Email Engagement Leads to Revenue

We all know that engaged customers mean repeat visits and ultimately repeat business. Engagement is the Holy Grail for online marketing. When email engagement2marketers talk of engagement they are usually speaking of:

  • Campaign Open Rate
  • Campaign Click Rate
  • Campaign Conversion Rate

Are these the right measures? Let’s take a look:

Open rate is a notoriously unreliable metric. It depends on firewalls and image download settings. Click-through and conversion rate are more reliable metrics; the reader made a decision and took an action, so we can be pretty certain that she read the email. But if the ultimate business goal is revenue then why do we even need any other metric? Why not just seek ways to increase and measure revenue?

Well…because engagement can be a leading indicator that can forecast a revenue trend. More engagement will usually translate to more business now or down the road. We like engagement.

What is email engagement?

The following diagram shows the stages of engagement in email marketing that traditionally need to be measured. These three stages happen in sequence:

  1. Interest (subscribed) – subscribed to your emails, wants to hear from the company
  2. Attention (opened) – opened at least one email within a period of time; exploring your offer and message
  3. Action (clicked) – clicked at least one email within a period of time; message relevant and increasing involvement with the company


Sales conversion may occur at any time; this is shown across all three engagement stages.

The email marketing campaign performance fallacy.

The key problem with typical engagement measures, such as open rate and click rate, is that they measure the performance of a single campaign, and do not tell us anything about how customers are interacting as a whole. If each campaign is measured in isolation, then this is not a problem. However, customers and relationships exist over time; customers don’t see a single campaign but a series of communications. They interact with the campaigns and a brand over time. A campaign click rate or an average campaign click rate, tells us about the efficiency of the campaign, but nothing actionable about the customer.

The difference between campaigns and customers is best illustrated with the following example.

OM3 funnelAssume company X sends out four campaigns each month to the same customer base and each campaign has an open rate of 10% that makes the average campaign open rate also 10%. The question is how many customers engaged in a particular month? If it’s the same 10% of customers that open each of the four emails over the month, then 10% of the customers interacted with the company in some way. If it’s a different 10% of the customers on each of the four campaigns then 40% of the customers interacted in the month.

In reality it will be between 10% and 40%. This means the average campaign rate of 10% tells us little about customers. The problem, as noted above, is that the open (read) rate is not measuring customer engagement, its measuring campaign performance. If it is customers we want to engage then it is customers we must measure – not campaigns.

A better engagement measure.

We need to move away from campaign based metrics and performance percentages to a metric that measures customer interaction across the entire customer base over time. Here is a more comprehensive list to consider in order of engagement value:

  1. Opens and clicks – how many opens and clicks
  2. Estimated forwards – calculated by how many different IP addresses are associated with a subscriber’s opens.
  3. Social shares – easily calculated using our social share tool
  4. Manual replies to the email campaign – nothing beats a personal reply, question, or kudos from a subscriber. This is a definite sign of a pulse.
  5. If traffic routed to an accompanying blog, comments and/or “likes” – if users have an opportunity to reach and leave comments to a post -that is a great indication of engagement.
  6. New subscribers – how many users opted-in to your blog or e-newsletter.
  7. Buyers – finally, the ultimate and lagging indicator is how many buyers, and total revenue
  8. Average time on site – the longer subscribers stay on your website, the more likely they are highly engaged with your products, services, and brand.
  9. Conversion events – include filling out and submitting a lead-generation form, downloading a white paper, specific on-site search, and viewing a detailed in-depth product specifications page.

Remember, the key to maximizing engagement with your e-mail content is to effectively answer the subscriber’s question, “What is in it for me?” When you succeed, you can easily identify highly engaged prospects and deliver highly qualified prospects to your salespeople, making it easier to make their quotas.

You can keep track of engagement by creating a spreadsheet that keeps tally of these metrics and use a graphing feature to see the trends. I’ll bet you’ll see increased engagement leading to increased sales.

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