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How Small Businesses Can Make the Most of Email Marketing Often, small businesses create email marketing campaigns with (at best) poorly defined goals. Use these tips to form clear goals and find the right tools to achieve them.

By Steve Oriola Edited by Kara McIntyre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the pandemic was the nudge they needed to embrace digital technologies, like email marketing software. Plus, new challenges like inflation and labor shortages have left small businesses lacking the time and resources to maintain a robust marketing program. A recent Act! Survey found that 69% of SMB owners handle all of their company's marketing responsibilities. Email marketing technology has quickly become a necessity for SMBs looking to keep pace with the competition.

With ROI top of mind for many of these SMB owners, it is critical to make the most of their email marketing. To do so, businesses must start by setting clear goals, then using the tools necessary to measure the success of those goals and simplify email marketing processes.

Related: Your Email Marketing Is Destined to Fail Without These 3 Essentials

SMART goals

We've all seen the acronym — successful email marketing starts with setting SMART goals that properly define and measure the goals of an email campaign. If you're unsure of what your email campaigns are delivering, first ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do you have SMART goals?
  2. Are you effectively measuring your progress?

Often, SMBs create email marketing campaigns with (at best) poorly defined goals, like "increase the awareness of a new product." While you may be able to track things like impressions, does that really determine the awareness you have created around the product?

Email marketing campaigns must be directed toward a specific, measurable outcome, like generating new leads, improving conversion rates and growing a subscriber list. Failure to properly define and track email campaign goals can lead to missed opportunities and uninformed decision-making down the line.

The metrics your team tracks should be determined by the goal of your email campaign. For example, if your goal is to increase the amount of time visitors spend on your website, you should track the overall time on site (TOS) while monitoring bounce rates to determine if page enhancements are enticing users to stay longer. If the goal is to generate leads, teams should be tracking lead source viability over time, leads by campaign type and the average number of touchpoints to conversion. To generate successful email marketing campaigns, marketers must first define clear goals and the metrics to track them.

Related: 6 Marketing Metrics Every Business Should Track

The must-track metrics

While each email campaign will require teams to track certain goal-specific metrics, there are important metrics that should be tracked in pretty much every marketing campaign.

1. Click-through rate (CTR)

This is the percentage of recipients who click on one or more links in your email. Many email marketers obsess over email open rate, but the open rate can be a misleading statistic. It is hardly a success if recipients simply open your email without clicking through to the website, white papers or other call-to-actions (CTAs) you provided. CTR gives teams a much better understanding of how compelling their content was to the recipient.

2. Conversion rate

The conversion rate of your email campaign takes the analysis a step further, indicating how many recipients both clicked on an email link and completed the desired action (trialing a product, completing a survey, filling out a form). Conversion rate is one of the most important metrics to track because it directly relates to the campaign goal. Whether you want recipients to sign up for a mailing list or watch a product video, conversion rate effectively measures how engaging and persuasive your email marketing content is.

3. Bounce rate

Bounce rates refer to the percentage of emails that weren't successfully delivered to your recipients' inboxes. Marketing teams should track both "soft" and "hard" bounces. Soft bounces are emails that can't be delivered because a recipient's inbox is full or due to some other temporary delivery problem. Hard bounces are emails that can't be delivered because the recipient's email address doesn't exist on that server.

While soft bounces usually end up with the recipient, hard bounces can be more problematic because internet service providers use your hard bounce rate to assess your reputation as a sender. So, if your company's email account has numerous hard bounces, it could be labeled as a spam account by service providers and all of your mail could then end up in spam folders.

4. Return on investment (ROI)

ROI represents how much revenue an email marketing campaign generates after costs. For example, if an email marketing campaign costs $100 to implement and generates $2,000 in additional sales for your company, you make $1,900 and your ROI is 1,900%. It is important to calculate every cost related to your email marketing campaign throughout its duration to ensure accuracy (like the cost of the headcount that writes and sends the emails).

While not every email marketing campaign will generate a 1,900% ROI, teams that consistently track it and other must-track metrics will be able to identify needs and continue to make improvements to campaigns based on data.

Related: How to Start Using Email to Market Your Small Business

Simplifying email marketing metrics

Whether they are goal-specific metrics or metrics you should track during every email marketing campaign, there is a lot of data to manage. Marketing teams that can simplify the gathering and analysis aspect of email marketing metrics will avoid valuable data slipping through the cracks or time wasted on unprofitable campaigns.

One way to organize email marketing metrics and streamline analysis is by integrating email marketing tools with CRM software. Utilizing CRM with email marketing allows teams to easily access contact information, leave notes or update customer history directly in their contact information and, most importantly, to build targeted email lists.

By integrating email marketing with CRM, teams can optimize an end-to-end email marketing campaign, from building the audiences to gathering and analysis of key metrics, all from a single platform. This eliminates the need to transfer data from one solution to another — which increases the chances of lost or overlooked data — and creates a centralized view of the entire email marketing campaign.

With ongoing challenges, the ability to optimize email marketing campaigns can help SMBs save money while gaining a competitive edge. SMBs that take the time to set clear goals, understand how to measure the success of those goals and simplify the analysis of key metrics will not only see continued improvements in their email marketing efforts but realize a positive impact on their company's bottom line.

Steve Oriola

CEO of Act!

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