A common fallacy regarding email programs is that they are self-sustaining. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Your email marketing demands regular maintenance: Consistent attention and a persistent desire to create a more meaningful connection between brand and customer are prerequisites to a profitable email program.

In this article I'll outline four steps you can take to help ensure your email campaigns and programs actually work.

1. Establish a solid foundation for email metrics

Identify your key metrics before launching your email campaign. If your email program is already in progress, it's not too late to make sure you're using the best possible success scoreboard.

The challenge with identifying key email metrics is that one size does not fit all: The metrics you rely on will be as unique to your program as your design, message, and call to action.

Whatever metrics you choose to embrace, the best scenario is that they match up with your actual business objectives.

As you begin to define what success looks like for your email program, you may consider reviewing studies and data that show email marketing benchmarks for your industry. Benchmark reports can provide a good starting point to gauge your performance against others in your niche field.

But a word of caution: Those studies can be helpful, but they also lack context—i.e., your unique email program and marketing objectives. The best benchmark for any campaign is a previously sent campaign. The ultimate standard is whatever result you achieved with your most recent email send.

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image of Nora Snoddy

Nora Snoddy is director of communications at Campaign Monitor, a global software-as-a-service company specializing in email marketing.

LinkedIn: Nora Snoddy

Twitter: @norasnoddy