Jenna Tiffany
Jenna Tiffany 3 April 2017

How to review the performance of your existing email strategy

A huge amount of thought, ideas, research and data insight analysis goes into creating an email marketing strategy, but how many times do you then take a step back and review its performance against the original objectives set? Let’s be honest, probably not that often.

Yet without that review point it’s difficult to know if:

  1. The strategy is still fit for purpose. For example, your business might have launched a new product to a completely different target market, does your strategy incorporate them too?
  2. If it’s actually working for your business. Is your strategy optimised to achieve the best email marketing performance?

Here’s my top 3 areas of focus when reviewing your email strategy. If you’re yet to create a marketing strategy, here’s my tips on what a marketing strategy is and where to start.

1. How well do you really know your subscribers?

As you look back on the past two months, can you really say that you know your subscribers?

Do you know your subscribers names or are you actually quite forgetful? For email marketing this is a huge concern, because 84% of consumers have said that they find less than half of their emails ‘relevant or interesting’. The risk if your email marketing continues to be irrelevant? You could be marketing to one of the 19 million ‘ghost’ email accounts, that a consumer has abandoned as a result of irrelevant marketing.

Are you able to answer any of the below questions about your subscribers?

  • Do you know what your subscribers are interested in?
  • Content your subscribers like?
  • What your subscribers don’t like to receive from your organisation?
  • The products your subscribers are most likely to purchase?
  • How many times a customer visits your website before making a purchase or enquiry?
  • Are you able to identify the value your email marketing brings to your subscribers?

Once you know more about your customer you’ll be able to provide personalised and targeted email marketing. Without doing that, you run the risk of implementing a batch and blast approach to email marketing, which effectively means every single subscriber receives the same email regardless of their interests, behaviour, or engagement with your brand. The result is that your email activity becomes real-life Dora, not remembering or acknowledging any of your subscriber’s names. That isn’t a great way to create any type of relationship.

That’s not to say that it’s always easy to access all of that data, as it was recently identified by the DMA that 59% of email marketers are challenged by data. Marketers can also be accused of being switch off at the thought of looking at an excel sheet full of numbers! However, those numbers will tell a story, it’s the insights from those numbers that should inform your email strategy.

2. How does your email marketing performance compare?

Comparing your email marketing performance against a specific time period such as Q1 2017 vs Q1 2016 will provide a top-level view and will quickly highlight whether you’re going in the right direction. If you’ve implemented a brand-new email marketing strategy this year, take a comparison with a pinch of salt, because a complete change in direction may have a short-term impact on your email performance.

The areas of focus for your email performance review will determined by your objectives i.e. it could be to increase the overall engagement of your subscribers from 20% to 25% in 3 months. The following are also good starting points:

  • Review your email marketing performance segment by segment,
    • Your email marketing activity data will tell you a lot about your subscribers such as the subject lines that drive a high open rate and those that don’t engage your audience. This is the same for the content in your emails.
      • The content that receives the most clicks (if that is the main call to action) is the most engaging for your subscribers
      • Over time you can trend and profile this data analysis to dig deeper into interests and behaviours which can be segmented using everything you know about your customers such as gender, age, average order value etc.
  • Split performance by type of email campaign – for example order confirmation emails will have very different results, engagement and purpose to a welcome campaign.
  • Review across a long period of time to start to identify trends in activity.
  • Review across your customers journey – are there key trigger points where an email. campaign was expected to perform better?
  • Does a particular time of day achieve a better performance for both opens and conversions for a specific target segment? The best way to measure this is to map your email performance data and your website tracking data such as Google Analytics to determine the optimal time for a website conversion.
  • What does the journey of a subscriber look like after they’ve opened an email? Compare your website traffic sources to determine top landing pages, average pages during a visit, the type of content being viewed, time on site, bounce rate etc to analyse if the email content has met expectations when a subscriber clicks through to your website. For example, if the bounce rate is really high on your website after clicking on a link in your email campaign (and it’s not blog content) it’s right to assume that the content on your website didn’t meet the expectations of the subscriber.

Let’s not forget A/B testing. This is crucial to really dig deep and understand your subscribers behaviour and may even help you start to predict it in the future.

Remember: Email doesn’t fly solo in a customer’s journey

Email doesn’t operate solo, it is part of a wider digital journey that is important to not ignore but to acknowledge, compliment and learn from. Channels such as search and social media can improve your email strategy and provide additional insight, for example:

  • SEO and PPC activity will build a picture of the search terms, keywords and content that drives content to your website which can feed into your email marketing activity, in content and also behaviour before and after a subscriber clicks the email content.
  • Social media analysis can seem quite limited to just likes and shares, however over a period of time this interaction analysis can again inform your email marketing activity and the same content could be used within your email campaigns.

 Creating a reporting dashboard to measure performance each month will help you keep an eye on performance against any targets and KPIs you’ve set.

3. On reflection, what would you change?

Starting with the objectives that you first set, reflect on those, and validate if you’re on track to achieve them in 2017. If you’re not, what changes do you need to make to get back on track?

Take a moment to ask yourself what would I change? There may be elements of your strategy that have taken longer to implement than expected, reviewing if there may also be additional elements that require reforecasting is useful to remain on track. Equally there could have been a part of the strategy that was expected to perform better than it did. Make a note of how that could have gone better and take those learnings with you.

It’s also important to remember that a successful email marketing strategy is one that can adapt to changing environments and situations, so use the review point to reaffirm any assumptions made and adjust any areas that have since changed. For example, is it reasonable to expect your engagement rate to grow by 5% in 3 months, or has that target already been surpassed?

In summary, reviewing an email marketing strategy is as important as creating one. My three key areas to focus your efforts are:

  1. Your subscribers – how well do you know the people that you’re regularly sending email marketing to?
  2. How does your performance compare? This could be against the same time last year, annually or monthly.
  3. On reflection, what would you change in your strategy, your email marketing campaigns from the last 2-3 months?
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