If you’ve worked in marketing for any length of time, you’ve likely seen your fair share of marketing trends. But as trends fade in and out, several marketing strategies have truly stood the test of time. One such strategy is email marketing. Consider these statistics:
- In 2017, global e-mail usersamounted to 3.7 billion users. This figure is set to grow to 4.1 billion users in 2021 (source).
- Email has a median ROI of 122% – over 4x higher than other marketing formats including social media, direct mail, and paid search (source).
- 89% marketers cite email as their primary channelfor lead generation (source).
So, if you’re among those who claim email marketing is dead, it’s time to reassess your email marketing program—and today we teach you how. Keep reading as we explore the ins and outs of an email marketing audit.
What is an email marketing audit?
In the simplest of terms, an email marketing audit is the process of analyzing each of the factors that influence email marketing success. A thorough email marketing audit can help you pinpoint issues with your send lists, your timing, your content, and so much more.
Although many marketers wait until a problem arises to initiate an audit, its considered best practice to audit your email program at least once a year—even if everything seems to be going well. Doing so can help you scale your successes, limit your failures, and improve the relationship you have with your customers and email subscribers.
Now that we’ve covered the what and the why, let’s jump into the how.
What should I look at during an email marketing audit?
There are many moving pieces that make up an email marketing program—the more complex your email marketing campaigns are, the more complex your audit will be. Fortunately, there are common threads that run through nearly every email campaign—and we’ve outlined those for you today.
So without further ado, let’s get into the factors you must analyze during an email marketing audit.
1. Email workflow and processes.
At a large or even medium-sized company, there may be a variety of emails deployed daily—some automatically, some pre-planned, some directed at customers, some detailing new product releases—and so on and so forth. As your email marketing program grows, so does the risk of error.
For this reason, we recommend you start your email marketing audit at the very beginning, by looking at your workflow. To do so, ask yourself the following questions:
- How does our average email campaign go from idea to implementation?
- Do we have written documentation of this workflow?
- If not, what are the different phases of the process?
- Is this process the same for every single type of email campaign?
- Who is responsible for each piece of the process? And, what do their responsibilities entail?
Picking apart your workflow does several things. First, it allows you to identify problems and inefficiencies. Second, it gives you the chance to streamline hiccups in the process and correct any errors you uncover. Lastly, it gives you a good idea of the resources you’re working with—including vital personnel and tools.
2. Email marketing infrastructure.
Here we’re referring to the basic technological and physical setup every company needs to ensure their emails hit the right inboxes when they’re supposed to. Your email marketing infrastructure is made up of the following:
- Dedicated IP Address and IP Reputation
- DNS Records
- Reply and Response Addresses
- Standardized and Required Links
It’s critical to regularly check that each of these items is in place and functioning properly. Otherwise, you risk dirtying your email reputation and tanking your email marketing program all together.
3. Data quality.
Every item on this checklist might be in perfect order—but if you’re working with outdated or incorrect email lists, your email marketing program will never be a success. And, unfortunately, email data decays rapidly. Consider these statistics (source):
- 40% of email users change their email address at least once every two years.
- 15% of email users change their email address one or more times a year.
- 25-33% of email addressed become outdated every year.
So even if you diligently check your email marketing data once a year, chances are, you’re too late—your data has already become outdated. And, this isn’t just a matter of reaching your prospects and customers, using bad email lists is the fastest way to ruin your email reputation. For this reason, we recommend placing special priority on your email database.
We don’t have time to cover the finer details of marketing data quality in this post, but you can learn more here: The Real Value of Email Hygiene: A Marketer’s Guide.
4. Email lists and audience segmentation.
Aside from list quality, you should also take a look at how you segment your email lists. As most marketers know, the right email segmentation can drastically improve your email marketing results. In fact, segmented email campaigns generate 14.64% more opens and 59.99% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns (source).
Although there’s no right or wrong way to segment your email lists, there are few things to investigate during your email marketing audit. Consider asking yourself the following:
- When’s the last time I switched up my email segmentation strategy?
- Is my email segmentation strategy still accurate?
- Can I get more specific with my segmentation?
Segmentation isn’t something you can just set up once and generate results for the rest of time. Successful email list segmentation requires constant monitoring and testing.
5. Subject lines.
As with any aspect of your email marketing strategy, it’s easy to get in a rut when it comes to subject lines. Maybe something worked once so you ran with it, or maybe you don’t see a significant difference when you switch things up so you think, “Does my subject line really matter that much?”
