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For local businesses, email marketing gives you an opportunity to speak directly to your customers and drive traffic to your website in an engaging, cost-effective way; on average, for every £1 spent on email marketing, businesses receive a £38 return (Direct Marketing Association, 2015).

However, it’s important that whatever the size of your email list, you take some time to measure the effectiveness of your email marketing. This will help you understand whether this useful channel is getting the results you want.

In this article we explain some of the key things you should be measuring in your email marketing and what those measurements mean for your business. Your email marketing provider should be able to give you nearly all of these measurements.

Bounce rate

Bounce rate refers to the number of emails that weren’t successfully delivered to a recipient’s inbox – they ‘bounced’ back. Generally, if you’re growing your email list steadily and with existing customers, your bounce rate should be very low. However, it’s useful to check as it shows you how accurate your email list is.

For example, if you have a list of 1,000 subscribers but keep getting a 25% bounce rate, that means you’re only really reaching 750 of them.

There are lots of different reasons why emails might ‘bounce’. The most common is that an email address hasn’t been entered into the database correctly; for example, it might have a spelling mistake or a dot in the wrong place. Check any emails you get from customers very carefully and, if you’re collecting them in-store, always read it out to them afterwards to make sure it’s accurate.

Open rate

Open rate refers to the number of people, or the percentage of people on your email list, who open your emails when they arrive in their inbox. This is a really useful measurement for seeing how effective your email subject lines are, as this will be the first thing a customer sees when they look in their inbox.

If you have a very low open rate, your emails might be automatically going into your recipients’ junk folders. This can happen accidentally even if they’ve signed up for your marketing. If you think this might be happening, try and avoid the spam words. Next, make sure you’re not including lots of large attachments or images in your emails as these can trigger spam filters. Another good tip is to add something into the footer of your emails to say ‘add to safe sender list’ so that your subscribers can stop your emails going into their junk mail.

One thing that is really important is to ensure your mailing list is clean. This means everyone in that list has specifically subscribed to your content. For example, if you have paid for a mailing list from another company, none of these email addresses have signed up for information from you, so it could land in junk.

Click-through rate

Click-through rate (CTR) refers to the number or percentage of people who click the links in your email. Although open rate is useful, CTR is a more important measurement if you are trying to get people to visit your website, your social media channels or do something online after reading your email.

Your email marketing provider will be able to tell you exactly which links in your emails are being clicked, which can help you understand which are the most popular parts of your email. For example, if your CTR is always higher on links near the top of the email, rather than the bottom, you’ll know to put your most important links there to encourage people to click them.

Unsubscribe rate

As the name suggests, this refers to the number or percentage of people who are unsubscribing from your email marketing. This is a useful number to keep an eye on as it helps you understand whether your subscribers like what you’re sending them – or if they really don’t.

You might have a high unsubscribe rate if:

  • You send emails to your subscribers too frequently

  • The information you send them isn’t useful or relevant

  • You offer an incentive for people to sign up (like a voucher), which they use and then unsubscribe

  • Your subscribers haven’t signed up voluntarily

Number or letter codes

This isn’t a measurement that your email marketing provider will give you, but if you’re providing codes for vouchers, discounts or special events in your email marketing then it’s important to measure how many people are using them.

This is especially useful for businesses with physical premises who might want to use email marketing to get people to visit them. For example, if you run a restaurant you might offer a unique code through your email marketing, like EASTER20 for a 20% discount on every booking over the Easter bank holiday. If people quote this code when they book their meal, you’ll know your email marketing has had an effect.

What’s important here is that everyone in your team knows about and records when this code is used. In the example above, you might need to record when the code is used:

  • Online, if you have an online booking system

  • On social media, if you allow bookings through these channels

  • Over the phone In-person at the restaurant

  • When people pay the bill

By looking at a combination of these measurements, you’ll be able to see whether your email marketing is helping you drive more sales and get more customers.

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