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Defining Your Email Marketing Through Data


This past year has been one of continued change–and email marketing metrics have not been an exception to that rule. When Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) came into effect last fall, email marketers in all industries were made to reconsider their entire analytics strategy. We had advance warning that MPP would impact open rates, but we didn’t know when or to what extent until it happened. Though many email marketers will readily admit that the open rate was always little more than a vanity metric–we’ve grown attached to that measure of email performance. 

Over the years, we’ve proudly shared increased open rates with teams and leaders—and set the tone to position this easily explained and understood metric as indicative of the quality of our email programs. 

We would have likely never given up our open rate addiction willingly—but MPP has made it clear that it’s not a reliable metric, or meaningful way to measure email performance. We may not have chosen this path—but it’s time to reexamine and redefine how we measure and report campaign success. 

As a team leader of Litmus’ marketing organization, I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about what is truly important when it comes to email marketing–and how to measure success. 

And since we hold email so near and dear to our hearts here at Litmus, I’d like to share what I monitor on a regular basis—and which factors don’t necessarily measure the true success or value email marketing has to offer. 

Align your email metrics with business goals

Email marketing metrics have little value if they don’t tie to your business goals. Start by identifying what you are most focused on in your business—which may be driving pipeline, generating quality leads and/or closing sales. Then, work backwards. Apply engagement metrics that indicate which emails are driving attention and interest to your website, and data like MQLs to connect the dots that measure success.

In my role at Litmus, I approach this by looking at high-level performance of the combined marketing efforts for a quick health check, and to avoid any unexpected hurdles. Then, I track the impact email had on specific goals and initiatives over the course of a set amount of time—like a month or a quarter. From there, I can drill into specific subsets and campaigns, and performance of specific email newsletters. At Litmus, each of these efforts has its own unique audience, and the results can highlight overarching themes that are resonating throughout, or reveal surprising insights. Consistently evaluating changes and trends in this dynamic environment challenge us to stay creative and focused.

The environment you’re in will dictate the most effective approach:

  • Marketers in a B2C environment will likely have a revenue target that’s directly attributed to email.
  • B2B marketers may find more benefit by first exploring the business pipeline. Then use email marketing metrics combined with CRM data to understand details behind the number of leads produced and quality of those opportunities. 

Understanding email’s contribution to each sector of business should be built into your daily dashboard to evaluate whether your efforts are aligned appropriately. 

Consider the impact of overall engagement

Without the context of overall engagement, hyper-focusing on isolated open rates, click rates and click–to open rates from every single campaign may hinder strategic opportunities to fuel overall business goals.

For example, the Litmus Weekly newsletter is our most engaged and interested audience, and we see a site engagement lift after each email launches. But the real story is in “the why.”

Through ongoing measurement and data analysis, we found that being a trusted source of information without pushing a sales agenda is influential in obtaining more clients (our desired result). The data shows that our weekly newsletters—composed of helpful resources, tips, and even outside sources of expertise— helped us build subscriber trust, and position Litmus as an industry leader.

In fact, Litmus Weekly was built with the sole purpose of driving value and building a community. We knew that it would offer value if we did it well, but it has been gratifying to see that reflected in our business metrics. We’ll continue to use newsletters to drive engagement, conversions, and eventually, sales that fuel our pipeline. They’ve proven to be an important (and somewhat surprising) insight that helped us better understand how to engage our prospects and customers.

Follow audience signals to other channels

We are constantly working to iterate on, segment and optimize our nurture stream email communications based on company size, job title, and industry. The data from these campaigns gives us a more granular view into our audience profiles. With it, we’ve identified pain points we can help our audience overcome, and better understand the goals we can help them reach by using Litmus. 

Your subscribers show signals throughout email nurture marketing efforts. The real opportunity is to analyze and find actionable meaning from those metrics, to better tailor content and touchpoints throughout their entire journey. I find that it helps to break these steps into smaller parts. For example:  

  • Measure which campaigns and content pieces are performing positively based on overall goals. Optimize along the way by experimenting with different content formats, or by removing barriers like content gates in an effort to increase engagement
  • Test the impact of optimizations and monitor results to which specific communication or newsletter(s) contributed and what final piece drove conversions
  • Consider attribution metrics to evaluate how and where email fits within the customer journey. Compare the first touch versus last touch and metrics at each point along the way to better understand how you can help bridge gaps

Email marketers are fortunate to have access to a wealth of analytics. But, knowing which email metrics truly drive business value, which indicate untapped opportunity (and which no longer apply) is the real work—and value we can all deliver as marketing leaders.  


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