COWBOY: Six e-mail metrics nobody told you about

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C=Capture rate: How many visitors to your Web site signed up for an e-mail list? How many came and left without any way for you to contact them again? Your e-mail list should be as big as the number of monthly unique visitors to your site.

Problem: You invest a certain acquisition cost to get people to your site, but very few buy on that first visit. If you don’t get their e-mail address, you have no way to communicate with them and get them back to the site—without spending those acquisition dollars all over again.

Solution: Ask for e-mail addresses everywhere, including your home page, sidebars, pop-ups and forms. Don’t bury the request on a special newsletter page, and don’t make people go looking for a sign-up form.

O=Offer strength: How many people come to your e-mail sign-up form and decide to skip it? Nearly 100% of visitors to a specific newsletter sign-up form should fill it out. Why else would they go to that page?

Problem: You have a weak offer or call to action. Does your form say "Click here for special offers, news and discounts"? We all hesitate before clicking that submit button, wondering if we are going to get spammed and why we need yet another e-mail. "Special offers" means "spam me" to most people.

Solution: The words next to the check-box matter more than anything else. Provide a powerful reason to sign up, such as discounts, important information, exclusivity and interesting, fun content. Real benefits get real permission.

W=Wipeout rate: How many customer relationships did you burn with overly aggressive e-mail acquisition tactics? Unwanted e-mail makes people angry and shrinks your customer list. Are you sending it without realizing it?

Problem scenario: Let’s say you pay for a cost-per-action e-mail campaign, hoping for 10,000 clicks. Looks like a bargain until you consider what really happens. Suppose your offer gets sent to a list with a typical 0.5% click rate. Two million people got mailed to get your 10,000 clicks. And 1,990,000 didn’t want them. How many think you spammed them and will never do business with you again?

Solution: Only e-mail to people who come to your site and ask to be e-mailed.

B=Block rate: What percentage of your e-mail is actually getting delivered? If you’re not actively managing delivery, assume that 10% to 20% of your e-mail just vanishes into the ISPs’ filters.

Problem: You’re losing a lot of easy sales.

Solution: Prioritize e-mail delivery, hire an expert to manage the process or teach you how to do it yourself, and only use a high-quality e-mail hosting company. And never, ever, ever, push the envelope on permission.

O=One-list risk: Is your entire e-mail relationship dependent on a single opt-in that can be revoked at any time? Make it a priority to get your subscribers to join multiple lists to reduce unsubscribe risks.

Problem: Are you in an all-or-nothing relationship with your e-mail subscribers? If they click "unsubscribe" do you lose permission to e-mail them ever again? Always offer multiple lists and newsletter choices to prevent a total unsubscribe. Keep the lines of communications open and you always have permission to mail something.

Solution: Get multiple permissions from every subscriber. Track how many multiple opt-ins you have.

Y=Yuck rate: How many people unsubscribe from your list after seeing only one issue? Track your first-issue unsubscribe rate. It’s your purest measure of content quality.

Problem: Your content is probably useless, boring, self-serving or badly written. A high yuck rate is one of the great marketing tragedies. Getting permission to send e-mail is difficult and incredibly valuable. Once you have it you can promote your company week after week, at almost no cost—for as long as your e-mail is worth reading.

Solution: Create interesting, valuable, worth-reading e-mails. Pick up the phone, hire a freelance writer, and you’ll have it fixed in a week.

Andy Sernovitz is CEO of GasPedal (,
an e-mail consultancy that helps marketers improve and implement e-mail marketing campaigns.

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