Answer: Without the proper measurement techniques, you'll never be able to differentiate between cause and effect and coincidence.
First, realize that with e-mail lists, bigger is not necessarily better. Growth in total e-mail addresses as a goal is dangerous and counterproductive. A large, dirty list not only unnecessarily increases your costs, it produces huge numbers of hard bounces, which raises the likelihood of ISPs marking your e-mail as spam. Instead of delivering your e-mail to someone who really wants to be on your list, it will go to a spam filter, never to be read. Because ISPs exchange their blocked spam lists, you'll soon be blocked by others as well, and your open rates will irreversibly plummet.
Instead, make your goal a growing number of "good" e-mail addresses. Remove all your hard bounces after every e-mail campaign. Make it easy for subscribers to unsubscribe or change their e-mail addresses. The cleaner your list is, the greater your success.
Second, it’s important for marketers to note that open rates and click-throughs tell only half the story. The real measure needs to be your conversion rates, or the number and percentage of e-mails sent that result in a quantifiable transaction.
Track your conversions by embedding links in your e-mail that point to a URL set up to track that visitor's path through a site. A conversion occurs when a trackable e-mail recipient completes your site's transactional goal—a sale, submitted inquiry form, call to a unique phone number or e-mail to a unique address displayed on a contact page only accessible to e-mail recipients. Your conversion ratio is the total number of transactions, divided by the number of e-mails sent. That ratio should improve over time.
Because you only can manage what you can measure, start measuring, and you'll soon be able to manage your way to greater e-mail campaign success.
Tom Snyder is president and founder of Trivera Interactive (www.trivera.com), a Germantown, Wis., Web site development and online marketing company.