The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Your subject line can single-handedly make or break your open rates. The best way to analyze your subject lines is to export them into a spreadsheet and sort each campaign by the open rate. Then, work to identify commonalities between the subject lines that were most successful and those that didn’t do as well.
6. Sender name and address.
Do you use a consistent sender for your marketing campaigns? If not, analyze the success of your various campaigns by sender name and email. Is there one that generally performs better? If so, try to determine why. Is there something more trustworthy about that particular sender?
7. Email copy.
Once a marketing email has been opened, you rely on your copy to get your point across and inspire some sort of action. Therefore, email copy analysis is an essential step in your email marketing audit. Take a look at your best performing emails and ask yourself the following:
- Are there any commonalities between the copy in my best performing emails?
- Is there a certain length of text that does best?
- Does my audience prefer longer paragraphs or shorter paragraphs?
- What tone do I use in my best emails?
This line of questioning will ultimately help you figure out which elements of your email copy to keep and which you should test.
8. Email design and creative.
As with other email elements, you must find the designs and templates that work best with your audience. However, if an email isn’t performing well, it might not be the design itself, it might be a device issue or it might be coded incorrectly. These are the issues you should be looking for during your email marketing audit. Use the following questions to guide your thought processes:
- Does my audience prefer plain text or image-based emails?
- Do my images take a long time to load?
- Do my images load correctly?
- Are my designs optimized for all devices and email clients?
- How do my emails look on a mobile phone?
Of course, what works visually for one audience, may not be best for another segment of your audience. Be sure to test each of your variables and use data to inform your decision making.
Although your CTA can fall under both email copy and email creative, we feel it’s important enough to have its own section in this blog post. Here’s why: More than 90% of visitors who read your headline also read your CTA copy (source). Therefore, if your CTA isn’t optimized or functioning properly, it could be doing significant damage to your email results.
For this reason, we recommend combing through your active email campaigns, and testing each of your CTAs—first to see if they’re working. Then, take a look at which CTAs work the best and which don’t perform so well. Using that information, run tests on future campaigns to generate better results.
10.Email schedule, timing, and cadence.
The next part of your email marketing audit is to check on the timing and cadence of your email sends. Even if all other elements of your campaigns are perfect, timing can ruin everything. If you send to the same audience too often, you risk annoying them. If you send too infrequently, they may not recognize or remember your brand and unsubscribe.
It’s also important to consider time-of-day—do your results improve when you send at a certain time? Analyze your email marketing reports to determine optimal send times.
11.Automated email responses and drip campaigns.
Lastly, take a look at any automated responses or campaigns you have running. Often, marketers set up automated responses to a particular action and then promptly forget about them. By the time you revisit your automated campaigns, they may contain broken links, inaccuracies, old branding and so much more.
Remember, any time you make significant changes to your business website, check in on the automated campaigns you have running. This will prevent emails containing major errors from being deployed.
12.Email analytics and performance metrics.
Of course, a successful email marketing audit is contingent on accurate marketing metrics. As part of your audit workflow, confirm the accuracy of the metrics and analytics you are using to measure email marketing success. Any errors can lead to misinformed decision-making and poorly built strategy.
13.Email service provider.
Another critical step of your email marketing audit is to audit your email service provider. As technology evolves, you must make sure your email provider does, too. So, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you generally happy with your current provider?
- Does your particular provider have a robust feature set?
- Are there features your provider doesn’t have that you wish they did?
- How expensive is your email service provider and do you feel it’s valuable enough to justify?
- Do you often struggle to perform simple tasks with your email service provider?
- Are there inefficiencies that another provider could potentially solve?
Although it may seem like a hassle to switch email service providers, if you’re unhappy or struggling with an outdated provider, there are many good options available to you. A new email service provider could be the one change you need to turn your email marketing results around.
As you make your way through this checklist, take detailed notes and keep track of the many different elements of your email marketing program that you’d like to test or change. As with any type of marketing audit, the information you uncover will be useless unless you turn it into action. It’s not enough to go through the motions, you must make real changes to your email marketing efforts in order to see results.
If you’ve had the sense that email marketing has become an outdated tactic, the steps outlined above will inspire improvements and refresh your email marketing efforts.
About the author: Molly Clarke is a Senior Marketing Manager at ZoomInfo, a leading contact and company information database that helps organizations accelerate growth and profitability. Molly writes for ZoomInfo’s sales and marketing blog on topics related to B2B growth and success.