A colleague of mine shared a great article about employee engagement based on a recent Gallup study of 1.4 million employees across 192 companies, and I couldn't help but be struck by the similarity between "checked out" employees and inactive email subscribers.
The article cited research showing that 70 percent of U.S. workers are mentally disengaged, and I immediately thought of the vast number of email marketers we see with files that are primarily populated with subscribers who are defined as inactive. Often, the bulk of the responses to a brand's email campaigns come from 10 to 20 percent of the subscriber list. (For tips about what to do – and what to avoid – when it comes to creating a reengagement strategy to win back inactive subscribers, you can read more here.) This month I'm going to focus on the opposite of inactivity: engagement.
I consider engagement to be the most important factor when it comes to measuring email program success. If you're measuring engagement accurately, this key performance indicator (KPI) should be a composite of a variety of metrics that include everything from your standard open, click-through, conversion, and unsubscribe rates; to list hygiene metrics like unknown user rates; to new metrics like read rates; and deliverability metrics like inbox placement rates and complaint rates.
Engagement should be defined to represent long-term, ongoing, and consistent interaction with your campaigns by your subscribers. It's not a one-time spike based on a seasonal contest, coupon, or other incentive. Also, engagement metrics tied to email data can go beyond just the email channel. Engagement with email can actually be a good indication that your subscribers are loyal to your brand, eager to receive information from you, and are willing to engage with your brand in other digital channels.
Mastering engagement will determine whether your email program ultimately succeeds or fails. Consider this quote in the aforementioned article by Gallup Chief Report Scientist James Harter: "In good economic times, engagement is the difference between good and great. In bad economic times, engagement is the difference between sinking and holding your own." When evaluating how engagement applies to your email program, there are four important questions to ask:
Curious how some of the top brands compare when it comes to driving engagement for their email programs? Check out our "Battle of the Brands" infographic here.