Hydrate. Caffeinate. Grab your blue light glasses because this will take some time.
This is Part 2 of the series “If you’re planning to make money with email this year, here are 3 things to do every year.”
Part 2: Review your metrics
If you haven’t looked at your email metrics before, or don’t know where to start, well then you’re in the right place. This might feel intimidating and uncomfortable, but in the words of Holly Whitaker, who wrote one of my favorite books (Quit Like a Woman), when we taste discomfort and want to run is when the actual work starts.
Our goal here is simple: Find out what’s working and do more of it.
Or on the flip side: Find out what’s NOT working and stop doing it
Big companies do this week after week. They know there is insight in the numbers. The combination of hard facts on paper (or spreadsheets) and your intuition will give you direction for your email list.
Small changes can add up to more opens. More engagement. More money.
Maybe something’s broken and you don’t even know it. Maybe something worked amazing and you don’t even know it. Digging into a few key metrics in a few key places will give you the answers.
Here are the four key things to review:
- Overall metrics – to see the general health of your email list
- Sequence/Automation metrics – to see how your automated “set it and forget it” emails are performing
- Seasonal promotions – take a top level view of what worked best, what flopped
- Newsletters/Weekly Emails – are there any themes you see for what worked best, what flopped. What type of emails got the highest opens/clicks.
My advice is to do this once a year at a minimum.
#1: Overall metrics
Our goal is to have overall open rate of at least 20%, with a 2% click rate. We want our unsubscribes to be under 2% and bounces less than 1%.
The reason for these overall goals is your email list gets a deliverability score, similar to a credit score in the U.S. Your score goes up with more opens and clicks, and your score goes down with more bounces and unsubscribes, and inactive names who never open your emails.
For example, if you miss a payment on your credit card, it’s a small ding, similar to getting a bounce rate over 1%. Your email provider doesn’t want you to send emails to a bunch of bad addresses, because it impacts their entire program and other people on their platform (you often share a host with many other companies).
If you do something like send tens of thousands of emails when you haven’t sent an email in months, and it leads to a large bounce and unsubscribe rate, that’s more like a big ding of Bankruptcy, and can get you flagged as a spammer, potentially shutting down your ability to email.
This isn’t to scare you, it’s just to make you aware that it’s important to check out your overall performance and spot any flags before they become a larger problem.
Want to learn more about deliverability? Here’s a great article from ConvertKit that explains more about what email providers (like ConvertKit, Mailchimp) are looking for.
So what should you do if you’re NOT meeting the goal metrics?
High Bounce Rate:
Check things at the top of your funnel. Are you getting spammy leads? Why? Do you need to change the way you opt people in to your list? One immediate change is to implement a Double Opt In, which requires someone to confirm their email address before you add them to your list.
High Unsubscribe Rate:
Take a step back and consider why people are unsubscribing. Is your content not what they were expecting? Do you need to do a better job communicating what they will get from you for being on your list? Are you sending way too many promotions and not delivering any value? Are you sending too many emails? Or maybe you’re not keeping in touch enough and they forgot who you are?
Not sure if you have the right frequency or if you’re content is resonating? Don’t be afraid to ask your subscribers their preference. Survey them, or send an email and ask them to reply.
Low Open Rates:
If your combined open rate is less than 20%, take a look at the following:
- Content: are you only sending promotions? Mix in engaging, helpful content or your subscribers will tune out over time.
- Frequency: are you emailing in a consistent pattern? If you’re stopping and starting a lot, your subscribers might forget who you are or tune out completely and stop opening your emails.
- Subject lines: Assuming you’re sending relevant, engaging content, the next key to getting your emails opened is to write great subject lines.
Struggling to write subject lines? Check out my free Google Sheet where I document my best subject lines and ones that stand out in my inbox. This will give you some inspiration.
Low Click Rates:
To increase your click rate, try the following:
- Make sure you are calling out the benefit and promoting why someone should click through. Be very clear about the value and what they will get by clicking through to your content / link.
- Put your links on a separate line so they stand out. Majority of people are checking email on their mobile device, so it’s important you make the links easy to read and not hidden in a long paragraph.
- Repeat your links. Put in multiple places in the body of your email. Someone may not click at the first link, but as they read your email and get more engaged, decide to click through towards the end.
#2: Look over your Sequences/Automations
It’s important to review your automations at least once a year. If you have a high volume of emails, this should be done monthly quarterly, but everyone should do this once a year at a minimum.
Sequences are also called funnels or automations — these are the automated series of emails you a subscriber based on their status or actions.
For example, you might have a Welcome Sequence, Sales Sequence, Onboarding Sequence, Winback Sequence, etc.
An important one to review is your Welcome Sequence, so we’ll cover this in detail.
Your Welcome sequence should have a much higher open rate than your overall metrics and seasonal promotions / weekly newsletters.
