Read between the lines of year-end data
Whether you’re setting annual performance goals, making changes to association programming, or moving into a new membership service, no decision should be made without first examining the previous years’ data.
Oftentimes, associations will entrap themselves in the mindset of establishing long-term marketing or membership-service objectives with just a “gut feeling.”
Lucky for you, your association may have been collecting useful information through their association management system (AMS), customer relationship management (CRM) software, or data management tools without even realizing it.Furthermore, these useful insights can tell you what you did, what you can do better, and how you can accomplish your future goals by reading the story between the lines.
So where do you start? How can you use your own data to improve the decisions you make?
Layer in different measurements
It takes your analysis a step further from “are they engaging with our content?” to “are they completing the action we intended them to complete?” Plenty of digital automation platforms will measure this for you through built-in conversion tracking, campaign tagging, and tracking code functionality.
Average open rates in the association world, for instance, stand at 23% of total emails opened, with clickthrough rates at 1.7%, click-to-open rates at 7.9%, and total deliverability at 99%.
Keep in mind, to truly get a perspective on non-transactional engagement, make sure you're weighting your more substantive metrics (clickthrough rates) over your more surface metrics (open rates). Despite the fact that "opens" illustrate a very low level of commitment, there a number of other factors, including Apple's new iOS policy, that dilute the value of the "open" even more.
- To collect interactions, conversions, and ROI metrics
- To take a deeper dive into what campaigns worked well and what didn't
- To identify trends that can help you forecast and plan for the future
Use these comparisons as improvement indicators. For example, if you compared a bunch of metrics year-over-year, saw improvements in most, steadiness in a few, but a 20% performance decrease in clickthrough rates, you need to evaluate why clickthrough rates went down so much compared to the other categories. The issue could be messaging, audience, content, or campaign timing and should be remediated for efforts moving forward.
There’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to comparing metrics against industry standards vs. comparing to your own internal benchmarks:
- Use industry standards to ensure your campaigns, as a whole, are solid and executed properly. This is really more of a benchmark to keep you current on the latest tools, techniques and practices.
- Use internal benchmarks to help you pinpoint, at a much more granular level, areas that need refinement in either marketing or, in some cases, even programming.
Before you do, however, research whether there were any external factors that influenced your prior year numbers. For instance, COVID-19 variants could have impacted certain content types more than others, while Apple’s new iOS consent-based policy may have skewed open rates.
There also could’ve been significant internal issues that altered campaign performance success. Staff decreases, reallocation of resources, or cancelled events could have heavily impacted your previous year numbers. Any of these influences should be documented in your reporting so that you're making informed decisions as you set your goals.
When it comes to goal setting, there are two primary paths to take:
- Business as usual: Set goals to match or incrementally increase performance levels
- Improvement plan: Set stretch goals designed to considerably improve key performance indicators (KPIs)
Both paths yield varying levels of results. Neither method is superior to the other; it just depends on your association’s culture, resources, and what your cumulative metrics are telling you.
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.