As a sophisticated email marketer, there are many KPIs that matter to you: deliverability, open rate, CTR. We all strategize endlessly about how to optimize for each of these: avoiding spammy content to increase deliverability, writing succinct subject lines to up open rates, choosing the right color and placement of CTA buttons for improvements in CTR.
Asking the right question
Let’s for a moment take a step back and ask ourselves a bigger question: are we optimizing for the right KPIs? This is a question that cannot be answered by email marketers –it must be answered by your client or your boss. Instead of actually asking them though, you could step into their proverbial shoes and examine email performance from their perspective.
What really matters?
How many messages were delivered/opened/clicked? I would venture to say they care less about those figures and more about actual business results: how much did they earn as a result?
Said another way, if your boss or client was comparing your email marketing work to that of a co-worker or competitor, whose work would they prefer – yours with high deliverability, high open rates, high CTR, and modest returns? Or his, with low “vanity” KPIs but high ROI?
Tips and tricks for email marketing ROI
Follow these five best practices to improve your email marketing ROI, please your boss, thrill your clients, and earn your way into the email marketing Hall of Fame (note to self: create an email marketing Hall of Fame)
1. Consider the customer journey to develop new KPIs
First, seek to understand which customers yield the greatest returns from your email marketing efforts. By analyzing a segment of users who completed sales and understanding their journey, you can identify the KPIs that will guide you on your journey for more such customers.
Consider this example: one of our clients looked at her completed sales since embarking on a new email campaign and noticed that the highest-value sales came from users who shared her email content on social networks. Immediately, she retroactively analyzed her latest campaign for social shares and lo and behold, the same trend continued – a high correlation between those who shared and those who bought. In her next mailing, she focused on content that was even more sharable and added a social media sharing contest. Returns tripled.
Now, she cared less about how many people open her messages – instead, her focus is how many share socially.
Which metric could you use to understand your buyer’s journey?
2. Never gauge ROI of a single email message
If online marketing were the Olympics, email marketing would be the marathon. It cannot always be about quick wins and photo finishes. But perseverance in the long run pays off.
Not every email will be ROI-positive and that is OK. Some emails are for brand-building, or creating engagement, or sharing relevant content to position yourself as a trusted advisor. Some emails may not even have a CTA at all. Others may be designed to clean up your email list and get fewer subscribers.
Email marketing ROI must be gauged on a time period or a (multi-part) campaign.
As long as your email marketing operation is ROI-positive over time, it is healthy.
3. Marketers should lead email marketing (not developers or designers)
Too many times I have heard email marketers complain about not being able to send the emails they wanted due to their dependence on development or design resources.
My advice to you is this: take control.
If your developers and designers aren’t delivering, find ones who will – or a do-it-yourself platform that will give you an easy-to-use front end to design and code your emails to be attractive and responsive.
4. Don’t sacrifice intuition for data-driven
There is data about everything: data about emails and data about subscribers, there is even data about data. That data is a phenomenal asset is business decision-making processes.
But so is experience; so is your wisdom.
Don’t take data at face value. If your intuition tells you something should perform well and your data proves otherwise, drill down and try to uncover why.
A client recently shared a story about an email her company had perfected, dropped at the perfect time (according to data from previous sends), tested on a small group and shown to be hugely successful. But when the numbers came in from the send to the entire segment, is was 63% lower than she expected. She was devastated, her boss berated her, she felt defeated.
On the train ride home that night, it hit her: something was wrong….and it couldn’t be in her email because she had tested everything about it. She drilled down into the data and found that desktop users converted at the rate she expected, but only 40% of her opens were on desktop clients. She opened the email on her own smartphone and clicked the main CTA. That is when she discovered that the resulting landing page was not responsive for mobile devices.
They fixed the page and conversions shot up.
5. Embrace the nitty gritty
Often the emails that produce the highest returns are not the fancy ones created by the marketing department, but rather the transactional emails sent out by automated systems. Take ownership of these messages and add opportunities for upsell and cross-sell to market to your subscribers at the most-engaged time in their lifecycle.
Having the right answer
Email marketing is far more effective than any other channel. Done right and optimized for returns, it will make a dramatic difference in bottom-line business results. Focus on optimizations you can make to your email marketing operation to achieve the goal of increased ROI (even if it means lowering your success rate on other metrics). At the end of the day (your boss’s day, that is), ROI is what matters most.