Measuring Email Marketing Success

One of the core principles of marketing is efficiency. You can spend money, but you don’t want to waste it. Missing your target, sending the wrong message, or otherwise not connecting with the consumer is bad business.

One of the roles of research is to help you understand what effect your marketing is having on your target. It helps you make adjustments (optimization) and plan your efforts better in the future.

But how we measure our success is crucial. In “Escaping The Cult of Click-Through,” I explained why click-through rate often offers us poor information to help us evaluate the success of our advertising. Focussing on the way the ads make people think and feel is often a better way.

Most people agree with me now. Nonetheless, email marketing has continued to focus on the amount of “clicks” (and sales) that a mailing generates. It’s not surprising; traditional direct efforts, particularly direct mail, have always been measured by response rates.

But many of us use email to do more than drive direct action. Email relationship marketing helps us keep in touch with customers and influences the way they feel about our products and services.

If you are trying to build a relationship (and perhaps drive offline sales), response rates don’t cut it as a measure for success. Just because a customer doesn’t click on an email doesn’t mean that it isn’t increasing their likelihood to buy from you in the future. Or to be more loyal.

If it’s important to you to measure whether your email is having this type of effect, there are a number of ways to go about it.

One way is to compare the attitudes of customers who have received a certain email or set of emails from you to those who haven’t. This is the classic experimental way to see the effect your email marketing is having on the way your customers feel.

You can also use this basic framework for comparing the effects of different types of emails. In one project we designed, three versions of an email newsletter were compared for their ability to boost purchase intent. We compared all three cells against a group that wasn’t exposed to any of our emails at all.

If you do this type of research, it can help you make your relationship marketing much more efficient. And if you compare the effects of email versus other types of communication, you can find the most cost-effective way to market to your target.

In traditional marketing, this type of testing would be prohibitively expensive. But using the technical infrastructure of the Internet, we can get it done for a much lower cost.

And after all, good research doesn’t cost money. Not doing it does.

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