When It Comes to Metrics, It’s All About You

As the first quarter of the year recently ended, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss a question that I keep getting asked by current and prospective clients: “What is the industry average for delivery rates?” As much as I’ve talked about this with clients and in public forums, the question still comes up – and my answer is always the same: most marketers should not spend their time being concerned with industry averages for email delivery.

Here’s the problem. When marketers focus on what others in the industry are achieving, they are spending less time focusing on their own programs. To me, it shouldn’t matter what others are achieving; it matters what you’re achieving.

If the industry is getting an 88% delivery rate, but you are getting a 90% delivery rate, does that mean that you should stop trying to improve it? Instead of sitting back and enjoying the fact that you are getting 2% more of your mail to your users, it would serve you better to try to increase that delivery rate by another couple of percentage points and increase your ROI.

Of course delivery rates aren’t the only things marketers focus on; opens and clicks also get a lot of attention. The standardization of these numbers is important for the industry, and especially for senders — not only for properly evaluating the services of a prospective provider, but also for making sense of all the studies that discuss these numbers.

For example, say a company comes out with a study that finds that for industry “x”, the average delivery rate is 85% and open rate is 5%. Without standardized metrics, how do we know if all of the companies that were surveyed actually determine their numbers the same way? What if the open rate for one company was determined by number of messages sent, while another was calculated by number of messages delivered? Depending on their independent delivery rates, this discrepancy could have a huge effect on the reported results.

As you look at all your numbers, remember that while it’s good to know what others are doing, it’s more important to track how you are doing and continue to improve — no matter what your numbers are.

Here’s the other thing to remember when reviewing various reports, surveys and other data points that may or may not make you feel good about your programs: You can never control what someone else does; you only have control over your own actions. That means, as always, report on this information for your own company, or perhaps your own division. Then watch it, track it and use it.

Are you seeing the same thing with your clients? Let me know in the comments, along with any other feedback. Good luck and good sending.

– Spencer Kollas
Director of Delivery Services at StrongMail Systems

One thought on “When It Comes to Metrics, It’s All About You

  1. Agree that standardization of metrics would be a good thing. Understanding industry average values (like delivery rates) is needed for several reasons:

    – Evaluating needed level of investment. I may feel that just 2% above competition is ok if I feel I need to invest precious resources elsewhere (making sure to keep an eye on the 2% over time so it doesn’t lapse.)

    – If I am just starting, it’s good to have some baseline.

    – Upline management will want to know where we stand vis-a-vis the competition.

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