In today's environment of shifting and tight marketing budgets, it's not enough to merely know how an email campaign is performing on a onetime basis.

Although email process metrics such as delivery, open, and click-through rates have their place, you need to look beyond them to detect the true impact of your email marketing—and opportunities for continual improvement.

It's high time for email marketers to assess campaign performance in terms of the business and marketing goals, objectives, and contribution expectations that matter. So how do you figure out what matters?

Hint: There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Determining what matters most to your organization requires a clear understanding of your company's strategic objectives as well as what's expected of email marketing. What goals do you want email campaigns to achieve? Drive more site traffic? Generate leads? Result in direct sales? Create awareness? Defining expectations is key to measuring what matters.

The fact is, process metrics and advanced measurements such as return on investment (ROI), average response value (ARV), and channel value (CV) ultimately matter. And it's important to understand not only how to calculate them but also what they measure. 

Process metrics are diagnostic in nature. They should be tracked not only campaign by campaign but also by individual list members (or list segments) over time to determine how each element of your email program is contributing to the campaign's overall success as well as how engaged list members are over the long term.

The following are the most common email-marketing process metrics and what they measure:

  • Delivery (or, conversely, bounce) rate: List hygiene and the effectiveness of the opt-out process
  • Spam complaint rate: Relevance, trust, and opt-out ease
  • Unsubscribe rate: Relevance, customer engagement, and delivery on expectations
  • Open rate: Subject-line effectiveness, trust, and brand strength
  • Click-through rate: Relevance, offer, and content quality; also design and engagement
  • Conversion rate: Completed calls to action or other valuable responses
  • Forward/share rate: Subscriber interest and the viral nature of the offer and content
  • List churn: Effectiveness at managing combined churn factors—bounces, spam complaints, and unsubscribes

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image of Karen Talavera

Karen Talavera is the founder of Synchronicity Marketing, a company specializing in digital marketing training, coaching, and education.