Email remains the core of most marketers’ online programs for many reasons: it’s not expensive, it’s very flexible, marketers can apply creativity to it in many ways, and it works.
How do we know it works? By tracking and measuring results. Trackability* is another of email’s great virtues, so let’s look at the three most popular ways to apply it, and a caveat.**
- For most of us, the tracking basics include deliverability, open and click-through rates. It’s a good idea to know what the averages are in your industry, but use those numbers as context for your benchmarks, not as the benchmarks themselves. Your market, your organization, your individual prospects and customers are unique. What your specific numbers do over time is the story you want to understand.This graphic shows one company’s month-to-month numbers. May 2012 saw fewer email messages sent, but the number of opens and clickthroughs went up substantially. Was it due to a new look? A new offer? A new list? This company’s marketing team probably knows the answer, and will make use of the data.
- Track which lists you send to and determine which performs the best. Decide what metric “best” applies to; is it click-throughs? Is it conversions? An email with a very strong subject line and message could have a low click-through rate, but still have a high conversion among those who opened it.Work with your sales department to understand the metrics that matter, and measure those. Don’t forget to tag the links in your email so when someone visits one of your landing pages, you know which email campaign stimulated that interest.
- Track which campaigns perform the best. Test ahead of time – subject line, offer, colors, size of buttons, links, etc., to give your campaign its best shot, then measure afterwards. Test often; the world is very dynamic, things change, and you don’t want your results to go flat unexpectedly.
To recap: The most basic email tracking measure is deliverability, and it’s wise to pay attention to lists and campaigns as well. All can be tracked, and the reports you get help you see how to improve the elements of your campaigns and aspects of your lists. It’s not rocket science, and good software can make it easy. Paying attention to and tracking your email marketing results will pay you back in actionable data … and revenue.
*Yes, Spell-Check, “trackability” is a word…at least in this marketing world.
**Caveat: Many email clients block images, use preview panes, or accept only plain text images. A recipient using such a client might read your email, but the action won’t register as an “open”. Outlook is the most popular email client, with nearly 28% of the market in 2011; Outlook 2007 blocks images by default. So does Gmail (7% penetration in 2011). It’s best to look at open rates as trend markers, not absolute measures of readership.