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Define your objective, then measure it

So if “open rate” is a daft measurement of the “success” of an email to customers and prospects, what then is a good measurement? To answer this, you need to force yourself to do something which should be essential, but which often gets neglected. You need to define what the objective of the email is in the first place. If you’re now thinking: “But why would I even send out an email if I didn’t know what I wanted to get from it?”, I suggest you look at some of the emails from other companies which are in your own inbox. I’m almost certain you’ll come across some which have no identifiable objective other than to say: “Look at us, aren’t we clever?”

It’s hugely counterproductive to waste a customer’s time with an email that offers them nothing. You’re asking for their attention, and for precious moments of their working day, and if you’re giving them nothing in return, don’t be surprised if their opinion of you becomes slightly diminished. What you offer doesn’t have to be of physical value – it can be something intellectually stimulating, or even just plain old entertaining. But your email must have a purpose.

Once you’ve got that established, you can determine if the objective you’re trying to achieve can be measured. If you’re just sending out a chatty email intended to brighten up the recipients’ day, and to make them think warm feelings towards you (and there’s nothing wrong with that, by the way), then maybe the effect is not going to be measurable. However, if you’re suggesting they come and look at your website, or download a brochure, or sign up for a seminar, then those things are very measurable. Never, ever put a single link in an email which can’t be tracked.

Almost every analytics system will have a method of adding tags to links, so the source can be identified. What you don’t want is to look at your analytics report at the end of the month, and say: “that spike there must have been when we sent the email out”, but have no real numbers on the traffic source column to see if that really was the case. The screenshot is the sort of thing you’ll get. It’s taken from our own Google Analytics report here. The line “Our own daily email” comes from the tagged link which I asked a few of you email readers to click last week. Isn’t that a lot nicer than having all the email traffic buried inside a bunch of unidentified traffic labelled “(direct)”?

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