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By 2022, more than 347.3 billion emails will be sent each day—nearly 50 billion more per day than in 2019. That's a staggering increase.

For capturing and retaining customers, the importance of a successful email marketing strategy is paramount. In fact, 81% of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) rely on email marketing as their primary customer acquisition channel, and 80% for customer retention.

But to make the most out of your email marketing goals, you need to align them with those of your business. How can you do that, and what role do your email marketing KPIs play?

Choosing KPIs for Email Marketing

Measuring email campaigns isn't as straightforward as simply sending a series once a month and then checking the open rate. Emails themselves come in many forms: newsletters, product updates, news and advice columns, sales rep emails, automated emails—each with its own goals and KPIs. In other words, you can't measure all emails as if they were the same.

So, the first step for any email marketing measurement system should be to categorize your emails. That lays the foundation for an effective means of comparing your progress in different categories, which reduces confusion and the risk of homogenizing goals.

Next, you'll need to think about which KPIs actually matter within those separate categories.

Identifying important KPIs should start with some level of measurement planning; for that, you need to know your marketing and business goals and make sure your email marketing goals align with them.

For example, if you're looking to generate more leads as a primary objective, you might look at email clickthrough rates (CTRs) to your "contact" page or product-focused areas of your site, because those KPIs are the most relevant to supporting growth in that area.

Here are some other examples of common email metrics and how they're used:

  • Delivery rate: How healthy is your database? What's the rate of your emails being returned?
  • Open rate: Are you grabbing people's attention with your subject line and sender name?
  • CTR: Are people clicking through (if that's what you intend them to do)? You'll want to work toward a target benchmark, which is a tricky start.
  • Click-to-open rate: At what rate are people opening and engaging with your email? How does it change over time? Is it changing at all? What was the subject line or content of your email when the rate was higher than average?

But apart from the standard KPIs, there are the other ways to measure email marketing success:

  • Conversion rate: How much of your email audience went on to perform a desired action? How many purchased that product, or read that article, or booked that follow-up call with a sales rep? Where can you improve when those numbers are below average?
  • Ongoing user journeys: What did your email enable a user to do? Evaluate the marketing touchpoints on users' paths to find out what's influencing them or what's having the biggest impact on their decision to convert.
  • Leads/MQLs: How many leads did your email generate? Align with your CRM database and CRM team to measure this metric via tracking form submissions from your email activity.
  • Opportunities: Of the leads you generated, how many converted to a real opportunity for your business?
  • Revenue: Is your email strategy delivering to business goals and the bottom line?
  • Return on email marketing spend (ROEMS): How much does your email strategy cost? Map it out like you would with paid search/media and ROAS.

Knowing exactly what you want your recipients to do and why is the core of planning email measurement and deciding which KPIs are going to be the most important. Having a clear idea of what "success" looks like for your email Marketing strategy sets the standard and gives you a point of measurement to compare against.

Mapping out your intended users' journey is an important step for defining a clear path for them, and as a by-product you'll figure out the KPIs they'll be hitting on the way.

Tracking, Testing, and Reporting on Your Email KPIs

Because measuring the success of your KPIs requires close measurement of your recipients' user journey, you'll need a close working relationship with your analytics and email development teams to make sure you have the best tracking in place.

If you're directing customers to your own website, it's crucial to align your email marketing strategy with a tracking and tagging strategy. That means ensuring each email is trackable using a structure that makes sense for your business.

Think about the category of email, the audience, the product, even the CTA in the email: All contribute to understanding how well your email strategy is working. In fact, you can use the most granular tracking of an email to measure success: Is the recipient a brand or a name? Was there one CTA, or were there multiple CTAs? Tracking all links in your email will enable you to understand what people are clicking on.

Don't be afraid to play around and experiment with various CTAs, structures, and formats. Build a testing plan as part of your email marketing strategy and try out different ways of engaging with your community. As long as they're trackable, it's all useful data that can be fed back into your campaigns.

Having clearly established (and business-aligned) KPIs—as well as a solid framework for tracking and measuring their performance—is great, but it counts for nothing without a solid reporting process.

Try to report on your email marketing as often as you can. A quarterly or even monthly report is infrequent enough to limit your ability to react, test, and optimize your activities in a timely way.

To help, consider automating your reports, so you can quickly and easily dial into that data when your next campaign goes live.

* * *

Email is just one of many communication channels and a single element of your marketing strategy, but by measuring its performance against the right metrics, you can ensure it integrates with and supports your business as a whole.

More Resources on Email Marketing Strategy and KPIs

How to Use Email Metrics to Optimize Your Campaigns [Infographic]

Four Ways to Empower Your Email Marketing Strategy With AI

Metrics for Measuring Transactional Email Success

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The Most Important KPIs to Track the Effectiveness of Your Email Marketing Strategy

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image of Jo Bell

Jo Bell is the data and technology director at Three Whiskey a performance marketing agency that blends digital expertise, behavioral insight, and brand understanding. She loves data, design, and how simple visualizations can demonstrate the power of a data point.

LinkedIn: Jo Bell