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Most email platforms now provide a fairly substantial amount of data about every campaign a marketer sends out.  For marketers, this wealth of data can be incredibly valuable for evaluating the performance of a campaign and making decisions about variables to test and ways to optimize future messages.

However, it’s important for marketers to analyze their performance data without getting overly focused on certain metrics that may not actually be the most important in determining the campaign’s ultimate success.

Parsing the data
When it comes to email marketing metrics, there are a number of measurements that virtually all marketers have access to. Perhaps the most basic of these is email open rate (the percentage of emails from a campaign that were actually opened by recipients). Many marketers focus heavily on this measurement, and with good reason. After all, if recipients don’t open the email, they can’t engage with the content, click on it, reach a landing page, and potentially ‘convert’ (fill out a form, make a purchase, etc.).

However, open rate can be a deceptive metric. One email campaign may result in a 50 percent open rate while another achieves only 5 percent, yet the campaign with the lower open rate may actually be the more successful of the two, depending on how the ultimate success measure is defined.  Just because more people open an email doesn’t mean that more of them will click or convert.  A great subject line might get more people to open an email, but if the content doesn’t drive them to action, then all those extra opens may not really be that valuable.

So, maybe click rate should be the more important metric. In many cases this is true. A higher click rate indicates that recipients are more engaged with the email content and driven to take that next action – clicking on a link in the email.

But, click rate is certainly not the be-all end-all either. If the ultimate goal is to drive completion of a lead form or an actual purchase, then click rate is just another step toward that goal. If a lot of email recipients click and visit the landing page/website, but fail to convert, then all those clicks lose their luster.

Define success

You can’t really evaluate a campaign’s ultimate performance unless you have defined the true success measure. One campaign might be focused on just getting people to open the message and view the email content. In this case, open rate really might be the ultimate success measure. But, in acquisition email marketing, the ultimate goal almost always involves a more engaged action by the recipient.

Acquisition marketers are looking to generate new leads or new customers. In these cases, filling out a lead form on a landing page, signing up for a service, or purchasing a product is the ultimate performance metric that needs to be tracked to determine success.

The key is looking at each email initiative and campaign and make sure that you’ve identified the ultimate success measure. Then, use that as your guide when analyzing all the different performance metrics from the campaign.

By: Tom Wozniak, Executive Director of Marketing