pbSmart™ for Small Business

5 Easy Steps to Evaluate Your Email Marketing Effectiveness



Email marketing should be one of the top performing tools for small businesses.  It’s relatively inexpensive, quick and allows detailed tracking.  Yet for many it still feels hit or miss, with no idea why results fluctuate wildly from Grand Slam Home Runs to Crickets

Shooting blindly in the dark hoping for a hit is not an effective strategy.  With a shotgun you might hit something, but you need firepower and laser focus to bring down the big guys (metaphorically speaking of course!).   It’s easier than you might expect, and can be done in 5 easy steps.

Email Campaign Effectiveness Step 1: Pick Your Target

What exactly are you trying to accomplish?

Email campaigns can be used for a wide variety of purposes; establishing a relationship with a potential client, establishing your authority as an expert, informing clients of upcoming changes (such as store hours for the holidays), promoting a sale, converting a prospect to a sale, following up after a sale,… 

The list is as endless as your imagination.  However, your clients’ attention is not endless.  In fact it’s very short, and you need to capitalize on it.  That means you need to be laser focused with each email and email campaign.

Write down the purpose of your email or campaign – be specific.  Then answer the question, “So what?”

I learned this trick from someone in market research.  Often people want or seek to share information without really considering the value or outcome.  Let’s cover a few examples.

  • Inform customer base of expanded holiday store hours.  “So what?”  So they are aware they have more flexibility to shop in your store during the hectic holiday season. (PASS)
  • Announce delays in new product launch that has not yet been communicated.  “So what?”  No one even knew about the launch, so why announce a delay?  (FAIL)
  • Offering a past client case study with a call to action to try your service.  “So what?”  This email is being used to convert, or assist in converting, a lead to a paying customer.  (PASS)


Email Campaign Effectiveness Step 2: Take Aim

Send the right message to the right audience

Don’t you get irritated when you get emails about things totally unrelated to you, your interests or your needs?  I’ll never forget that when I was pregnant with my daughter I somehow ended up on the AARP mailing list.  Yes I was getting invitations to an organization for seniors while I was in my 30’s.

Clearly I was NOT the right target, and although this mistake was funny others are not.  Worse still, your potential client starts to tune out everything or just unsubscribes.  Targeted campaigns improve both effectiveness and list retention.

Trying to measure the effectiveness of a campaign that is not sent to the right audience is an exercise in futility.  If only 5% of the recipients of an email are the appropriate market, and 4% of all recipients respond as desired that is actually an effective campaign.  However if 50% of the recipients are the appropriate market, and 4% respond it is not nearly as effective.  

If you currently have everyone in one big list then it’s time to start adding tags or splitting into smaller mailing lists.  The different groups should reflect the types of emails you send.  One differentiator that I use, and I recommend to all small business is a tag that indicates in someone’s status as either a prospect or current customer. 

Consider who should get your different campaigns and then create tags or lists that reflect those specific markets.  This will give you the best possible read on the results for your email marketing.


Email Campaign Effectiveness Step 3: Put Up the Bulls-eye

When you visit a gun range, the bullseye is put up BEFORE you shoot.

Putting it up after you shoot would be rather silly, wouldn’t it?  Waiting until after you send an email to determine how to track results is not better.  Before you hit send, have a clear way to track the desired results.  Take a hard look at the reporting options available from your provider.  If they can’t track what you need, it’s time to look for a new solution.  Remember bullseye goes up before shooting.

Here are just a few ways you can track results.  Go back to the answer to your “So what?” in Step 1 for ideas on what you want to happen.

  • Establishing authority on a topic – Offer only a synopsis of a relevant article or post by you in the email.  Track the recipient click through rate as an indication of interest.
  •  Sale or Special Promotion of Product – Track recipient click through to purchase.  For in person sales require a coupon from the email.
  • Offering expanded store hours for holiday shopping – Ask those who do shop during the expanded hours how they learned of the change.  You may also ask in the email if these  hours meet their needs- use a simple poll to track results.

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Email Campaign Effectiveness Step 4: Fire

Did you hit your target?

Or were you so far off you hit the target of the guy standing next to you? Dealing with a physical target it’s easy to see how close to the bullseye your shot struck.  However in real life 5% can be very good or very bad depending on the goal.

If your campaign was intended to convert a prospect to a new customer, a 5% conversion (sale) is good.  In some circles that IS a grand slam home run.  However if your campaign was targeted at new leads, encouraging them to click through and read a relevant blog post then 5% is really low. 

The first time you run a campaign consider the experience of others, in particular any information available about your industry.  Don’t forget to see what information your email campaign provider might have access to and is willing to share.  Of course the next time through you’ll have a baseline, which leads to …


Email Campaign Effectiveness Step 5: Revise and Repeat

Do a post mortem.

Don’t worry – no corpses are involved.  Even the best marketers in the business review what worked, what didn’t and how to make it better. 

Was your click through rate lower than expected?  Perhaps the topic was not of interest, the call to action not clear, or the recipients not as targeted as you thought.  If the culprit is not clear only change one thing in the next email.   Otherwise you won’t be any closer to knowing what exactly is holding you back.

Remember to review successes just as carefully.  This gives you the knowledge and experience base to replicate your success.  Even someone wildly waving a gun and shooting can get lucky.  But a trained marksman knows why and how they hit their target time and time again.

Final Thoughts

Still wondering how you can track your campaign efforts?  Why not ask your provider for feedback and ideas?


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