Email Marketing, Web Analytics and Marketing ROI: Finding a Common Language
One of the main challenges for marketers is integrating their email marketing programs with web analytics. On top of that, more companies are adopting marketing ROI. Is it necessary to define metrics and key performance indicators that go beyond email marketing in a cross-channel world?
In the early days of the Internet, measuring the impact of your online activities was very simple. Website owners were satisfied if they could monitor how much traffic they got, how many pages their visitors viewed and which pages and content were must popular. Back then, email marketers mainly monitored how much sent email reached the inbox, how many people opened them, and how often a link was clicked. Period. Unfortunately, for some businesses this is still the case and open, click and immediate conversion rates are all they (can) track.
The integration of web analytics and email marketing rarely happened, and web analytics by itself often consisted of nothing more than looking at some data that was gathered through a simple measuring tool or through server logs. Today, online marketing has a drastic impact on all aspects of our business. Online applications and interactions have become the backbone of commerce in a digital world.
Evolutions in customer behavior, media usage and communication patterns are changing the rules. There is a shift from selling to buying and more elements of the buying process are taking place online. Furthermore, people can use a huge amount of online channels to contact businesses, and they’ll do this whenever they feel like it. Finally, the Internet plays a crucial role in the way (future) customers find businesses and how they interact with them.
Integrated email marketing = common metrics and key performance indicators
In short: everything is getting connected and integrated. In other words: cross-channel. This has an important consequence on the way we track the results of email marketing campaigns: we need to speak the same measurement language across several channels. If every online marketing activity is measured differently, then it’s impossible to get a correct view on the customer’s buying journey that is by definition cross-channel as well.
Therefore, whoever wants to serve their customers professionally and wants to generate and “feed” leads through online channels – the ones that people use – must have an integrated customer and online analytics approach that goes way beyond the tactical metrics of the early days. We can’t but look at metrics and key performance indicators that tell us something about the bottom-line, and follow both the lead and the customer throughout the entire life-cycle.
Email marketing is part of a larger process in a marketing reality where channels are the function of customers, leverage, integration and business goals. Too bad that, especially in social media, we are still mainly looking at the channels, although the customer (in the broadest sense), content, context and relevance should be the main drivers.
A company-wide online marketing data approach is crucial and integrating email marketing with web analytics is not an option anymore. But exactly how does one decide which customer analytics are important? Web analytics expert Jim Sterne always advices companies to keep three things in mind when defining key performance indicators:
- Increasing revenue.
- Improving customer satisfaction.
- Lowering costs.
I think he is right. Even more: by improving customer satisfaction (in email marketing this often equals providing the right content and interactions on the right moment) we automatically increase revenue and lower costs.
Beyond tactical email marketing metrics: marketing ROI is coming your way too
However, it’s not only about the systems and metrics; it’s about people and processes as well. In email marketing, tactical metrics such as the ‘open rate’, ‘click rate’, etc., don’t suffice anymore. We need more, much more, if we want our email marketing campaigns to be integrated, scenario-driven and customer-centric. On top of metrics and key performance indicators, this includes processes to gather and combine the necessary cross-channel data, the tools to turn them into insights and the people and applications to convert these into intelligence and feed them back into our online marketing strategies and email marketing programs.
Among the more strategic metrics and key performance indicators within email marketing, we find, amongst others:
- The web analytics goals that are fulfilled after the recipient clicks a link
- Cross-channel post-click interaction metrics
- The impact of the email program on leads, sales and other goals
- Metrics that go beyond individual mailings and track the lead nurturing, customer loyalty or transaction email program as a whole
- KPI’s regarding the bottom-line and ROI, keeping Jim’s three business goals in mind
The list of metrics and KPI’s goes on, but it’s clear that simple metrics just don’t cut it anymore. A solid integration between CRM, email marketing and, depending from your business goals, marketing automation, lead generation, social media marketing, referral programs, customer retention programs etc., is important.
And the integration with web analytics is a must. It’s not a coincidence that surveys show the integration of email and web analytics/CRM rank among the top priorities of email marketers.
The challenge is finding the proper tools but most of all the metrics, KPI’s and processes that can be used beyond email marketing across cross-channel interactions. It is just a matter of a time before most businesses will adopt marketing ROI (a.k.a. Return On Marketing Investment or ROMI) as an instrument to forecast and analyze the marketing spend and mix.
Takeaway: Speaking the same language, and thus using global metrics, is an important part of making this work. You better get ready for that now and start setting up indicators that can be used for much more than merely improving your email marketing efforts.