How to win at Email Marketing

Tonight I saw a blurb on TechCrunch about a new email marketing company called Iterable raising a seed round, and it got me thinking: email marketing is a (relatively) old medium, so what is new about Iterable’s approach?

Based on a surface level review, I didn’t see anything material that would differentiate them from ExactTarget (disclaimer: I am currently an employee at, parent company of ExactTarget), ConstantContact, or others of that ilk. However, all of these companies seem to focus on optimizing effectiveness in certain areas, which can be construed as the key metrics for winning at email marketing.

Of course, the metrics to use for measuring a campaign should naturally vary depending on the goals of the campaign (Drive incremental sales? Increase awareness and visits to your site?). In other words, first define the goal of sending this email, and then focus on measuring and optimizing towards the metrics that are important for that goal.

Key metrics include:

1. Open Rate

Open rate can be easily tracked via an embedded pixel, letting you know just how many recipients are actually opening your email. In a B2B context, you can generally expect between a 10-15% open rate. Tracking open rates can be very useful for A/B testing purposes, trending, and other comparative analyses, but CTR is more valuable on a standalone basis.

2. Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

CTR is another metric that is frequently top of mind, and is the intermediate step in the funnel between “open” and “conversion”. This represents the percentage of recipients who not only open the email, but also click your link. In a B2B context, you can expect between 2-5% CTR (this will usually be lower in a B2C context).

3. Conversion Rate

Conversion rates essentially measure the effectiveness of your email- did it drive the intended behavior that you were targeting? This can be measured in terms of the percentage of recipients who subscribe, download, or buy from you, per the messaging in your email.

4. Bounce Rate

Bounce rates indicate the percentage of emails that go undelivered. There are two types: “soft bounces” and “hard bounces”. Soft bounces occur when an email is not delivered due to a temporary issue like a full inbox or server problem. Hard bounces are much more serious, since they indicate a faulty target- an inactive email address, nonexistent domain, etc. Hard bounces are bad not only because they represent a worthless contact, but also because ISPs see numerous hard bounces as a flag of spamming activity- so it is important to scrub your list and maintain data quality.

5. Email Forwarding Rate

Tracking email forwarding rates is similar to tracking likes or shares on social media- it can represent hidden value in your campaign and additional “free” exposure.

6. ROI

Ultimately, you are sending these emails because you want to promote your business and make money, right? It only makes sense to build an accurate process for tracking how many sales are actually driven by the email marketing campaign, and weigh this against the costs of running the campaign.

In the pursuit of defining the purpose of the campaign and measuring/optimizing towards that goal, you can implement a number of tactics to increase the effectiveness of each campaign and each individual email. There is a great infographic on these tactics that wouldn’t load properly on the blog, but you can view it here.


Email Marketing Startup Iterable Raises $1.2M

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