One of the best ways to learn is through trial and error. You try something new, evaluate how it worked out, and decide how you might do things differently next time. Notice I didn’t mention the word ‘failure’ here. In marketing, making a mistake isn’t necessarily a failure. As long as you learn from it and use that information to improve your next campaign, then it’s just a step in the optimization process.
The key here is learning from your what worked and often more importantly, what didn’t work, in previous campaigns. The first step in learning is analyzing past performance.
Setting the Stage
One of the most important components to campaign analysis actually takes place before you ever hit send on that email campaign. When planning your campaign, make sure you set measurable goals to evaluate in post-campaign reporting. Then, make sure you have a way to collect and analyze the data that measures the campaign’s performance against those goals. Pretty straightforward, and most successful email marketers do this as a part of their normal process. But, if you skip this step, it’s often difficult to really measure the campaign’s effectiveness and take any learnings forward to the next campaign.
So for example, if you want to evaluate conversion rates from two different email creatives, you’ll want to ensure you can distinguish the traffic from each separate campaign on your landing and conversion pages. There are multiple ways to do this, but if you don’t set it up in advance, there may not be a way to effectively analyze each campaign’s performance after the fact.
The point is to set a goal or key performance indicator (KPI) and then ensure that it can actually be measured appropriately in your campaign reporting.
Analyzing the Results
Fortunately, today’s email platforms typically provide fairly robust tracking and reporting functionality, built into their systems. Most of the common email metrics will be tracked by default (opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, etc.). But, if you want to track more complex engagement or downstream activity, you may need to set up additional tracking.
Regardless of what you’re tracking, you need to actually look at the results, compare against your goals and past campaigns, and evaluate whether the campaign was successful or not. Oddly enough, many marketers stop here. They determine whether that last campaign performed well or poorly and then just move on to the next campaign. But, this is missing the last and most important step in the whole process.
Use the Analysis to Optimize
Once you’ve evaluated the performance data from your last campaign, compared it to the goals you set and historical performance of other campaigns – take what you learn and apply it to your next campaign. The best analysis in the world provides limited value if you don’t learn from it and implement those learnings moving forward.