Marketing is easier to measure than ever before, so why do so few marketers fully leverage data and analytic tools? Do you think most marketers truly know if they are achieving a positive or negative return on their marketing investment? According to a 2009 report by Econsultancy and Adestra, 42% of email marketers do not know their return on investment from email marketing. And this 2010 stat is my favorite: 70% of email marketers say they don’t have enough staff to prove ROI ( “Compensation & Resources Study”). Say what? When according to the Marketing Science Institute a 100% increase in marketing expenditure only translates to a 1% increase in sales, you better know your strategies and tactics are the right ones for ROI.

Measurement of performance is one of the fundamentals to marketing best practices and increasing your ROI. You would be hard pressed to find a methodology or framework out there that doesn’t incorporate measurement as a key pillar. So why do so many marketers avoid this step or say they don’t have enough bandwidth to exercise this step? Perhaps it’s because they don’t know what to measure and when to measure it, or even where to start. In email marketing, often you do it because everyone does, but do you know if it actually delivers value to your programs? It’s time to find out.

Information gained through analysis gives you defendable direction for your decisions. It also enables you to judge the success of your email marketing campaigns in the context of organizational success, which in most companies translates into more funding for your ideas. Evaluation is not just a process step you can choose to do (or not do), it’s a discipline. Running an email marketing audit will allow you to identify and understand the critical factors influencing the performance of your campaigns and make adjustments for improved performance.

Why Audit

Need some reasons for conducting an email marketing audit? Here’s a few:

Auditing allows you to figure out what works, and more importantly what doesn’t. Knowing these details gives you the ability to make better choices and establish the value of your email marketing programs. This inquisitive approach is a learning tool to help you understand the significance of your actions and uncover sources of variation.

Conduct The Audit

Many marketing teams create organizational silos, with Data and Analytics in it’s own team. I would argue understanding data and analytics is a core competency of any marketer and a key part of their ability to know if their day to day actions are impacting ROI. If you have a difficult time understanding data or reading spreadsheets, the good news is email service providers (ESP) have made gathering and deciphering data points easier than ever. So the key question is – what should you audit? To begin improving performance you need to define what data exists, where it resides, what data you actually need and how that data can be obtained. The quality and consistency of data can vary, depending on your ESP and internal processes. To get started, baseline by using what you have and document the gaps so you can create the mechanisms to gather that data for your next program review. Remember a lot of marketing data focuses on the marketing effort cost rather than actual results, but when collected data is a ratio of cost and effort to results you have better ROI intelligence.

For individual campaigns, offers a great Campaign ROI Calculator. But for overall program performance, we recommend you review these key components of your program:


  • Is your program aligned with business objectives?


  • What are your measures, specifically open rates and click through rates?
  • What are the trends in these measures over time?
  • Do you have a presence on social media channels?
  • Are your followers in the relevant industries?
  • Have you integrated social with your email marketing?
  • Are your social profiles completed?
  • Do your social profiles tinclude your links to your email sign up form?
  • Do you track likes, followers, subscribers, views, image views, comments and shares?


  • Can a user easily/intuitively subscribe to your program?
  • Can the user learn about the benefits of your program while subscribing?
  • How are graphic elements used?
  • Are you tracking how your audience responds to content? Is your measure action based?
  • What is the response the call to action?
  • How quickly do the graphics load?
  • Can the user easily share the email message?
  • Does the email header inspire the subscriber to open?
  • Can the message stand on its own without graphics?
  • How long does it take to read through the copy? How long into the copy is the call to action?
  • Can the message be easily read on mobile devices?
  • Can the customer control their email profile and update their preferences?
  • Does the email footer instill trust? Is your security policy easy to access?


  • Do you have a content strategy?
  • Does your strategy inspire sharing?
  • Do you have content contributors assigned?
  • How is the content performing per the contributor?
  • Do you have an editorial calendar?
  • Does the calendar integrate with your other marketing efforts and timing?
  • What content assets are you using?
  • How are the assets performing by type?
  • Is the content engaging?
  • Can the subscriber take action?


  • Are your email campaigns designed with conversion in mind?
  • Do you have clear calls to action in your message?
  • Do you clean email lists of inactive users?
  • Are you missing an opportunity to collect email addresses?
  • Do you segment and target users on interactions with the website?
  • Do you segment and target users on past purchase behaviors?
  • What is your rate of (web form) subscriber per visitor?
  • What is your sign up form abandonment rate?


  • Are email sign ups accessible from your website?
  • Are you cross linking subscribers from one channel to another?
  • Are you driving traffic back to your website?
  • Do you coordinate emails with promotions on the website or offline?
  • Do you coordinate your email and online display ads?
  • Do you run welcome autoresponders for newly registered users?
  • Do you coordinate email and mobile marketing efforts?
  • Are you asking your subscribers to register for your SMS program?


  • Do you have objectives in place for awareness, influence, engagement and action?
  • Do you have reporting capabilities in place?
  • Have you set an operating system with consistent review of the measurement and reporting?
  • Are there feedback loops in place?
  • Who sees the measures?
  • How are measures incorporated into decision making?

Once you have gathered this information, form a small internal team of 5-7 people to go through the audit findings and make sure to include staff from other functions outside of marketing. Perhaps sales, product management or customer service. Then start to time box the audit data so you are working with the most relevant information. If possible, do some competitive research to see how your competitors email marketing efforts are performing. If you need additional data, use your ESP survey tools to ask your subscribers for their opinions. Last, apply your insights – a thorough audit will give you insight into your strengths and opportunities for improvement. Additionally, it will help you determine how to invest your marketing dollars most effectively for a higher ROI.

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