Abracadabra: Is Email Metrics Standardization Real or Merely an Illusion?

I’m a lover of magic.  When illusions appear creative, bold, and clever, they seem worthy of being shared with everyone.  On the other hand, if it’s a trick that everyone knows, the “magic” becomes cheap and hollow, unlikely to fool anyone. When it comes to the standardization of email metrics, the question arises: is this truly noteworthy, or simply another case of “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain?”  Smoke and mirrors won’t work in this case; complete transparency is necessary to address this issue.  It’s time to put all of our cards on the table and examine various aspects of the argument surrounding standardization.

As co-chairs of the eec’s Measurement Accuracy Roundtable, independent email consultants John Caldwell and Luke Glasner have marshaled a group of industry players to launch an email standardization project.  For what it’s worth, that project is gaining momentum and earning some serious ink within the industry.  This is not the same old dog and pony show we’ve seen in the past; these guys really have their act together.  Think of them as Siegfried and Roy of the email industry.  Their S.A.M.E. project (Support Adoption of Metrics for Email) has bent the ears of industry pundits, and their formula for encouraging ESPs to adopt the standards seems to be fooling everyone.  And in this context, deception is a good thing. Learn more about the S.A.M.E. project here. 

Sleeveless in Seattle
As with any new industry-related project, many challenges surface, but without early adopters, we’d be left sleeveless, a nightmare for any magician.  Two ESPs, MassTransmit/EmailTransmit and AllWebMail have already committed to adopting the industry standard for metrics which was released by the DMA/eec in March 2010.  Since then, a dozen other high profile ESPs have committed to adopting the standards within the next six months.  When you think about early adopters, companies like these help pave the road for the rest of the industry.  As interested ESPs begin to track the progress and milestones achieved by the S.A.M.E. project, momentum will build and the benefits will begin to blossom around the industry.

“Adoption is not just a semantics game,” says Stephanie Miller, Vice Chair of the eec and an active member of the Roundtable (her day job is at inbox deliverability solution provider, Return Path).  “Marketers usually find out that there are no standards when they go to benchmark their performance, or when they change vendors and realize that all those numbers they’ve been betting their bonus on – they don’t mean what they thought they meant!

“It’s about time our industry stepped up and supported standard metrics just like any other direct marketing discipline,” she says.

Deliverability Will No Longer be a Selling Point for ESPs
Once the implementation of email standards leads to congruency across the industry, ESPs and marketers will find themselves on a level playing field.  This means marketers may spend more time searching for the right ESP, but once a match is made, marketers will be less likely to move from one ESP to another due to inconsistency in metrics.  This means attrition rates for switching ESPs will fall, and in turn, ESPs will focus on services that will keep customers longer and help them achieve a higher ROI. Examples of such services include compelling creative copy and perhaps even a SWOT analysis every month/quarter provided by the ESP to each marketer.  Higher performance of the channel benefits all of us.

S.A.M.E. Project Goals
Once a magician takes his oath, he must never reveal his secrets.  However, if aspiring participants are willing to learn magic, they, too, can join the “magic club.”  ESPs face a similar choice.  They can remain on the outside looking in, simply observing the progression of the S.A.M.E. project, or they can choose to be an active part of the club.  John and Luke’s first goal is 10-15% of the ESP market adopt the standards.

Nowadays, when an ESP reports on the “state of the industry,” they analyze metrics only of their own campaigns, like a magician who looks in the mirror and declares himself successful.  Industry standardization will introduce accountability to the industry, providing the digital marketing community with sterilized benchmarking and consistent reporting.  The spotlight now shines bright on John and Luke and the eec Roundtable, along with other industry veterans and aspiring ESPs involved with the S.A.M.E. project. It is their mission to deliver what the email industry yearns for: a final levitation act that will wow the crowd and inspire mass adoption.  They hope to prove that they are master magicians—if they perform their act well enough, even the skeptics will believe. 

Get Involved

Marketers:  Send this article to your ESP and encourage them to adopt the standards.
ESPs:  Study the new standard definitions and set a goal for yourself to adopt them.  Be part of the program.

Now, where did all the Rabbits go?

– Fred Tabsharani
Port25 Solutions, Inc.