Select the Statistics That Truly Matter
But while common sense tells us that campaign success should be measured in tangible results, many list brokers and broadcast vendors are caught up more in technical terminology and the statistics of statistics.
So what matters most about your e-marketing campaign? On what should you focus? Open rates, click-throughs, bounce-backs/undeliverables and opt-out rates at best can paint an incomplete and often misleading picture of how your broadcast performed. With new technology and tougher spam guidelines narrowing the margins, trying to interpret anything other than conversions is almost futile.
To begin with, bounce-back and undeliverable codes don't necessarily represent the status of an e-mail address. E-mail software is generally configured by an administrator to meet specific standards, and bounce codes might simply reflect downed hardware/ISP or an account that is over quota, not a bad address. However, hard and soft bounces should be noted when trying to assess broadcast frequency for ongoing campaigns, and should not exceed 3 percent for house lists.
With only HTML e-mails capable of reporting an open rate, it's difficult to see the significance of any associated number, particularly since it's currently impossible to differentiate between previews, such as when an e-mail pops open in the preview pane of Outlook, and when a recipient actually opens your e-mail.
On the other hand, click-through rates - which typically are reported by vendors as a percentage, hopefully of opens and not total sent - can provide terrific insight when evaluating rented lists and reviewing which of your links were clicked.
That brings us to the most delicate and controversial character of the bunch: opt-out rates. With so much care taken these days to ensure that e-mail does not arrive unsolicited, an opt-out rate might be the most meaningless of factors.
After all, most people never take the time to opt out. Whether recipients are unwilling because of a prior experience ("It didn't work the last time I unsubscribed") or have chosen not to alert the sender that they've hit a legitimate address with a person on the other end, the option to opt out may not be used even when an e-mail is unwanted.
In the end, conversions - when recipients complete the desired action - are the most important thing to watch, even if they result only in a lift in brand awareness. With as much as 25 percent of e-mail filtered and/or redirected, there's no way to know with any degree of certainty what happens to your message after it's been sent, and figures that are touted by vendors must always be approached questioningly. Though broadcast e-mail offers marketers a brave new opportunity to initiate and track campaigns, it's best to let results, not vendors, do the talking.