A golden rule for email marketing success is to keep track of all your campaign results. If something goes wrong with one of them it will allow you to implement quick changes for the next one. And more importantly you will have a record of what’s been working and what hasn’t. The easiest way is to use an Excel spreadsheet and carefully write down your results after each campaign. These will be your Key Performance Indicators (KPI).
Online link to your email design
This will allow you to easily view a copy of each email and reproduce it if for example you see a high click through rate (CTR) for a particular design. Most of the email platforms will also provide you with a report showing where people have clicked on the email. This will help you understand better what your typical clicker behaviour is, especially if you see a pattern through several different email campaigns.
Alternatively you can also insert pictures of your email designs directly into your Excel spreadsheet using the comment function. Simply right click on a cell and select insert comment. Remove any text in the comment box and click on the cell.
Do another right click on that same cell and select edit comment. Right click on the border of the box and select format comment. Go to the colors and lines tab, fill/color/fill effects/picture/select picture and select your email design. Click ok twice then adjust the size of your comment box to fit your picture. Your email design will now appear every time you hover over the cell.
Date and time of send
Some marketers will tell you to avoid sending emails on particular days of the week (Mondays and Fridays for example). This will obviously depend on the type of products or services you’re marketing and who your target audience is (B2B or B2C). If you’re exclusively B2B you will probably want to avoid sending any emails on the weekend while consumers may be more receptive if they receive your communications while they’re not at work.
All in all let’s just say there are no rules and you should just create your own. How? Test, test and test again. Test different days and different times to send your emails until your KPI’s look good. In general, expect lower results in periods such as the last two weeks of August (a lot of people are on holiday) or around Christmas (for B2B communications mainly).
Subject line / sender’s name / sender’s email address
As previously said the sender’s name and email address should clearly state who’s sending the communication. Having said that you may try different formulas like company name on its own as the sender or Ashleigh from Company Name for example or John from CN, once again test and check what seems to work better for you (if your target audience is mainly female, try a female sender’s name, you may get a better response – same thing for the email address).
As for the subject line once again you should avoid spammy words and keep it relevant to the content of the email. If not you may end up with a very high open rate followed by a very poor click through rate which means people have been deceived by your subject line. This usually is not good since those users will have lost trust in you and will be suspicious next time they receive one of your emails.
So remember that those three parameters (subject line, sender’s name and sender’s email address) are directly linked to your open rate but the most important thing is still to get as many sales and leads as you can from your email campaign.
This is the number of emails that did not bounce (soft or hard) and were delivered to the inboxes. This needs to be taken with caution though as most of the email platforms’ stats will count an email as delivered even if it lands in the spam folder. Some platforms will be able to give you a more detailed report of what landed in the unsolicited or spam folders, try to find this report and readjust your delivery figures accordingly.
In general your delivery rate shouldn’t be lower than 97%. Whatever the number, make sure you go through the soft and hard bounces regularly and either unsubscribe or correct them for future sends.
In this column just specify whom the email has been sent to. Is it a random segment or a specific one? This will help you analyse your figures later. If you get a low open rate (see below), your targeting may have been wrong. If high, you were probably spot on. Segments are the basis of email marketing, remember you can segment anything once you have built a detailed database: age, web browsing, city, gender, industry, job title, activity. Try to collect as much information as you can and use it to create your segments. This will help you send the right emails to the right people.
Make sure you check the number of unique openers only (one same person may have opened the email several times) as this will be the most reliable figure. So what is an opener exactly? It’s someone who has viewed your email. Someone who’s liked your subject line and decided to check out what your email was about. Hence the importance of your subject line once again and its direct connection to the open rate. The benchmark for open rate is usually around 20%.
So if you’re well below this number something has obviously gone wrong with your campaign. Check your subject line. Also check that your email didn’t land in spam folders as this would greatly reduce your open rate (run a spam check on the content of your email). Have a look at your sender’s name and email address and make sure nothing’s wrong with these too. Finally, double check your recipients for this particular campaign. Did you target the right customers with the right offer? Some email platforms may only give you the percentage of openers, make sure it is calculated correctly (number of openers divided by the number of emails delivered).
