A key benefit of the email channel is its ability to provide tracking and reporting, but many organizations get overwhelmed by the amount of information available. This actually hinders their ability to use it effectively.
Case in point: an organization I'm working with sends out daily and weekly email reports to upper level executives. Here's the rub: the spreadsheet includes 45 columns worth of data! That's column A through column AU; if you print out the report, it's a full six pages worth of data in landscape format.
Here's how they get to 45 columns:
While this level of detail may be necessary for the marketing manager, it's too much for the VP and other higher-ups (who requested the report); they're looking for a quick snapshot of what's going on. And this doesn't meet that goal.
Here's a quick overview of the basic reporting template I use with my clients. It's enough to provide a snapshot and let the people closest to the email program know where they need to investigate in more detail.
Let's start at the top! One of my pet peeves is getting documents from clients with no information on when it was compiled, who compiled it, or how to contact that person. If you have questions or just want to say "nice job!" it's difficult to know who to reach out to. Every report should have a standard header that includes this information (see above).
I also include some benchmarks and standards in my metrics reports; this provides context for the reader and puts the numbers in perspective. A 3.9 percent click-through rate may seem low, but when you compare it to an industry benchmark of 3.7 percent and an internal benchmark of 4 percent it doesn't look so bad. Including both industry and internal benchmarks is important; this way you're comparing performance to the larger email marketing world as well as what your company has been able to accomplish. Be sure to include footnotes on the source of these metrics.
The first three columns are basics: email name, ID number, and date sent.
When it comes to send quantity and bounces, I use just two columns: the total quantity sent (giving the reader a feel for the magnitude of the send) and the non-bounce rate (the percentage of email messages sent that didn't result in a bounce message). For a basic report, these two columns cover it; it's not necessary to provide the raw data on number of bounces or non-bounces, nor is it necessary to state the bounce rate as well as the non-bounce rate.
In the report mentioned above, there were 15 columns devoted to send quantity and bounces. That's because they reported on the bounces by type; while this information should be looked at periodically, it's too detailed for an overview report. If there's a serious issue going on, then this detail can be provided on a separate worksheet or in a separate report altogether.
The next three columns are devoted to open and click rates. I like to include both the click-through rate (CTR) and the click-to-open rate (CTOR) in my reporting. Once again, no need to deliver the raw number of each. The unique rates (one open or click per email address, not multiple) are considered industry standard and should be here; no need to include data on total (multiple) opens and clicks; there may be times when that's useful but it's only going to confuse matters here.
Spam complaint and unsubscribe rate each get one column here; once again, no need to provide raw data.
I don't usually include information on forward-to-a-friend or social sharing in my standard reporting, unless those are key calls to action for the emails being sent. These numbers are usually so small that it's just not worth reporting, but if you have a need or find differently, feel free to include them.
The original report included columns on survey responses, which were zeros for every report I viewed. If you're doing surveys, by all means include a column. But if not, remove it.
Conversions get two columns in my standard reporting - one for raw data and the other for conversion rate. Even if your goal isn't a direct sale, you can have a conversion goal for your email - if so, include it here. It might be average pages per website visit or leads generated. Either way, you should have some sort of quantitative conversion goal for your email and you should include it here.
Revenue gets the star treatment with three columns. If you don't have revenue attached to your sends, feel free to forgo these, but if you do, you should have some reporting for it. My standard is total revenue generated, average sale, and revenue-per-non-bounce-email (RPE). If you have data on return on investment (ROI), feel free to use that in addition to or in place of RPE. But if not, RPE is easy to calculate and will give you some measure of knowledge about how your program is doing.
Finally, I like to include a daily or weekly total in the report, so you can see overall how your email marketing did as well as how each send did.
Getting the numbers in shape is just part of a good report; you should also create, on a monthly basis if not more frequently, a qualitative review of your program. By this I mean looking at the numbers, explaining what caused any variances, and making recommendations for maintaining and improving performance. I'll be talking more about that in my next column.
In the meantime, if your reports don't look like this, here's your push to take a look and get them in shape! Clear, concise reporting will make it easier to see, at a glance, how your program is doing and where you can improve.
Until next time,
Email image on home page via Shutterstock.
This column was originally published on June 11, 2012.
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Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.
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