicked at least one link. (Total Clicks OR Unique Clicks / Number Delivered)*100
  • Unsubscribe Rate: Percentage of recipients who clicked the email's unsubscribe link and unsubscribed. (Number Unsubscribed / Number Delivered)*100
  • Conversion Rate: Percentage of recipients who clicked on a link and completed the desired action, e.g. downloaded an ebook or purchased a product. (Number of recipients taken desired action / Number Delivered)*100
  • ROI: Return on investment for your email campaign. ((£ in Sales - £ Invested)/£ Invested)*100

Take a deep breath and let that all sink in. Now ask yourself: Why am I sending this email? It’s impossible to optimise your email campaigns if you don’t have a clear idea of why it’s being sent. This is why goals and measurement go hand-in-hand.

Best and worst case scenario

Admittedly, it can be difficult to pick an appropriate goal for an email. For example, “Generate more revenue” doesn’t really work as a goal. It’s a solid overall objective and it’s something you can measure however it’s too broad to provide useful insights. Break your goals down and get really specific. Examples of clear, actionable goals you can measure would be “Increase new subscribers by X%” or “Increase the number of recipients at Interest Stage X”.

So you’ve set your email marketing campaign goals, what’s next?

Using a response and conversion rate model will give you a best and worst case scenario for delivery, open and clickthrough rates and will help calculate potential value generated for the business. This will help articulate the value of working hard to maximise your metrics and provide transparency to your stakeholders on expected outcomes. 

This is a great starting point as an initial gauge of success but it's becoming more and more important to find more effective ways to relate email activity to revenue generated across all channels.

Conversions on other channels

"Your customers are cross-channel so your marketing must be cross-channel." 

It's been said a million times because it's true. Our latest State of Marketing report shows that leading marketers understand the value of a cross-channel approach. In fact, high performers are 3.4x more likely to strongly agree they’ve integrated their email marketing with their overall marketing.

The key message here is to look beyond basic single-channel metrics, such as open and clickthrough rates, as your key measures of success. For example, is there an impact on non-email revenue on days when an email was sent? This type of analysis will help you gain a better understanding of the true contribution your email campaigns have on revenue, and that can only be a good thing when submitting those budget requests!

Activity and engagement goals

Traditionally email measurement focuses on an individual campaign but what about the long-term engagement with your audience over a six, nine or twelve month period?

A 2016 study by Acsend2 found that inadequate list hygine practices were a challenge for 35% of respondents. Interestingly, removing unengaged contacts from your list can actually help drive better engagement and deliverability. If an ESP sees a large number of your emails being sent getting a low engagement that can reduce the number of emails reaching the inbox of recipients actually wanting to receive the email.

So it's important to analyse longer-term engagement with email so that you can develop strategies to reduce list fatigue. For example, look at those recipients that have never opened, clicked or made a purchase over the last six, nine and twelve months and then use these metrics to set yourself goals for list quality and engagement. Why not go a step further and break these down by subscriber types such as market segment or products purchased. 

What’s Next?

This is the first in our 'Battle of the Inbox' series of email marketing best practices, designed to help you get the most out of your email marketing campaigns. We’ll cover everything from segmentation, copywriting, template design, testing and much more. Check out Email Marketing Step 2: Segmentation and Targeting for the next instalment. 

In the meantime, you can download a copy of the 2016 State of Marketing research report to see how marketers around the globe are approaching the ever evolving mix of channels and tactics available to them - and yes - email is still a huge part of that!