Which email metrics should I be measuring besides my CTR and my open rate?

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As far as email analytics go, looking at any given campaign’s open rate (the percentage of emails sent opened at least once by a recipient) and CTR (an abbreviation representing clickthrough rate, which represents how many recipients clicked a link within your email) certainly isn’t a bad start if you’re trying to evaluate whether or not an email campaign was worth sending at all.

Open rates and click rates aren’t the alpha and omega of figuring out whether your email marketing program is succeeding, though. An email open or an email click doesn’t automatically indicate that someone’s bought something from your website or even further engaged in a meaningful way with your brand.

Now, if you’re not looking at your email metrics at all, I feel a duty to inform you that you’re making a mistake. While you’re certainly free to do what you’d like with your own email marketing program, most people want something out of their investments of time and money. If you’ve hired a developer to make sure your template renders correctly in the majority of clients, you’ve already made an investment. If you’ve spent six hours writing and designing the email yourself, that’s an investment, too – surely there was something else you could have done with that time. Bojack Horseman’s final season came out recently, for example. Bojack’s worth several hours of your time.

The only way you’ll be able to tell if your time is better spent on email marketing or on watching Bojack Horseman is to monitor and analyze the metrics coming from your email marketing program. Here’s the good news: if you want to get really into the nitty-gritty of email analytics, there are many more metrics you can pay attention to than just your open rate and your CTR.

In this blog post, we’ll be going over five metrics (some numerical, some holistic) you can use in your overall interpretation of your email marketing program’s analytics in order to figure out if you’re running a happy, healthy email marketing program or if something needs to change. Let’s start with a fairly well-known metric.

1.      Click-To-Open Rate

The click-to-open rate compares the number of unique clicks to the number of unique opens. Your CTOR is calculated by dividing the number of unique clicks your campaign receives (unique, dear reader, here means “associated with a single individual”) by the number of unique opens your campaign tracks.

Let’s say you have a campaign that’s been sent to 2,000 people. Of those people, 800 opened the email at least once. Of those 800, 200 clicked on a link within that email at least once. Your CTOR is 25%: 200 unique clicks / 800 unique opens = 25%.

This metric is good for tracking how well the body content of your email is performing. If your goal is to get people to click through your email to whichever link you’d like them to visit, the click-to-open rate is super handy because it makes it easy to see what percentage of people reading your email actually were inspired to take the action you wanted them to take.

While a good subject line can get your email opened (as can a clickbait-y subject line, in all fairness), what really matters is what people do after they read your email. If you’re sending out an email in the hopes of having its recipients follow the email to a webpage, this metric is critical because it’s the best way to determining whether the people you convinced to read your email in the first place found your email (and call to action!) worthwhile.

2.      Repeat Opens

Another metric I like to pay attention is how many of the people who received the email opened it multiple times. There are two things worth calculating here: first, which percentage of recipients who opened the email at all opened it multiple times? Second, which percentage of recipients opened it multiple times, generally speaking?

You can calculate the first metric by dividing the number of people who opened the email multiple times by the number of unique openers. For example, if 1000 people opened your email and 200 of that group opened your email at least twice, 20% of your openers were repeat readers.

You can calculate the second metric simply by dividing the number of repeat openers by the total number of people to whom you sent the email. For example, if you sent your campaign to 2000 people and 200 of those people opened the email at least twice, 10% of your recipients were repeat readers.

“But why should I care about this, Mariana?” you ask. Fair question, reader! Someone choosing to read the same email multiple times is likely doing so for a reason.

It could be:

  • The email is deeply confusing and requires five rereads to understand.
  • The email is beautifully designed and merits gazing at for hours on end. (I’m only half-joking – some of the emails I’ve seen lately really have been lovely.)
  • The email is full of useful information and your recipients are returning to the email to get as much use from that information as they possibly can.
  • The email is persuasive, but not quite persuasive enough, and the recipient needs some time to decide whether they’re going to respond to your call to action.

Some of these possibilities represent excellent news for your email marketing program. Some of these possibilities mean that you should consider a change in strategy. Calculating how many people are repeat openers isn’t going to automatically point to the reason behind the repeat opens – but it’s useful information to have when you’re trying to figure out the effect your email campaign has had on your audience’s perception of your brand. 

3.      ROI

Your ROI (which is an abbreviation for return on investment) is the metric that you’ll want to pay the most attention to if you’re predominantly concerned about the financial investment you’ve made towards your email marketing program.

The return on any investment can be calculated with the following formula: ((final value of investment – initial value of investment) / cost of investment) x 100% = your ROI.

Campaign Monitor published a great article on how to determine the ROI of your email marketing program.  To recap, you’ll have to figure out how much you’re spending on your email marketing program. Expenses could easily include whatever you or your company is paying your ESP; whatever you’re paying your in-house or freelance email marketing team; and the time commitment it takes to create a campaign or a workflow, if you’re able to put a dollar value on your time.

