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The Email Measurement Trifecta: 3 Types of Benchmarks Marketers Should Use Together

by: Jill Johnson (@IBMforMarketing)
06 November 2015

“So, how is our email program doing these days?”

It’s a simply phrased question you may have been asked by your supervisor, CMO or another executive team member, but the answer is far from simple. In fact, it spurs on another question that has an even more complex set of possible answers.

“How are we doing compared to … what?”

We’re all guilty of not having a complete answer to this question. It’s not because we aren’t familiar with our email performance, but mostly because we’re not always looking at the full picture to determine overall success or failure rates. 

So what other factors define our successes or failures? How do we see this full picture? What is the “what”?

The answer, in my opinion, is actually fairly simple.

If you become aware of your Email Measurement Trifecta – a combination of industry benchmarks, competitive comparisons and historical metrics – you’ll have a much deeper understanding of your overall email performance and won’t be limited to 1:1 comparisons that don’t tell the whole story.

Think of it like a basic mathematical formula: Industry Benchmark Data + Competitive Evaluations + Internal Email Metrics = Email Measurement Trifecta.

Let’s look at each benchmark source a bit closer:

1) Industry Benchmark Data: where you stand

By referring to industry benchmark reports such as our “2015 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study,” you’re able to compare your performance to industry figures. This allows you to see your place among those who are sending similar business communications and gives you a baseline to weigh your performance.

However, be aware that these studies, while extremely helpful in giving you this measurement, aren’t accurate in determining your own individual successes because, well, no two companies and their audiences are exactly alike. Your communications and response rates vary compared to others in your industry for many different reasons.

For example, your conversions might be lower than the average, but if your conversions have a higher ROI than others in your industry, you could actually be a leader in that category. This is why it’s important know your place but also to look beyond these metrics to determine your success. This is where Competitive Evaluation comes into play.

2) Competitive Evaluation: why you stand out

While you may not be able to get the exact data from your competitors, it’s important to be aware of what they are doing … or aren’t doing. By staying abreast of similar companies, you can use comparisons to show how you have a leg up, whether it’s because you’re using responsive templates or Web behaviors or by having better content or higher frequency.

Keeping tabs on the competition can also uncover overlooked opportunities you can incorporate in upcoming campaigns or programs. The best way to do this is to be sure you’re subscribed to your competitors’ email programs and keep track of what they are sending out. Don’t have direct competitors? That’s OK. You can access outside resources such as IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark Hub or even Pinterest to get inspiration for upcoming campaigns. And speaking of email campaigns…

3) Internal Email Metrics: how you’ve progressed

One of the best ways to assess your individual performance is to look at your past performance for comparisons. While you may focus on year-over-year comparisons, remember to also look at how you have evolved across metrics and time periods. Your open rate might be significantly lower than last year’s numbers, for example, but since you incorporated dynamic content via segmentation, your click or conversion rate has increased. Maybe it’s only by a percentage, but if that percentage means hundreds of thousands of additional web visits that convert at a higher percentage, you could safely say your campaign was successful.

To increase your chances of discovering areas for improvement, remember to look at a wide range of metrics. By paying more attention to your deliverability statistics, for example, you may uncover an issue you didn’t know was present. By addressing and solving this issue, you can increase your deliverability and the number of people who are now aware of your campaign or offer.

By combining all aspects of the Email Measurement Trifecta, you’ll be able to understand how your program is running from the inside, the outside, above and beyond. And the next time someone asks you how your email programs are doing, you can say the answer is actually fairly simple!

Related Resources:

1) Ebook: “2015 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study

2) Blog: “Clicks, Conversions and High-Fives: 3 Tips to Focus and Refine Your Marketing Measurements

3) Ebook: “Ultimate Guide to Assessing Your Digital Marketing Program


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