How To Improve And Measure ROI From Your Email Marketing Campaigns

Adria Saracino, content marketer, explains how to create a robust email marketing strategyThe NextWomen ‘How-to’ Theme

A lot of us send out regular newsletters and email blasts to our customers, but how can we tell if they're effective? Content marketer Adria Saracino gives us the lowdown.

If you've been following along with the latest business news and marketing tips, you've probably heard all about the myriad benefits of email marketing. And yet, you certainly don't open most of the e-blasts that make it into your inbox—who has the energy, interest or time? Knowing that, how can you possibly trust that an email marketing campaign is worth the investment?

Don't give up yet. What you've encountered isn't email marketing, it's bad email marketing. Too often, business owners brag about the sheer size of their mailing lists, when it's really about how engaged those mailing list members really are, and whether or not they're ultimately converting into customers. 

To really make the most of your email marketing campaigns, you need to measure your ROI regularly, and take constant steps to get more out of your efforts. Here are a few key ways to do just that:

How to Measure your ROI

Set ROI Goals

As with any marketing campaign, you want to start by setting goals that are both achievable and measurable for various teams across your organization. The goal of your sales team, for example, may be to generate 100 new leads, while the goal of the content team may be to increase the number of page views on all blog content.

All of these goals must be identified separately so you can measure the success of each one.

Track Your Online Analytics

Once you have goals set, it's time to pick highly specific metrics to track your progress towards these goals. For example…

  • Open Rate: As you can probably guess, this refers to the number of people who opened your email, though it's impossible to tell how much they actually read. To calculate your open rate, multiply the number of people who opened your email by 100 and then divide that by the number of emails you sent: (opens X 100) / # of emails. So, for example, if you sent 1000 emails and had 20 opens, you would calculate your rate like this: (20 X 100) / 1000 = 2% open rate.
  • Click Through Rate (CTR): If you're following email marketing best practices, every email will have a call to action button or form that drives people to your website. The click through rate gives you an idea of how many people actually followed through. This is calculated in the same manner as the open rate, i.e. (clicks X 100) / # of emails. To really make the most of this metric, make sure the link you use for your call to action button is tagged in Google Analytics so you can track the revenue from any bought products back to its source.
  • Conversion Rate: The conversion rate is the number of people who received your email and actually took the action you wanted them to take, whether that's a purchase or a like for your Facebook page. Again, that would be (# of people who took action X 100) / # of emails.

Track Your Offline Analytics

While an email campaign begins online, it often turns into offline conversions, which can be difficult to track. What happens, for example, if a customer learns about your sale through an email, and then goes to the physical store to make a purchase without ever mentioning the email?

To really measure the offline impact of your email marketing campaigns, you have to bridge those two worlds for the customer, rather than relying on them to do so. 

One way to do that is to include a special code in the email that the customer must print or present on a smartphone in order to redeem an offer. Just make sure it's something unique so non-customers can't accidentally use it.

Or, you can try offering your email subscribers a unique deal they won't find elsewhere in their marketing efforts. That way, when they pop into the store asking about that 25% off campaign, you'll know they were referred via email. 

While you can't perfectly match up offline sales with online trigger points, you can try using these two methods to give you a rough idea of how many in-store sales stem from online campaigns.

How to Improve your ROI

Once you have a solid sense of just how much your email marketing is paying off, there are a number of things you can do to get more out of your activities.

Grow Your Email List With Relevant Users

Big email lists don't have much value unless their ranks are filled with engaged users.

There's no user more engaged than those who are actually interested in your brand, your products and services, and what you have to say. To identify and recruit these passionate followers, it's important to make opting-in as easy as possible not just in the "contact us" area of your website but also on every email and blogpost you send or publish. Not only is opting-in the law, but it also increases the likelihood customers will actually read what you send them. Forms should be quick and easy to fill out (the fewer cells the better), and should pop out of the page so they can't be missed. Test various locations both above and below the fold to see where they're most noticed. 

Don't ignore your in-store location as another place to capture mailing list members. You can do this with a simple piece of paper, or by asking customers for their email addresses as they checkout. If you use software like Square, customers can enter their emails as they pay. Whatever your approach, just be ready to articulate just what it is your customers will be receiving, so they're excited about the emails to come.

Segment Your Lists

The bigger your subscriber list, the more interests you have to appeal to. Rather than trying on a one-size-fits-all approach (and let's be honest, a one-size-fits-all approach really doesn’t fit anyone well), it's best to segment your email lists. 

By doing this, you can create highly specific and targeted campaigns, thereby increasing your open rates. Geography, purchase history, demographics, and actual versus prospective clients are all great categories to go by. Behavioural data can also be quite powerful, as you might want to target people differently based on who regularly opens your emails, who has clicked through to your website, who's made a purchase, and who hasn't opened your emails at all.

A/B Test Your Emails

When it comes to email marketing, experimentation is your friend—especially when it comes in the form of A/B testing (testing multiple versions of an email to test the effectiveness of each), which you can do using both your email platforms and your Google Analytics. For each A/B test, you'll decide on one element of your email to vary, and make a different email for each version. You might, for example, have a red Call to Action (CTA) button in one email, and a blue one in another. Then you would randomly assign each email to two different email segments, and track which ones had higher response rates (measured in CTRs, opens, and conversions). Other elements to test might be the language on the CTA, the subject line, the layout or design of the email, or the content itself.

Time Your Emails Carefully

Ever noticed that most newsletters arrive in your inbox in waves? That's because the best email marketers know that certain send times garner more opens and conversions than others. 

For example, open rates are higher on the weekend when email traffic is lower. You could use adweek.com general send time guidelines to determine your schedule. However, you'll have even greater success if you use your own analytics to track the times at which the greatest number of emails you send are opened, and designate your future send times accordingly.

The Takeaway

Email marketing can be an incredibly powerful force for curating and engaging a loyal customer base, with a clear impact on your company's bottom line.

But that can only happen with a deep understanding of just what your goals are, how to measure your progress, and what to do with the results. Good luck, and have fun!

Adria Saracino is a content marketer, outreach manager, blogger, and occasional designer/photographer who is passionate about internet culture. Born and raised in New Jersey, Adria went to Syracuse University to study graphic design and marketing. From specific content marketing and outreach projects to overall business strategy, she loves creating and sustaining thriving online businesses. You can follow her on twitter.

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