Prove and Improve the Worth of Your Email Marketing with Smart KPIs

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Email marketing is highly measurable – as a result, there is a variety of metrics available to every email marketer. All these statistics can be even a bit too much. KPIs are often not well understood. What makes a number a key performance indicator? What type of information should be reported? In this series of posts I’d like to share some words on making email marketing metrics insightful and actionable. Starting with metrics, KPIs and other marketing drugs.

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The Email Metrics

Metrics are simply the numbers. The numbers you see them in the reporting tab of your email software. The stats you see in Google Analytics, maybe even the numbers on your companies’ bank statements (revenue and profits). Anything you can measure can be called a metric. If it has anything to do with email marketing, directly or indirectly, we can call it an email marketing metric.

Examples of email marketing metrics include:

  • Click through rate of your emails,
  • Percentage of subscribers that have interacted with your mails per quarter,
  • Number of unsubscribes per month,
  • Percentage of subscriber profile and preference fields filled,
  • Amount of new signups per month,
  • Revenue per email campaign.

You can read about them in detail in our guide to email marketing metrics. And if you’re interested in learning the industry standards, check out the email marketing benchmarks study.

Because they are numbers, only things you can measure are allowed, no place for guessing and gut feelings. Now here comes the twist; while you can measure almost anything, it doesn’t mean that you should.

An example of a useless metric is “number of opens per opener”. Yes, it will show how many times people that open your email will open it. More than once? Although it might be interesting to think about the reasons behind multiple opens during an evening stroll in the park, it is totally and utterly useless as a metric. There is no use for it, reporting on it is just a distraction.

The number of unsubscribes is an example of metric that could be useful, sometimes. High spikes in unsubscribes might mean that something is wrong; a very distasteful email campaign, bad sources of signups – a number of problems could be behind it. If you don’t have a particular high number of unsubscribes, it is not the most important thing to look at but still something you should monitor so it is not a Key Performance Indicator. It is easy to be looking at these non-key statistics too much. There is an interesting story from the World War 2 about staring at bullet holes that comes to mind.

“Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted”. – smart guy that Einstein. So we need some kind of way to differentiate between useless metrics, useful metrics and the metrics that matter most. You can imagine that focusing on wrong metrics can easily lead to distraction or even missing out on real business insights. Enter the KPIs.

 

Key Performance Indicators: The metrics that matter

Key Performance Indicators are also metrics, but they serve your business goals. Email Marketing KPIs allow management to make informed decisions and have a deeper understanding of progress in email marketing. They help marketers mine insights on which areas of their email marketing they should change and improve. Depending on your goals, revenue related metrics, audience and engagement related metrics could very well be part of your email marketing KPIs.

Using KPIs means using management’s own measures of success. You can see the benefit there, if you determine KPIs and agree about them up front, there will be no need to “defend” your reporting later on.

KPIs are meaningful to the company and how well it is performing. If you are reporting anything that management doesn’t care about, it isn’t a KPI even if “the book” says it should be.

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Adding meaning to numbers

Sometimes it is up to the marketer to suggest the right KPIs to management. In each case, it is the marketer’s task to provide the background story and give the meaning of the numbers and what (might) be the cause for these outcomes.

If KPIs are for making conscious decisions, use KPI reporting to make those decisions easier. The smart marketer adds meaning to reporting but also suggests actions to improve those metrics. During the year, tactics are suggested and linked back to the budget. When budgeting time comes, the email marketing team is already two steps ahead!

KPIs for email marketing aren’t the same across all companies. Which are the most important metrics you are tracking at the moment?

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