Simple, but powerful, email effectiveness metrics

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For direct marketers, email offers a number of powerful advantages. Prospects and customers like to interact via email—it's cost-effective and easy to measure in terms of results. Although there are many metrics that can be used in an email marketing campaign, when measuring email effectiveness, you're really trying to answer three questions:
  1. Is my list good?
  2. Is my content relevant?
  3. Is my offer strong?
With metrics, there aren't specific thresholds you should aim to reach. Instead, you should track the effectiveness of your email campaigns over time, looking for improvements in your metrics. If you discover problems, like your open or click-through rates are trending down, you have a problem to solve. But that's the beauty of email. You can measure results, identify issues and address them. Let's look at how email metrics can help answer each of these questions. First, determine if your list is good. Metrics that shed light on the quality and accuracy of your list include the number of emails sent versus the number of emails delivered, soft bounces and hard bounces. Soft bounces mean your email likely reached the recipient's email server but didn't get any further because of a full inbox or problematic server. A hard bounce means the email will never be delivered, likely because the address or the domain doesn't exist. Check hard bounces and try to fix or update the email address, or remove them from your mailing list. Second, make sure your content is relevant. Email marketing is about being relevant to your audience. If you are sending useful, educational information to a targeted audience, your recipients will look forward to your emails and read them. Metrics that indicate the relevancy of your content are email opens, email click-throughs, the number of emails that are forwarded and unsubscribes. The email open rate is the proportion of the number of people who open your email compared with the total sent expressed as a percentage. Often, you will have one metric for the total number of opens and one for the number of unique subscriber opens, since some subscribers open your email multiple times. The “from” and “subject” lines are the key influencers of your open rate. The rate can sometimes be misleading because reading an email in a preview pane might not register as an open. The click-through rate measures the percentage of recipients who clicked on a link within the email itself. Readers who click on links are interested, indicating your content is relevant to them. Forwards are also indicative of content relevancy. Unsubscribes indicate your content is irrelevant, or that you are emailing too frequently. They might even mean you're not emailing often enough and recipients have forgotten who you are. Finally, consider if your offer is strong. Not all your emails will include an offer, such as asking the recipient to register for a webinar or to download content. But for those emails that do include an offer, the click-through rate on the offer link is an important metric. If you have several offer links, you can monitor which ones perform best. The best way to measure the strength of your offer is by monitoring the conversion rate metric. This is the percentage of recipients who complete your call to action, such as registering for an event or making a purchase. The overall effectiveness of your email will impact conversion rates, especially the value and relevancy of the offer or call to action. Weak or irrelevant offers will result in low conversion rates. The key takeaway to remember when measuring email effectiveness is to pay attention to your email metrics over time, and make incremental changes that will generate improved results. Chris Chariton is VP-supplier marketing and marketing services for technology marketing company GlobalSpec ( She can be reached at [email protected]
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