Along with the number of leads or sales generated, this is by far the most important figure. Make sure that your email program does not include clicks from the unsubscribe link in those figures. If they do, remove those from the real clickers. Your average click through rate should be around 4%. If you’re way below this figure you will need to review a few things before your next campaign:
- Subject line: if your CTR is too low this may be because you overpromised in your subject line or that your subject line didn’t reflect the content of your email. In any case people have been deceived and lost interest in your email, hence the low number of clicks. This is particularly true if the open rate is high. As a reminder, you should always have your email design in front of you when you choose your subject line to make sure it is in direct relation to its content.
- Problem with the content of your email: first of all check that your email is displaying properly in most email programs (web-based and desktop). Are your links working? Is the text correct? Are images displaying properly? Do you have a good call to action? Is it visible enough? Isn’t your email too long or too wordy? Were there too many offers in the body of the email? Rectify anything that is not right.
- Did you target the right customers? A low open rate and CTR may indicate your recipients were not interested in what you had to say. How can that be? Check the recipients of this particular email. Was the email relevant to them? Was the offer attractive to everyone? Double check all this to try and understand what went wrong with your CTR.
- Were clicks tracked properly? This is where the column web visits will help you. If you notice a discrepancy between that one and the number of clickers then something went wrong with the tracking. Contact your email platform support team to try and understand what happened.
A note about CTR: the correct way to calculate CTR is the number of unique clicks divided by the number of unique openers. Make sure your email program gives you the right figure as some of them may give you a percentage according to the number of emails delivered which would end up being much less than expected.
It is important to have this number in your KPI’s. This will help you determine very quickly if there’s been a problem after people have clicked on one of the links on your email. The number of web visits shouldn’t be above or below your number of clicks by more than 20%. If it is, something went wrong after people clicked on the links. Check that your landing page was active at the time the campaign was sent. Check that the links were correct. Check that the tracking was in place for those links and landing pages.
Use Google Analytics to track your email campaigns and try to have a separate landing page for each of them. This will make it easier to track traffic on those pages on the day the campaigns were sent. In Google Analytics check the behaviour of those clickers: how long did they stay on the page? Did they go somewhere else on the site afterwards? What browser were they using? This will give you some precious information about your users.
This number shouldn’t be above 0.3%. If it’s too high you will need to check a number of things: was the email totally relevant to the recipient? How many of your emails have they received recently? Was the email not displaying properly? Have you been sending the same email too many times recently? Or used the same subject line too often? Did you deceive your users with an overpromising subject line? Make sure to add a quick survey to your unsubscribe process to try and understand why people unsubscribed and rectify things in the future.
This is obviously the most important figure: how many of those clickers did you turn into leads or sales? It’s difficult to give a benchmark figure when it comes to conversion rates as it depends a lot on what you ask from your customers; if you’re selling your products online the conversion rate will obviously be much lower than if you’re just offering them to download a free guide for example. Make sure you define what you want to achieve from your email campaigns from the start. And keep in mind that email campaigns are usually cheaper to run than PPC campaigns so as long as your ROI is ok and your customers are happy, email marketing is an added bonus to your sales/lead generation.
Also remember that once someone has clicked on one of your emails you will have this information and can use it for other campaigns, telemarketing, direct marketing or simply another email campaign targeted at those specific clickers.
Now what should you do if your conversion rate is much lower than expected?
The answer is you should probably revise your landing page. Is it specific to the email campaign? Is it trustworthy for the users? In general you should try to have a specific landing page for each email campaign. Try to keep the same look and feel as the email, this will reassure the user. Don’t ask too much from your customers. You may also want to check your email design: where did people click? Were there too many links? Remember to focus your email on one main offer. And have a strong call to action.
About Email Marketing tests
Just like any other online tests they can be time consuming. Because you need to remember you can only test one variable at a time. Do you want to test time and days for sending your campaigns? You will need to send just one email over that particular week then. Divide your database into random segments of the same size (most email platforms will have an option to let you do this) and send exactly the same email to all those different segments at different times and on different days of the week.
Make sure you do this on a ‘normal’ week (without bank holidays for instance). Also make sure your segments are big enough to get valuable results (probably a minimum of 500 recipients per segment). Repeat the tests at least 3 times then draw conclusions from your analysis.