Optimizing your email marketing


It’s safe to say that a majority of small business owners would agree that tracking marketing analytics is important. These business owners would also probably agree that they don’t have much time to do so or a thorough understanding of which analytics to track.

If they are tracking analytics, they may not fully understand how to interpret those analytics and turn them into actionable items to benefit their business.

Between print, digital and in-person or event marketing, we could spend ages discussing strategies and evaluation metrics. I’ve tried a lot of different marketing ideas over the past few years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s the importance of not only tracking the impact of your marketing efforts, but understanding what that data is telling you. Only then can you make effective adjustments to your strategy and leverage your audience’s behavior, helping you optimize your marketing funnel and retain customers.

But how do you get that data efficiently and utilize it effectively? If you typically breeze over your email analytics or file these reports in your low-priority list, this blog post is for you.

Email continues to be one of the most cost-effective ways to directly reach your customers. Taking the time to build an email list and establish regular communication with your customers — whether you sell a product or a service — is one of the most powerful marketing tools. Email use will top 3 billion users worldwide by 2020, according to Hubspot, and if you’re worried about bugging your customers too much, you’re not. Hubspot also reports that 86 percent of consumers would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with at least monthly, and 15 percent would like to get them daily.

How you evaluate your emails depends on what your goal is. What behavior or action are you trying to accomplish? Is your email strategy intended to communicate thought leadership by sharing blog content? Showcase the unique personality and culture of your business? Increase sales by sharing new products, services or promotions? This will be your primary goal that will help you determine your success.

A successful email campaign begins with a solid contact list. If you have an existing contact list, start by thinking of ways you can segment your audiences. Separating your audience by interest, geographic location or product purchase history allows you to target your message and achieve a higher completion of your call to action.

There are a variety of analytics that you can track regardless of your goal. These analytics give you a better understanding of your consumer’s behavior and what content they prefer. No matter what email marketing system you use, you should be able to track:

  • Day and time sent
  • Subject line
  • Open rate (the percentage of recipients who opened your email)
  • Click-through rate (the percentage of recipients who clicked on a link within your email)

Over time, this fairly simple list will provide you valuable information about your audience, your messaging and how you can optimize your email marketing. I recommend creating a simple spreadsheet that tracks this data for each audience segment, or email type (newsletter, product email, etc.). Once you have a few weeks’ worth of information gathered in one place, you can spend a few minutes analyzing what the numbers are telling you.

Ask yourself:

  • What types of subject lines resulted in the highest open rate?
  • What email content generated higher click-throughs?
  • Is there a specific time of day that results in the best open rate?

You also can dig a little deeper based on the unique goals of your email campaigns.

For example:

  • If someone clicked on a coupon but didn’t use it, there’s a good chance they’re interested in the offer, but might need a reminder email sent to them.
  • If someone clicked on one of your blog articles, invite them to read another or like your page on social media for similar content.
  • Did someone open an event email but not register? Send them a reminder email with some friendly copywriting.
  • Do you have clients from a few major cities? Adjust your imagery or copywriting to connect with that geographic audience and see if the message results in a higher completion of your call to action.

If you’re looking to optimize your email marketing, start by gathering basic data about your campaigns. This data, tracked over time, yields trends. Once you determine what is successful, you can further segment and optimize your messaging to dig in deeper. By taking a few minutes each week to track and reflect on your email marketing analytics, you will be able to make informed decisions that improve your business’s marketing efforts.

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Hanna Burmeister manages marketing and communication strategies for the statewide network of the Michigan Small Business Development Center, or MI-SBDC, based at GVSU. She promotes the SBDC’s services through written success stories, videography, social media, print and online channels. She is also an active member of the planning committee for Michigan Celebrates Small Business, the state’s yearly small business awards ceremony. Burmeister enjoys using her skills and passion to promote Michigan’s entrepreneurial talent. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and public relations from MSU and an M.P.A. from GVSU.