What your email marketing reports won’t tell you

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Marketing is, and always will be, a numbers game. Sure, there are plenty of important factors that determine the success of a marketing campaign that go beyond the numbers, but the ultimate aim is to generate sales for your business.

When it comes to email marketing specifically, I’m a slave to the stats of a campaign – the open rate, click rate, number of unsubscribes, bounces and spam complaints – they all tell me something about the email I’ve sent to help me make better decisions next time. If you’ve ever hit the send button on an email campaign and then bashed away at the ‘refresh’ button to see your numbers grow, perhaps you’ll know what I mean.

But your email marketing app can only tell you so much, and as nice as juicy open and click rates are, they’re a means to an end. There is plenty of important information that we can only learn by reading between the lines a little.

Read rate

Although the reports can tell you how many people opened your email, they can’t tell you how many people actually read the content inside. The best indication you can get of this is your click rate. If you want more people to read the content of your emails, work on creating better content that resonates with the audience you’re writing for. One of the easiest ways to get this right is to consider the challenges and opportunities your target audience faces most often and write about the solution to those challenges and opportunities.

Open rate

Wait… but email marketing apps DO tell us the open rate, don’t they?

In order to record ‘opens’, a small, invisible tracking image is embedded within your email. When the application used to display the email (Outlook, Apple Mail, Gmail) requests the tracking image, the recipient is marked as having opened the email. However, many email applications block images from being displayed for security reasons, with the user then prompted to enable images should they choose to do so. For an open to be recorded, they’d then need to either enable the images, or interact with the email by clicking on a link. For that reason, open rates are intended as a guide, rather than an absolute statistic, but they continue to be useful in allowing you to compare your open rates from one campaign to the next.

Also, open rates cannot be tracked or measured when you’re sending plain text campaigns (emails with no images , links or or fancy formatting). Because it’s impossible to include a tracking image in a plain text email, there’s no way of being able to record whether an email was opened.

What’s the point?

It’s important to know what your purpose for using email marketing is. If you regularly check that your activity and soft results such as opens and clicks are helping you to meet your objectives, then you’re on the right track.

Measure what counts in your business. Those numbers should be relevant to your initial objectives, and should be an absolute indication of whether your strategy is reaping rewards. For example:

  • To generate five warm, primed leads from your newsletter campaigns each month.
  • To sell 35 widgets in your online shop from offers distributed in your email campaigns each week.
  • To generate twelve bookings for the October workshop by 25th September.

Your email campaigns may not even have direct revenue-generating objectives, but might lead to creating awareness for longer-term revenue generation, with goals such as:

  • To increase your Twitter followers by 6% with your next email campaign.
  • To grow your email list by 80 in the next 30 days.
  • To increase your blog subscribers by 10 this week.

Whichever metrics are important to you, knowing what they are will make it much easier to achieve them.

Nathan Littleton

Nathan Littleton

Nathan is a marketer, professional speaker and author who specialises in helping businesses to grow by attracting and winning more customers.

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