Sure, you “know” it is;  you can just feel it in your bones.  Plus there’s the odd war story of the customer who tells you they followed your email series for months, and used it as part of the justification for their purchase decision.

Trouble is…

  • keeping that series rolling takes a significant, very visible investment of time;  and
  • your boss wants hard numbers, not just that “warm feeling”.

So, how can you measure the true value of that weekly (or thereabouts) email newsletter?  First, you’ll want to look at…the basics;   e.g., how many:

  • received the newsletter
  • opened it (of those who received)
  • clicked through to read more on the topic
  • unsubscribed
  • were undelivered (hard & soft bounces)

What you’re interested in is not so much the absolute numbers, but changes from issue to issue;  these will reveal good and poor practices, and also reveal the growth of your subscriber pool.

Then there are the more advanced metrics, which include…

  • Per-link clickthroughs;  these will help you understand which of the information options were the most relevant.  Also, you can trace these through to see which resulted in additional actions, such as downloading a white paper or viewing an online demo.
  • Reach, or how many subscribers opened at least one email over some period of time.  This is important, as even “good” subscribers do not open every newsletter;  so reach gives you a better measure of true impact than the open rate for any one issue.
  • Subscribes and unsubscribes can tell you more than the net list growth.  If you are gaining and losing many people every time you send out a newsletter, it may be because the content isn’t what readers expect or simply isn’t deemed useful.
  • Average reader lead score (assuming you’ve followed our earlier advice and are doing some form of lead scoring).  The higher the score, presumably the more relevant your emails are to your target audience.
  • And there’s also soft data, such as the number of readers who send in comments or questions, or analysts who quote from or write about your articles.  Difficult to quantify further, but these things clearly indicate a more impactful program than one where such things don’t happen.

With your metrics in place, you’re now ready to measure your program’s value and engage in testing for continuous improvement.  On measurement, simply take the revenue due to readers/subscribers, subtract the cost of running your email campaign, and then divide by that same cost (investment) to get your program’s ROI.  In testing, you’ll want to test the length, content, frequency and the subject lines of your emails …all of which can have a surprisingly strong impact on open and click-through rates.

As Maria says, email newsletters take significant time to create;  so it’s worth the effort to capture the results, calculate their impact on revenue, and test/optimize to keep improving on their success.  Further guidance is no doubt available from your Web marketing professionals.