- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On November 9, 2015
- Email marketing
“Start measuring something.”
I recently attended two presentations that focused on how “big data” could boost marketing results (one at SHSMD and one at HPRMS). I found both presentations inspiring for their analytical rigor and case studies highlighting how certain health systems are applying these methodologies. (I’m a former electrical engineer after all.)
My real world data, however, suggests that not many hospitals are currently operating at this “NASA-like level” of data-driven marketing. During the second presentation I asked Mark Gerner, a senior data scientist from Booz Allen, how health system marketers could get started down this path. Mark pretty much said, “Start measuring something.”
That got me thinking: If you are going to “start measuring something,” what should you measure?
My conclusion: Since email is consistently reported as the highest ROI medium of all digital marketing, start there. This post is about 7 simple email metrics you can start measuring and testing today.
Based on the two presentations I attended, this could well be the first step in helping your marketing results take off!
How many of your emails actually get delivered? ReturnPath data says the average deliverability rate for emails in the “health and beauty” industry is 96% (a promising number compared to 45% in the technology industry).
Given this industry benchmark, most of your emails should be arriving, but keep an eye on this figure. If it dips, there could be a problem you need to tackle (e.g. too many complaints on an email campaign or your domain being blacklisted somewhere—it can even happen by mistake).
2. Open rates
You probably already review this number, but make sure you track it over time and look for patterns. Mailchimp produces a report on open rates across industries every year. For healthcare the current average email open rate is 22.83%. See how your email campaigns perform vs. this benchmark.
As you may know, there are a number of technical reasons that make this a rather unreliable metric, but it’s worth monitoring over time for any significant changes.
3. Click Through Rate
A more robust metric is Click Through Rate (CTR). CTR requires the user to actually click on one of your links, so it is a more reliable metric than open rate.
While looking at click through rate take a look at how many unique “clickers” (people) you got as well as the absolute number of clickers. Frequently a lot of clicks can come from just one location. This should be factored in to your overall thinking on the performance of that campaign.
4. When to send?
What time and day of the week should you send your emails? This is a very popular question. From everything I’ve reviewed over the years, the answer depends on your unique recipients.
Take a look at your CTR and open rate data by time and day of the week. You may see surprising trends. We found that our small business customers actually clicked on our emails more during the weekend than during the week. Prior to looking at that data we were concerned about sending emails on a Friday evening. Now we think it’s a great idea.
5. Who is this from?
Research shows the first item we consider in an email is who is it from. Test sending your emails from different people and see how that affects your CTR and open rates. You should also test the format of the senders name as it appears in the email client; e.g. I could send an email as “Nigel Edelshain,” “Nigel Edelshain | Wainscot Health Communications,” “Wainscot Health Communications,” or “Wainscot Media.” Which format will perform best?
6. What is the subject line?
After the name of the sender an email subject line has been shown to be the most important element of an email.
With emails that you send frequently, such as an e-newsletter, try testing different subject lines and subject line formats.
If you have a large list you can A/B test different subject lines with the same email. If not, you can try testing the subject line over time with different issues of your e-newsletter (a little less scientific but good enough in practice to give you some data).
7. What CTA?
Test all your calls to action (CTAs). CTAs include the “Read more” links after an article in an e-newsletter as well as any ads or offers in the email.
Can you increase the CTR on a specific part of your email or e-newsletter? Test wording. Test graphical elements such as the design of your buttons or graphical elements.
When testing any graphical elements keep in mind emails are increasingly being opened on mobile devices. Test how your email displays on a smartphone and look for any issues that might be depressing CTR or open rates.