We are living in an unprecedented era of data-driven marketing.
Data is one of your most important assets, especially if you plan to make the most of your customer-focused inbound marketing efforts. Data enables you to provide the most personalized experience to your prospects and customers – while ensuring you get maximum ROI from your budget.
Most marketers are familiar with data analytics and the metrics that should be used to analyze a website’s overall success. When you make the shift to email marketing, however, it can be tough to know what you should focus on and what qualifies as inessential “vanity metrics.”
It’s critical to come to grips with the best way to use data in email marketing. There’s simply nothing better than the power of direct response when the goal is energizing your bottom line.
Getting email marketing right can teach you more about your audience, in a shorter time, than virtually any other kind of initiative. That, in turn, enhances each one of your marketing projects.
What Data Matters Most in Email Marketing?
To succeed in email marketing, you need to start with the same basic capabilities you have on your website: An analytics program that can glean, centralize, and report key information from every one of your emails as they go out.
Many different email marketing suites, like MailChimp or Aweber, provide data analytics. That said, some of the most popular email marketing services have pretty limited capabilities in this area. A separate analytics solution can usually give you greater depth of information.
And what information is most valuable in email marketing?
There are three major categories, each with their own vital stats to keep track of.
These metrics zoom in on how people interact with your campaigns. They are the most common starting point for any optimization strategy, since the data is easy to capture and quantify. Of course, they don’t represent everything you need – but they do furnish a strong foundation.
Behavioral analysis answers fundamental questions like:
- How many people open your emails?
- How many readers click on your links?
- Which links receive the most total clicks?
- What time do people read your messages?
- How many unsubscribes does each email get?
It’s easy to stop here – and, in fact, many email marketing brands might leave you under the impression that you should. These metrics give you a good idea of what result you’re getting, but they can’t tell you why, which means optimization efforts will be hit or miss.
To dig deeper into what’s really happening, you need to stir in the next category:
Outcome analysis lets you delve into the concrete results of your campaigns. They connect your work to its ROI so you can clearly communicate across functions and start developing insights into what’s working and what needs to be done better in the future.
Outcome analysis will point the way toward questions like:
- How many people purchased your products as a result of your campaign?
- How much revenue does the average email marketing campaign result in?
- How much revenue does the average email list subscriber yield?
- What percentage of your email subscribers converts into leads?
- What is your return on investment (ROI) for email marketing?
All of these details are at a level that email marketing software can’t reach on its own. To get at this data, you need to have rigorous attribution across all of your digital channels, including methods like retargeting that tie multiple channels together.
It’s also crucial to have a grip on the unique mathematics behind your business: Things like the profit margin of various offerings that need to be included in your calculations so the full impact of your digital campaigns can be judged accurately.
From a long-term strategic perspective, one of the greatest things outcome analysis will do is teach you how to communicate about your marketing programs with executives. By speaking their language, you bridge your world with theirs and foster understanding.
That can lead to more robust communication and help your team get more resources.
When you juxtapose behavior analysis and outcome analysis, you’ve almost reached the point where you can refine your campaigns in a systematic way. That said, there’s still a ghost in the machine: Exactly what motivates your subscribers to do the things they do?
Now, you’re getting into a realm where Web data isn’t enough.
You need a truly scientific approach – including experiments.
There are several methods for crystalizing your users’ motivations. All are resource-intensive and many are indirect. When you get used to using them, however, you’ll accelerate the process of making meaningful campaign changes and driving more conversions.
Let’s look at some options here:
In a heuristic evaluation, a usability professional leads a systematic investigation of your emails and associated website pages, comparing your work to best practices in user experience.
This allows them to identify actionable issues, especially gaps in your conversion funnels.
Surveys give you the opportunity to collect and discuss opinions directly with your users.
To make the most of a survey, the questions need to be carefully and clearly stated, the sample size should be large enough, and each respondent should be identified with a market segment or buyer persona. Otherwise, you could find yourself drawing inaccurate conclusions.
Split testing is a classic feature of scientific marketing that allows you to make small, targeted changes to an email and serve both versions of it to your users until a “winner” emerges. Then, you repeat the process on the winning message by making another small adjustment and so on.
Although many split testing tools started with landing pages in mind, they can also be used to augment your email marketing. Because two versions of every message or page are always competing head to head, this is also known as “A/B testing.”
The textbook examples of split testing are changing the text of a call to action or the color of a button. These are powerful tweaks and easy to manage and measure, but they are just the start.
To position yourself up for lasting success in email marketing, you should start by making sure your team has convenient, ready access to data that answers the questions posed by behavior and outcome analysis. Then, you can use experience analysis to generate conversions and lift ROI.
Although this may seem like a lot to keep track of, it will inevitably be easier than it looks. You will find, for example, that the results of your split testing cascade down through other analyses in ways that illuminate the cause and effect relationships very clearly.
As with most things in marketing, the first step is the most challenging – it can be time-intensive and error-prone.
Plus, you don’t have the refreshing positive feedback of seeing the results of your actions until every piece of the puzzle in place. Still, you should stick with it.
By taking a multidimensional view of email marketing, you’re more likely to deliver winning email campaigns faster and secure better results for every bit of fine-tuning you do. That’s worth tackling both the learning curve and the time investment involved!