Get More from Your Email Data

Many organizations fail to take advantage of their data from email campaigns. Too often those who are in charge of these campaigns only look at each of their email’s statistics in isolation if at all and in doing so waste an opportunity to improve their email tactics by looking at their output as a whole.

Most of the major mass email tools provide important statistics for every email that is sent out. Unfortunately many of these tools fall short of providing easy ways to look at data over time the way that web analytics software (ie. Google Analytics) does.

I suggest using a spreadsheet to keep track of the results of each email blast. Below is a sample spreadsheet (click for larger view):

This particular spreadsheet contains the following data:

  • Date – The date that the email was sent.
  • ID – This is an internal reference name for the mailing.
  • Type – What category of email was it? Action alert, fundraising ask, event invitation, etc.
  • Action – What action do you want the recipients of the email to take? Sign an online petition, RSVP for an event, donate, write a letter to an elected official or newspaper, etc.
  • Subject Line – The actual subject line from the email blast.
  • From – The text used for who the email is from. It may be just a person’s name, a name and then the organization, etc.
  • Universe Parameters – What was the targeting for the blast? Full list, distance from zip code, previous donors, county, etc.
  • Number of Recipients – The size of the blast universe.
  • Day of Week – The day of the week the blast was sent: Sun.–Sat.
  • Time of Day – The time that the email blast was sent. I prefer to use 24-hour military over the 12-hour clock.
  • Open Rate (24) – The open rate after 24 hours. The time frame can be whatever you prefer, but it is important to choose a time and stick with it in order to accurately compare blasts.
  • Click Rate (24) – The clickthrough rate after 24 hours. What percentage of people clicked your action links?
  • Action Rate (24) – The percentage of recipients that took the desired action.
  • Unsubscribe Rate (24) – The percentage of unsubcribes from the email link.
  • New Sign-Ups (24) – The number of new email subscriptions within 24 hours. Your mailing service may or may not track new subscriptions from forwards, etc., but you can measure list growth during that period generally to see if there are spikes in sign-ups following certain actions.

Your spreadsheet can include any fields for data that you are able to track on each email. For example, you may want a field to enter what issue an action alert covers.

As you send more mailings and input more data you will be able to use it to see the strengths and weakness of your email program and use it to improve. For example, you may find that mailings sent on Fridays have a much lower open rate than Wednesdays, or that the response is higher when the mailing comes from a different name.

If you do a lot of fundraising mailings, you may also want to create a second sheet that includes total dollars raised, number of donations, and average donation amount.

In addition to the spreadsheet, it is a good idea to keep a copy of every email that is sent out in an organized folder. If you are serious about improving your email results, I would include a page with each email with some statistics and notes. For example, the information that was put into the spreadsheet as well as more specific information particular to that email: comparative clickthrough rates for each link and/or clickable graphic, unsubscribe comments, etc.

Finally, with your compiled data you should be able to come up with some good A/B tests to further improve your data about your email campaign and increase the response rates on future mailings.