Things get a little trickier, though, when one tries to figure out the monetary value a business can directly attribute to email. If you’re in eCommerce and have Google Analytics set up properly, this isn’t much of a problem – you’ll be able to track every conversion on your website back to its source.

However, let’s say you’re in financial services or you run a law firm. In that case, your email marketing program might be more “nurture” than “direct response”. It might be difficult to attribute a conversion (someone signing up for your professional services) to a particular email.

In such situations, I suggest tracking every call or email to your firm that you can directly attribute to your email marketing program, generally speaking. Most CRMs have this capability, in fact. Next, figure out your organization’s average value per lead or average value per customer.

I think there’s more to an email marketing program, though, than simply the financials behind it. That’s why I’ve included these next two metrics.

4.      What kind of responses are you getting?

When you send out an email campaign, how do your recipients respond to that campaign? If you’re not routing all of the replies to a no-reply inbox – and I hope you’re not doing that! – what do the email replies to your own emails sound like?

While you can’t assign a numerical value to the tone of voice your customers or clients use, a series of angry emails received in response to your most recent email campaign is a telling sign that you might want to rework your email copy. A large batch of thank-you notes or responses complimenting your organization on its communication skills, on the other hand, is a sign you’re doing something right.

Pay attention to how people actually respond to the emails you send out. Simply because you can’t assign a numerical value to emotions doesn’t mean your emails aren’t having an affect on the way your customer base perceives your company. Positive public perception, of course, is critical to any business’s long-term financial success.

Remember: when you send someone an email, you’re asking for time out of their day. You’re asking them to read a message from you or from your organization. What your email does with that time can have an affect on your customer’s mood. Do your best to make your emails missives that brighten their recipients’ days and you’ll see the results in profits arising from loyal customers over time.

5.      Did your email accomplish what you wanted it to?

The last metric I’d like to talk about is so simple I almost hesitate to call it a “metric”. However, the word metric is defined as “a system or standard of measurement” and this last item on our list is, in my opinion, the most effective way to measure whether your email marketing program is a success.

Before you send out any campaign or begin any automation, ask yourself what your goal for that communication is. Why are you sending people emails? What do you have to tell them that’s so important that it merits investing in an ESP and an email marketing team? How are you hoping your recipients will respond to your emails? What are you trying to accomplish from all of this?

Send the email. Wait an appropriate amount of time. And then – evaluate whether your email accomplished what it set out to do.

That’s it! That’s the final metric to which I suggest you pay attention. Here’s the thing – every action within a broader marketing strategy should have a goal. Whether you’re trying to increase awareness of your brand or simply sell out the rest of your inventory, there should be a reason behind anything any company does as part of a marketing strategy. Without an end goal, your marketing department is simply screaming “Look at me! Look at my company!” into the wind.

That maxim applies to email marketing, too. Every email should be sent for a reason or you’re simply taking up space in email recipients’ inboxes for no apparent reason. If that’s not enough of a deterrent from sending poorly considered emails, think of this: your ESP likely limits the amount of emails you can send in a single month. Why waste any of those sends on something your company won’t benefit from?

If your email marketing program is accomplishing your goals – whatever those goals may be – it’s a successful program. I once worked with a client whose single goal was to fill a workshop for surgeons in an inordinately short period of time. We managed to fill the workshop through advertising over email.

Were the open rates, CTRs, and CTORs on those campaigns “good”? Well, they beat industry benchmarks, but good is a relative term.

My client wasn’t thrilled because of his open rate. He was thrilled because the workshop he wanted to fill became completely booked in a much shorter amount of time than he’d anticipated.

Summing Up

Don’t just depend on a single email campaign’s open rates and CTRs to help you determine the health of your entire email marketing program. Don’t even allow your program’s overall open rates and CTRs to be your sole guide when deciding whether your email marketing program is healthy and worthwhile.

There are at least five other metrics you might want to consider. Figure out what you and your business want to get out of your email marketing program before you start sending and certainly before you start deciding whether your emails are successful or not. By identifying a goalpost ahead of time, it’ll be much easier to realize whether or not you’re running in the right direction.

Do you want cat pics in your inbox?

No, that’s not a trick question; yes, I am offering to send you a picture of my big orange cat, Tennessee Williams, once a week or so as part of the world’s furriest email newsletter:
The Intermittent Tennessee. There might be a few email marketing gems sprinkled in among the feline candids. Who knows?

If you enjoyed the blog post, you’ll like the newsletter. Go ahead. Sign up. It’ll be fun!

I respect your privacy and will never, under any circumstances, sell your information to a third party. I work in email marketing. Bought lists are the bane of my existence; you have nothing to fear besides missing out on cat pics.

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