Opens, shmopens: Are your emails converting?
- To recruit: Bring new members, donors, and/or customers into their org.
- To retain: Demonstrate the value of their existing membership.
- To upsell: Sell programs to existing members, donors, and customers.
- To advocate: Inform members, donors, and customers about their world
So, when it comes to measurement, just sending the email and clocking opens and clicks may not meet the intended goal of the email.
So what does it take to make sure your emails are converting and you’re getting optimal campaign results?Set measurements based on goals
If your campaign objective falls into one of these three categories, you want to take your planning a step further and identify—at the most granular level—what a “conversion” looks like for your association.
In this context, conversions are simply desired actions taken by your users. This will vary from organization to organization but includes actions such as registering for an event, purchasing a publication, donating, or signing up for membership.
In all cases, when you're measuring email efficacy, the conversion needs to tie back specifically to that email or set of emails. So how do you do it?
But, with the functionality of most robust marketing automation and even email automation tools, you shouldn't have to do this. The tools are there for efficiency and efficacy in conversion tracking. As such, they're going to naturally track every interaction leading up to your intended goal, even if that goal isn't met.
If you're using email as part of a much larger omni-channel approach, you'll want to track through a growth and engagement platform like HubSpot. HubSpot tracks all interactions within a campaign. You can isolate attribution by a single channel—like email—or as part of a broader multi-touch campaign.
If you're solely tracking based on a singular channel like email, depending on the power of the system's automation functionality, conversion functionality may be baked into the tool. For instance, Adestra is an email automation system that offers conversion tracking as part of its core functionality.
You can leverage the automated tracking in both of these tools to track patterns and trends from aggregate data, trigger future campaigns and, most importantly, to identify email conversions, conversion rates, and ROI.
- 1—To provide a baseline for metrics, especially when you're deploying campaigns for the first time. That baseline is meant to be used for comparative purposes to help improve your metrics later on.
- 2—To identify the patterns and trends in your constituents' behaviors over periods of time. For example, comparing certification conversion rates in 2020, 2021, and 2022 to see engagement levels over time.
- 3—To help you compare performance across different assets, channels, and audiences. Rather than comparing the same campaign with the same content and the same audience, you now have a metric to help you determine what aspects are under- and over-performing.
For instance, Apple devices tend to drive inflated opens due to email images preloading prior to users opening messages. So in that next quarterly review meeting, this metric influencer on 'opens' should be noted.
Consent-based marketing, where user’s personal security preferences can affect the data collected, also impacts metrics. Once again, Apple presents a great example of this—Apple's policy prompts users of iOS 14.5, iPhone and iPad to provide consent on activity tracking.
In most cases, the best solution is to take your opens with a grain of salt. The metric itself is already surface, as in lowest tier of commitment. Marketers looking for metrics with substance should focus on lower funnel email metrics such as clicks rather than opens. Because, in the end, content sits behind every click.
|Journey Stage||Action Taken|
First stop: awareness of the email and its message content.
Receiving and opening the message if outside factors aren't influencing this.
Next stops: demonstrated interest and consideration in acting on the conversion goal.
|Downloading the file or clicking a web link that takes them to the final call-to-action step.|
Final stop: decision-making phase and determining whether or not to take action.
|Conversion that fulfills your campaign objective such as registration form completion.|
|First Stop: Promotional registration email is received by member→|
|Second Stop: Member clicks on link to the webinar calendar page→|
|Third Stop: Members clicks through to webinar summary page→|
|Final Stop: Member finalizes checkout to complete the conversion|
- Recraft the webinar description on the summary page
- Make your registration CTA on that page more prominent
- Share insights with your program manager on the appeal of that webinar
- Unique audiences such as one for younger professionals and one for seasoned executives
- Different messaging such as one focused on logical reasons to join (ROI, business/professional growth metrics, etc.) and another that goes into more emotionally-driven arguments (like a member's success story)
- Delivery variations such as day of delivery, time of delivery, or frequency of delivery
The return from each campaign will give you the story where you can extrapolate observations. You may identify findings such as:
“Campaign click rates were highest with content focused on emotional selling (using a real-member story) but conversion rates were higher for campaigns that used ROI metrics to explain membership value.”
Those insights will help you make the next decisions for your email campaigns. For instance, a key take-away from the above example findings is to continue using emotionally-driven content at the top of the funnel but incorporate more logical content (i.e. justification documents) at the bottom of the funnel.
- Subject lines
- Delivery time
- Quarter 1: Audiences
- Quarter 2: Content
- Quarter 3: Subject Lines
- Quarter 4: Offers
Of course all testing should be in the context of what you're collecting behaviorally. For instance, using the previous Journey example, if you see that about 70% of your recipients (and openers) are ducking out after the First Stop and not clicking through to get to the Second Stop, you mostly likely want to test either the messaging or the positioning of the CTA within the message.
In the end, you follow the behavioral learnings first and then use your testing methodologies to either dispel or validate your initial findings.
About Nicole Crilley
Nicole is a digital strategist and content designer with 10 years of experience in email marketing automation, web design, marketing technology, user experience, and content production. With a versatile background in freelance, consulting, and corporate settings, Nicole specializes in identifying and implementing effective digital strategies.