Email marketing is an effective way to connect with your audience. Unlike a message on social media that can get lost in a newsfeed, email puts your message directly in front of your customer via their inbox. If you've been doing this for a while now, you might be looking at your metrics and wondering if your email efforts are successful. Or you might not be looking at those metrics at all. Let's dive into what some of those numbers mean, which ones might be important to you, and how you can improve on what you are doing now.
What do the numbers mean?
When you send your emails out via an Email Service Provider (ESP) like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact, data is gathered from the engagement of those emails with your audience. There are a lot of metrics you can look at, and it can get overwhelming. Focus on the main ones like:
Open Rate: This tells you how many of your emails were opened by your subscribers. This data is only trackable when the subscriber chooses to load the images in their email. Therefore it isn't 100% accurate. So a subscriber may "open" your email, but if they don't load images, there's no way of tracking that open email. If your open rate is good, this usually means your subject lines are resonating with folks. More on this later.
Click Rate: This will tell you how many of your emails registered at least one click on a link inside the email. You can see which specific links were clicked and how many times they were clicked. If these rates are reasonable, that tells you that the content you are delivering is relevant to your audience.
Subscribers: If you have a digital form created for new subscribers to sign up for your emails, then you should be getting notifications from your ESP when new people fill out that form. Seeing your list grow organically over time can feel rewarding. Some ways to increase the number of subscribers might be to offer up a free download in exchange for their email address. Giving something of value not only gives your new subscribers an incentive to subscribe, but it also gives you a chance to start showing the value you can bring to the table before they even get that first email from you.
Unsubscribe Rate: ESPs can also track your unsubscribes. If your unsubscribe rates are high, take a look at your content. Is it relevant to your audience? Are you sending too often or not often enough? There's a fine line between being a nuisance and sending so infrequently that people don't remember signing up.
Bounce Rate: This tells you when one of your email campaigns can't deliver to an email address. It can either be a hard or soft bounce. Hard bounces happen when an email can't deliver because the address is invalid or there is some other error that occurred during sending. Hard bounces will happen more often if you are using an old email list. A soft bounce means the email sent, but the subscriber's mailbox was full or not available (meaning their email server might have been down).
Abuses: This means your subscribers are reporting you as spam. If that's the case, it could be in error. Maybe you haven't sent in a long time, and folks can't remember subscribing, so they think you are a spammer. Or perhaps you are sending too often, and it appears "spammy" to people. Either way, take a look at what's happening because if you get too many spam reports, your ESP will suspend or shut down your account.
So which metrics are most important?
There are a few different types of email messages you might be sending. Depending on what your goals are for each message, the metrics you review will have a different meaning for each type of email. Understanding these numbers will give you an opportunity to make strategic changes to your emails to ensure a more successful outcome.
"Read Me" Email: The goal of this type of email would be just for people to read it. It might be a blog article (where the entire blog is written in the email), or it could be an invite to an event. The metric here that would be most valuable to you would be your open rate.
"Buy Me" Email: The goal of this type of email would be to get people to engage in a transaction with you. A "Buy Me" email typically requires them to click on a link in the email that most likely brings them to a page on your website where they can make a purchase. The metric that would be most valuable to you here would be your click rate.
"Engage with Me" Email: These types of emails involve sending out a message to your audience over a specific period. An example of this might be a five-part lesson on a particular topic. Your most valuable metric here would be unsubscribes. If your goal is to keep folks engaged with your content over the entirety of lesson, you'll want to know about the open rate, but more importantly, are they unsubscribing after the second lesson. That's information you can use to change your content or strategy to improve your numbers.
Putting that data in perspective
Here's where the reality check comes in. You spend hours writing and designing the perfect email, and you expect everyone you send it to will open it. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Check out my example below. You can see that the open rate on one of my email campaigns was 42.6%. This sounds pretty lousy until you see that my list average (meaning the average number of opens for the number of people I have on my list) is 50.2%. So I'm not too far off here.
The industry average (meaning the average number of opens for others in the same industry as me—creative services/agency) is only 16.8%. So while the number might make you cringe initially, when you look at what's average for your list size and your industry, you might start to feel a lot better.
Some Final Tips
- Write a good subject line. Your subject line can be the difference between an email that gets opened and one that gets deleted. Neil Patel of QuickSprout says, "...8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out of 10 people will read the rest of your post." Check out his infographic for more great tips.
- Send to your contacts consistently (but not too much). If you aren't sure how often to send, Mail Chimp recommends starting with one email a month. Slowly begin to increase your sending frequency, and pay attention to the metrics above to determine if you are successful or if you should cut back.
- Use online sign-up forms with a free download to give folks an incentive to subscribe. Use sign-up forms on your website and social media.
- Keep content relevant to your audience so that they want to click on the hyperlinks to learn more, purchase or contact you. Check out this article for more tips.
- Don't get upset when you see that your open or click rate was smaller than you had hoped. Look at the list and industry averages and decide if your campaign was successful or could use some improvement.