Tracking and Reporting

The Complete Guide to Email Marketing

The Importance of Tracking
Only a madman works without any kind of way to grade his or her performance.  Students get grades in school, movies get reviewed and athletes get points or scores to tell them how well they've performed. To put it another way, it would be lunacy to send out email marketing messages without gauging how effective they are.

Of course, a good indication is a general uptick in business activity and that might tell you if the email marketing is working generally, but what of the performance of the individual messages that you send out? In order to refine your message so that you are sending out marketing messages in the most optimized fashion, you need an effective way to measure:

How many of your emails made it to the inboxes of the individual recipients
Which email addresses are no longer valid
What percentage of your list opened up your emails
Who individually opened up your emails
Who clicks on the links that you provide within your emails
Who forwards your email campaigns to their friends
Who unsubscribes from your list
The performance of one campaign versus another
You Need Real Time Reports
Email works at mind-boggling speed. As such, some delivery information is available almost instantly. Open rates work a little longer - at the speed of the individuals that are checking and opening your emails. Even from this, you'll be able to glean the behavior of your subscribers and how fast they get to your marketing. You can monitor results both instantly and over time.
Am I Violating My Subscribers' Privacy By Tracking Open Rates?
No. Benchmark doesn't have an Orwellian monitoring tool that watches your subscribers as they open your email. It's actually a bit simpler than that. A unique, small and invisible graphic is embedded in your newsletters. As each newsletter is opened, the graphic must be downloaded (as would all visible graphics you include in your emails). We can tell you if that graphic was used and thus are able to confirm to you that your email was indeed opened. It's worth noting that many email clients like gmail don't display graphics automatically (a link asks the reader if they would like to see the graphics), so your open rates are probably higher than what is being reported.
But I'm Not A Numbers Person
Of course you're not. That's why reports are clearly illustrated in easy to use graphs (at least at Benchmark Email they are).
I Need To Share This Info With My Company
If you're not a lone ranger in this email marketing effort, you may need to share information with a team. In this case, you'll be glad to know that all this precious feedback can be downloaded to your favorite office program. From there, you can include it in an internal company report, utilize the data in your own custom spreadsheet or make a PowerPoint presentation with it.
How Do I Use This Information to Optimize My Marketing Efforts?
If it is enough to say, "My campaigns work because people are opening my newsletters," then good for you. Business is good and you have enough of it. But really, you have so much more power than that.
Tracking Hard Bounces
If your email list contains addresses that are undeliverable because the mailbox is unknown, does not exist or is no longer active, they'll be flagged as hard bounces. We recommend cleaning these up as soon as possible so that your reputation is not harmed. Addresses that bounce twice for these reasons are Confirmed Bounces and automatically excluded from your active account. Undeliverable email is returned with a bounce code that denotes the reason for the delivery failure. Any that have a code that starts with a five (as in 5.x.x) are permanent failures. For that reason, the address is removed immediately from your list.
Tracking Soft Bounces
Soft bounces are addresses that are temporarily unavailable for a variety of reasons that include reasons like quota exceeded, too much sessions in a connection, temporary local problem, and out of office auto-reply. Especially because your message is temporarily undeliverable, you'll want to earmark these people for a second chance at your campaign so that they don't miss what you want to send them.
Tracking Open Rates
This is very important, as it tells if you're writing good subject lines or if your list is responsive towards marketing coming from your domain. Remember, your reputation is your own. ISPs will monitor if lots of unopened mail comes from your end. Too much of this and your future campaigns might be thought of as spammy.
Tracking Unsubscribes
If your list is a legitimate, fresh, permission-based list, there should be no reason for high unsubscribe numbers. If you are experiencing this, there is something wrong with the content of your marketing efforts and you'll want to re-tool and fast. Trying out a few types of newsletters with differing content and measuring them side-by-side is a great way to choose your most effective approach.
Tracking by Location
If you can tell that a certain region is more responsive to your subject line, that tells you that either you're communicating well with this region, your not communicating well with other regions, or that there may be delivery issues with the ISP in the other regions. Rather than ignoring this important information or just making assumptions that suit inaction, follow up immediately. Find out if there are bounces happening en masse in those other regions. If not, poll your responding subscribers to find out what is motivating their great response.
Tracking Click-thru Rates
In your newsletters, you'll most likely be directing people to your website with links. But you may have multiple pages on your site that you are providing links for. You also might be directing a click to the same place in different sections of that newsletter. You'll want to know what made that person click. Was it because it was close to the top of the newsletter? Was it a clickable image? Was it surrounded by thrilling copy or just set off on its own? Anyway you look at it, this is valuable consumer behavior feedback and you'll want to do more of what works and less of what doesn't.