Marketers can take advantage of data to build effective email marketing campaigns tailored to their target audience.

Studying and tracking data over time reveals what does and doesn’t work. And marketers can use a/b testing to rectify mistakes, overcome issues, and achieve better results.

Sourcing data to personalize campaigns is simple enough thanks to the proliferation of reporting tools in most email marketing platforms. However, knowing how to actually put the information to good use is more complicated.

In this post, I explore how you can implement data into your email marketing strategy to improve performance and get stronger results.

Measuring Email Marketing Campaigns to Gauge Performance and Identify Opportunities

You want to know how customers react to email marketing campaigns and what actions they take if any. As a marketer, you have access to a considerable amount of data in your marketing channels and platforms, but not all of it will be of use to you.

The first thing you should do when measuring your email campaign’s success is to identify your goals.

Is the aim to drive interest in a forthcoming product by encouraging new subscribers or existing customers to register for a live-streamed demonstration? Do you want to increase sales of low-value products through a flash sale? Are you looking to gain feedback from customers through a brief questionnaire, perhaps included with a welcome email or email newsletter?

Understanding the goals of any email marketing campaign helps small businesses establish benchmarks and metrics. It’s vital to be clear on both to ensure you measure results accurately. You can see how specific emails achieve goals and explore what changes you can make if they don’t.

Choosing the Most Effective Metrics to Measure Performance

Business owners use metrics to measure email list performance and assess the varying response-types of emails get.

These responses range from the most basic, such as email open rates, click-through rates, and bounce rates, to conversion rates, list growth rates, spam complaints, and unsubscribe rates. Each action is important in a unique way. For example, open rates tell you the number of subscribers who opened the emails after seeing them in their inbox. That’s an achievement in itself, considering how many emails we’re all getting. But, what made the individual open your email above something else in their inbox?

The email open rate doesn’t tell you enough about how email subscribers are engaging with messages. Is the individual looking at the message but taking no further action? How will you know?

The click-through rates and conversion rates come into play here, and tell you what you need to know. If a subscriber clicks on a link to watch a video, read a blog post, view a product, or sign up for a webinar — that means something in the email is done right. The email piqued their interest in the first place.

But again, depending on the quality of the landing page and the content or products linked to — a click doesn’t necessarily translate into success. Conversion rates, on the other hand, tell you the number of subscribers who took the desired action after clicking through.

Studying these metrics will reveal insights into the quality of a website or other elements of the customer experience. For example, if promotional emails attract an impressive number of click-through rates but poor conversion rates, there may be a problem with the landing page or product catalog.

In this case, the marketing is doing its job, but flaws outside of the emails themselves are to blame.

Another critical step is to establish benchmarks, to see how your engagement levels compare to industry and previous averages. Measuring your email marketing efforts against the averages helps gauge a campaign’s success. It also shows the specific areas that demand attention, such as open rates or bounce rates.

Breaking Audiences into Segments to Boost Email Relevance

Finding the right email marketing services can be tricky. One way you know you have a good email provider if it has strong segmentation functionality.

Segmenting audiences makes targeting customers with relevant, engaging emails much easier. It’s more effective than blasting every subscriber with identical messages and hoping enough of them take action to justify the effort.

Marketers can use various types of data to segment audiences for their email marketing campaigns. One of the most important is customers’ transactional activities — what have they bought, how many purchases have they made, what’s their average order value, and how much have they spent in total?

You’ll learn which customers are the most valuable and which have yet to make a purchase.

Another key type of data is their personal details: name, age, gender, and location. You might get this direct at the point of subscription or when customers make a purchase.

This data means marketers can send emails targeted to different age groups, genders, and geographical areas. For example, there may be a flash sale on women’s clothing or an event geared toward younger audiences. Segmenting ensures they’re only marketed to people most likely to show an interest.

The next type of data relates to customer behavior. How many emails do they tend to open and take action on? How many times have they opt-in or make a purchase? Do they abandon their carts frequently?

Subscribers with high click-through rates but no conversions may need a little push, such as a discount or free shipping.

Personalizing Email Marketing Campaigns to Boost Engagement

Personalization is the best way to make sure emails are relevant to subscribers and their interests.

Something as simple as adding the recipient’s name in the subject line makes a positive impact. Using the name in the subject line is shown to grow open rates from an average of 15.70 percent to 18.30 percent, while working “free” into the subject line makes an email 10 percent more likely to be opened, too.

The content of the email should be tailored to the target segment carefully. Consumers are more likely to shop with companies that include relevant offers and recommendations.

Personalization may not always bring immediate, transformative results. But, it can make subscribers feel more valued by a brand, rather than just another faceless buyer.

Follow the tips above to launch a data-driven email marketing campaign with the potential to secure higher engagement, conversions, and loyalty.

Take advantage of relevant data to know your target audience better and cultivate stronger relationships with existing and prospective customers. Once you’ve established goals, chosen metrics, and put benchmarking into place, you can continue to track performance, chart progress, and spot improvement opportunities over time.

Getting email marketing campaigns right takes time and commitment, but it will pay off down the line, with more customers and greater profit.

John Boitnott

CEO, Boitnott Consulting LLC

A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked at TV, print, radio and Internet companies for 25 years. He's an advisor at StartupGrind and has written for BusinessInsider, Fortune, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and Venturebeat. You can see his latest work on his blog, jboitnott.com