Building a Newsletter: Part 3 – Measuring Performance
With the exorbitant amount of business e-mails we exchange daily, getting a newsletter noticed can be tough. Last year, there were over 100 billion business e-mails sent and received worldwide every day, and that number is expected to exceed 132 billion by the end of 2017.
Sending a newsletter is only half the battle, though. Getting subscribers to read it is the ultimate goal.
Most e-mail marketing services provide basic details about a newsletter once it has been sent: what time it was delivered, to how many addresses and whom, how many subscribers opened it, how many e-mails were undeliverable, and so on. That provides a nice overview of how the newsletter performed. But there are ways to dig even deeper to analyze efficacy. You can start by looking at the following:
Open rates. Take the number of e-mails opened divided by the total number of subscribers to get a percentage figure called an open rate. For example, if your e-mail goes to 5,000 addresses and 750 people actually open it, your open rate is 15%. That might sound low, but it’s actually quite good for many B2B segments. The typical open rate for the e-commerce category is about 18%. In more specialized areas like manufacturing, if you have an open rate of 24% it means that you’ve done a pretty good job at capturing your audience’s attention. If it’s lower, you’ve got some work to do in tweaking content and re-examining your subscriber list.
Also, keep in mind that open rates are not always a 100% accurate view of how many people actually opened an email containing your newsletter. For example, if images weren’t downloaded in the e-mail, the system might not count it as having been opened. Additionally, an employee could print off the newsletter to share, or forward copies to colleagues for perusal. However, open rates are typically a fairly accurate indication of a newsletter’s success.
Web traffic. Including tracking codes on all links associated with your newsletter is highly recommended. Doing so enables you to gather accurate performance-related metrics within your analytics account. However, if you haven’t included tracking codes on all of your links, you’ll need to use your analytics account to gather general data and do a bit of reading between the lines.
For example, take a look at your website traffic around the time the newsletter was delivered. Was there a noticeable, uncharacteristic spike? A consistent rise in product/service sales? Or a jump in registration for an event?
An added benefit is that analyzing this information can help you better tailor future newsletters to the type of content clients are most interested in based on what seems to get the best response. And if you forgot to add tracking codes, make sure not to forget them on the next newsletter you deploy.
Bounce backs. If an e-mail was not delivered to a subscriber because the e-mail address no longer exists, the e-mail server may have been down or the address was entered incorrectly, you’ll get what’s called a bounce back notification. While avoiding them entirely is difficult, try to clean up the list whenever you can to ensure the newsletter is targeting the right people. I’d suggest removing the number of bounce backs from your total subscriber count before calculating the open rate to get a more accurate, not to mention favourable, number.
Unsubscribes. The biggest red flag in measuring the success of a newsletter is if a lot of people are unsubscribing from it. Double check that you aren’t breaking any of the cardinal rules of newsletters by asking yourself questions like, is the content valuable? Are you sending it too frequently? Is your newsletter going to the right people? Does it render properly on mobile devices? If you’ve broken any of these rules, revisit Part 1 and 2 of this series for some tips on how to improve it.
The bottom line
Your clients will be the best indicator of a newsletter’s success, so don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Do they like it? Of what do they want to see more or less? Are they learning anything from it? What improvements can you make?
If your plans for a newsletter will be ongoing, be sure to continuously nurture the subscriber list. You should also play with different types of content, and work with subscribers to ensure that you’re providing content that they value and presenting it in an attractive way.
If you have a newsletter, let us know via the comment section below what you find to be the most reliable indicator of its success.