As a virtual assistant who runs an online business and probably uses e-mail marketing as part of his/her marketing strategy, using analytical tools is important because how else are you going to know if you are on track and meeting your marketing goals? Or how are you supposed to know if your e-mail campaigns are working?

Now I don’t think the average virtual assistant intentionally overlooks this necessary part of his or her business on purpose. I think you understand that it has to be done but perhaps you are unsure of what it is that is to be measured. Or perhaps you are measuring statistics but do not know what is considered to be a “good” statistic. For example, do you know what is an acceptable e-mail broadcast open rate and what is an exceptional open rate for this industry?

Whether it’s a newsletter or a simple broadcast e-mail, most of the autoresponder programs have a tracking feature so that you can see statistics of your e-mail campaigns. For this article, I’m going to explain a few marketing metrics using Aweber.

In Aweber, click on the Messages tab, then click on Broadcast. You will see all of the sent broadcasts. This one screen can tell you many things. First, you can see if your e-mails are bouncing (unable to be delivered due to software and/or hardware issues of the receiver), complaints, percentage of “Opens,” and number of “Clicks.”

Bounces

Bounces (and unsubscribes for that matter) are part and parcel of e-mail marketing and will occur even with the cleanest and most targeted lists. If the rate is too high, it is good to understand why these bounces are happening and to take steps to minimize the percentage rate.

There are two types of bounces: soft bounce and hard bounce. A soft bounce means that the address was found but the delivery attempt failed due to other factors. A soft bounce may include: inactive account, temporary domain failure, out of office reply, mailbox full, and e-mail limit has been exceeded.

A hard bounce is an attempt to send an e-mail to an address that has failed typically because of bad address syntax (missing the “@” or period), unknown user, unknown domain, or invalid address.

Just realize that soft bounces can occur for a variety of reasons: people move, change jobs, graduate college, change e-mail addresses, try out a new free e-mail service, change their ISPs, etc. and they don’t always remember to update their account information with their newsletter providers. In fact, statistics from the research marketing firm NFO WorldGroups show that there is a 31% turnover rate in e-mail addresses over a 12-month period.

An average bounce back rate for a list that is mailed regularly (at least once per month) can range from 2% – 5%. An average bounce back rate to a list that is mailed less regularly can range from 5% – 13%. My advice is to just monitor this statistic to make sure your e-mails are being delivered.

Opens

Opens refer to the percentage of people who were sent the e-mail actually opened the e-mail. Also, an open rate is only valid for people who receive HTML e-mails.

It is not as easy to provide “average” statistics for open rates because industry averages vary and because each list has its unique characteristics. However, industry metrics at least let you see if you’re way off with your numbers. If the average open rate in your sector is 40% and you’re getting 10%, you know you have a problem. If you’re getting 70%, you know you’re doing quite well.

According to Epsilon.com (October 2009), the average open rate is 22.2% across multiple industries. Here are stats from one e-mail broadcasting company showing that the e-mail open rate for the average freelancer is 32.95%. If your open rates are lower than the industry average, then here are some things you can look at:

1. Subject lines – In Aweber, you can do a “split test” using different subject lines to see how one performs against the other. It could be that your subscribers prefer personalization (adding a first name in the subject line), the subject lines are not motivating them to open the e-mail, or they may be too spammy.

2. Timing – I wouldn’t suggest that you all of a sudden change your newsletter delivery day as you may throw off subscribers, but you can always do a split test with the time of day you are sending your newsletters or e-mails. For example, in one split test noticed that when I sent an e-mail later in the afternoon, around 2-3 pm Eastern Time, I enjoyed a higher open rate (perhaps for the simple fact that I am not competing with the morning “spam” mails).

3. Try adding images – Try adding a little color or images if you are just sending out HTML e-mails that contain only texts and hyperlinks. Try adding your picture!

Aweber has a lot of good blog posts and articles about this topic, so just check your list manager’s knowledgebase for tips. To get started, get familiar with your program’s analytics and reporting features so that you can gauge the effectiveness of your e-mail broadcasts and campaigns. Just remember not to follow every single suggestion or you may break your readers’ expectations by changing a lot at once.

To your marketing success,

P.S. Learn more about marketing metrics, as well as measuring click-through rates and how to use Google Analytics, in my Business Freedom Guide training program.