Since these emails are going to brand new people, you should aim for at least a 30% open rate. If your list size is less than 1,000, aim for 50-60%.
The open rate will decline the further someone moves along your sequence, but if you’re not seeing strong open rates in the first week, you likely need to make some changes.
Here’s an example from one of my clients. I grayed out the specific information (timing, content), but this shows you a fully executed sequence and how the open rate declines over time. You can also tell which emails are promotional by the lower click rate vs. those that are giving educational/free value.
Their list size is in the 5,000-10,000 range, to give you an idea. The average open rate is 43% for the entire sequence, with a click rate of 11.7%. The conversion rate is also very high, so I’m happy with the results, but I’ll still dive into the specifics.
There will always be something to optimize. That said, don’t get too crazy and make so many changes so often that you don’t get a baseline. Let things percolate, then come back and adjust.
Here’s what I see and these are the actions I will take:
- The 5th and 6th emails have the lowest open rate. >> check the subject line
- The 6th email has the lowest click rate >> why? Do I need to adjust the copy, or is there burn out happening at this stage in the sequence?
- Check #9, the last email. This would typically have a lower open rate since it’s at the end, but it has a higher open rate than the previous emails. Should this be moved up in the sequence, because clearly there is high interest.
- Lastly, I will read through the entire sequence with fresh eyes and see if there are any copy improvements or other things that stand out to me, like adding in fresh testimonials or any tweaks to reflect changes to the business.
Tip: If you’re planning to create a Welcome Sequence, start with 2-3 emails and then build onto it as you go. Don’t wait to have it all figured out, it’s something you can continue to build over time. This example includes 9 emails, but it started with 3. Also, you might decide to have 2 or 3 emails total and that works too (that’s what I currently have set up).
#3: Seasonal Promotions
Now’s a great time to look back and see which promotions had the best performance and which ones didn’t.
Look to see which emails had the best open rates and conversion, as well as what had the highest unsubscribe rate.
Which subject lines worked best? Did anything surprise you?
For example, this year I tried a new promotional email in a New Years series for my client. The subject line was “Who I DON’T want inside <business name>”.
Not only did this have the highest open rate in the series, but it drove the most sales.
If you’ve been running promotions for a couple years, it’s a good time to look at your YOY (year over year) performance. Did you increase revenue, adjust timing, etc.?
One adjustment I made for a client was to have them start Black Friday early, a week and a half ahead of the actual date. This got us out ahead of the big brands and more visibility in the inbox vs. competing on Black Friday. I noticed this trend happening with big business too. Everyone is starting earlier. These are the things to note on your report or promotion spreadsheet (wherever you document or plan your promotions) so as you plan this upcoming year, you can remember these details.
I used to do this same exercise at Bowflex, planning million dollar deals. If you take the time now to review what worked and what didn’t, and leave yourself some notes, you can optimize your plan for the upcoming year (and remember the reasons why).
Other things to look for:
- Frequency: Did you increase the number of emails you sent for promotions, sending 4 or 8 emails vs. just 2 or 3 for the sale and how did that impact conversion?
- Was there a special time of the year you tried a new offer that worked? Or didn’t work?
Tip: Make up your own random holiday or event. We made up the “Sasquatch Sale” at Bowflex, because we were in the Evergreen state of Washington where all the Sasquatch live. My team rented a Sasquatch suit, and went out in the woods to take photos pumping iron with Bowflex SelectTechs. It was completely random, our customers loved it and it was a fresh spin from the usual “Memorial Day Sale”.
#4: Newsletters/Weekly Emails
Look back at your weekly emails (broadcasts, newsletters – whatever you’d like to call them) and see what had the best open rates, clicks, or highest unsubscribes.
Categorize your emails and look to see which types of emails your audience responded to.
Categorize them by:
- Teaching emails – sending a blog, how to, etc
- Life Update – did you move, get a new job, etc
- Tell a Story – sharing something that happened and inspiration
- Give your POV on a current topic – take a stance, often polarizing
- Debunk a Popular myth – debunk something popular you don’t agree with/have facts on
Once you have them categorized, you can see the open rates by type of email and get a picture of what’s working and what’s not.
For example, I emailed my audience my POV on a current topic: “Should you stop promoting right now?” I sent this during the horrific murder of George Floyd. I shared my advice on whether it was ok to keep running your promotions, or keep emailing your audience. It was the highest open rate of all my weekly emails AND I had the most replies back (another key metric, but one you’ll have to track manually).
Was I nervous stepping out and voicing my opinion? Yes. Did my audience want this? Yes.
If you only send Teaching emails, I encourage you to try one of the other categories listed above. These will help your audience get to know you better and increase engagement.
Wondering what was in Part 1? Click here to find out why your Lead Magnet matters so much and how to make one people actually want.
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