Email Intelligence: Measurement in 4 Areas Drives Effectiveness

We talk a lot about email intelligence at Return Path. With email being such a data-driven channel, it could be easy to assume that having “intelligence” simple refers to having more data. However, as an email marketer, you probably know that more data isn’t always better. If the data you have doesn’t provide you with meaningful insights about how to adjust your strategy, then what good is having more of it? What email intelligence really refers to is having access to data that will provide you with an accurate picture of your email program’s effectiveness and where you need to focus your resources to boost performance and achieve your marketing goals.

So how is email intelligence different from what you’re doing today? You’re already aware that you have a number of “levers” you can pull to impact performance and drive more return on investment; usually by increasing some combination of opens, clicks and conversions. And you have a variety of tactics you can use to try and increase those metrics. For example, you can adjust your frequency, launch new campaigns, revise your segmentation strategy, grow your list or redesign your creative templates, just to name a few. But how do you know which ones to pull and the impact that doing so will have on performance?

If you’re like most marketers, you have limited time and resources to try and figure out the perfect combination. This is where having email intelligence is crucial. Knowing what data to measure, having the tools to measure effectively and understanding how to act on what the data are telling you is the key to a healthy email program that’s fully optimized for ongoing success. Let’s start with knowing what data to measure, which is no small feat because you have access to a lot of data when managing an email program. The good news is that we’ve done the hard work for you. After analyzing hundreds of data points across thousands of email programs, we know that email effectiveness comes down to measurement across the following four areas:

  • List Quality: Having a healthy email list is the foundation of a high performing email program. The common misperception is that health equates to size—the bigger the better—but what really matters is quality, which is primarily represented by activity and hygiene. Are you adding subscribers that are engaging with your messaging by opening, clicking and converting? Or are you adding subscribers that routinely ignore what you send, complain about it or unsubscribe from it? Hygiene also plays an important role in the form of valid addresses, spam traps (both recycled and pristine) and unknown users. A consistently clean and responsive list is the ultimate goal here.
  • Inbox Placement: Whatever tactics your email marketing strategy is based on, they’re irrelevant if your messages aren’t getting delivered to the inbox. You need an accurate picture of where you’re getting bulked (into the junk/spam folders), blocked and why across the major ISPs, as well as the receivers that represent secondary subsets of your list. The majority of delivery problems (roughly 80%) are caused by a poor sending reputation—usually associated with your IPs—however reputation data is increasingly being tied to your domains as well.
  • Engagement: Represented by a variety of subscriber-level activity (or inactivity), engagement data goes beyond opens, clicks and conversions to include metrics like read rates, forwarding activity, marking a message as spam, moving a message out of the spam folder, marking a message as important (in Gmail’s Priority Inbox) and deleting a message without reading it. All of these data points, when combined with the performance activity you’re already tracking, can provide insight into what’s resonating with subscribers and which tactics should be an integral part of your email marketing strategy.
  • Brand Protection: Phishing and spoofing attacks don’t just happen to financial and payment services companies. They can happen to any recognized brand at any time. The implications for companies depending on the email channel to drive brand recognition, revenue and build relationships with customers and prospects are huge. Nothing erodes brand perception and loyalty faster than a fraudulent email designed to drive malicious activity. A good starting point is to take a defensive strategy by ensuring your outbound mail is authenticated using SPF, DKIM and DMARC. Also crucial in the security battle is a good offensive strategy, and this involves monitoring attacks and having the ability to takedown any abuse immediately.

Want to learn more about email intelligence? Register for this upcoming webinar on March 20th sponsored by the AMA and Return Path.

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