What are three ways to tell which email campaigns are good and which are rotten?

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You've been there before. You've sent an email campaign only to realize that you have no idea whether the campaign was successful or not. Good open rate, bad click-through rate. Bad open rate, good click-through rate. You see the numbers, but what do they mean? Here are three areas to examine to help determine the success of your email campaigns.
  1. Where do you source your target lists? What are the associated costs? There are three kinds of lists: 1) House—You've developed this through your marketing efforts. You send to it periodically if these people haven't converted to customers. 2) Purchased—You acquire these lists through such companies as Zoominfo or You execute campaigns to these lists through your own infrastructure. 3) Rented—Similar to purchased lists but more accurate because list owners aggressively maintain the data. These are for one-time use and, in most cases, you only pay for successful delivery. Use these lists to execute campaigns through a third party's infrastructure.
  2. How effective is your subject header? The subject header is the most significant factor in determining an email's open rate. Be brief and provocative. Avoid words that will trip a spam filter.
  3. How good is your email creative? Is it interesting enough for a person to read through? The CTA is your offer to the recipient. Is the CTA compelling enough for someone to click through? What action should they take, and what's in it for them if they do? If you can't answer these question, how can you expect anyone to act on your offer?
Understanding that your success in these three areas directly determines your campaign performance allows you to systematically analyze your failures. If it's a low open rate, check the subject header. If it's low clicks, blame the creative. If it's a hard bounce rate or overall poor performance, evaluate your list quality. These general rules act as a decent set of diagnostics for evaluating campaign successes and failures. There are additional tools you can leverage to evaluate your campaigns. Services such as Litmus and SpamAssassin allow marketers to “prerender” creative to ensure quality across dozens of email clients and spam score their messages predeployment. These tools are another line of defense for email marketers looking to improve campaign quality. It behooves you not to ignore them. Follow this advice and you'll be well on your way to mastering email as a marketing channel. Always remember to test and evaluate each component of your campaign for optimum success. Dave Scott is CEO of Marketfish Inc. (, a provider of lead-generation services.
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