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What sets great car dealers apart: key metrics for e-newsletters

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on September 20, 2018

Carefully measuring the performance of your email newsletter leads to better content and more engaged customers

As a car dealer who wants to engage customers and nurture loyalty, you probably send a regular e-newsletter (and if you don’t, you really should). But too many customer newsletters are bland, self-serving, and easily ignored. Great dealers set their newsletters apart by using key metrics to continually fine tune everything from core content to the time of day they send them. Customers value their newsletters, which become a potent weapon in their marketing armoury.

Refining your own newsletter isn’t complicated, and it will never be wasted effort. Email marketing—of which an e-newsletter is an important component—remains a stunningly effective marketing channel. According to Campaign Monitor, every $1 spent on email marketing earns $44 in return (the equivalent UK figure is calculated at £33 for every £1).

In other words, an effective e-newsletter is a key part of your marketing mix. But measuring that effectiveness and tweaking it accordingly is vital. Newsletters that offer no value annoy consumers, who are increasingly prepared to report irrelevant emails as spam and unsubscribe from contact lists.

Reach and readability

So what should you measure, and what will it tell you? First of all, you need to know that your newsletter is finding its intended targets, rather than drifting aimlessly in cyberspace. Bounce rate is a key metric here. Emails often ‘bounce’ because the address is no longer valid. A bounce rate of below 2% is considered ideal; anything above 5% is worthy of attention. Remove invalid addresses from your database regularly. A consistently high bounce rate increases the chances of your emails being marked as spam.

Getting your newsletter to a valid inbox is half the battle. The other is getting it opened. The latest figures collected by Smart Insights show that, across the automotive sector, email open rates approach a healthy 24%. This figure includes service messages and triggered emails, so expect newsletter open rates to be a few points lower.

If your own open rates are much lower—and even if they aren’t—boost them by making your newsletter more compelling. The most important piece of content in this respect is the subject line. It needs to grab your reader’s attention. It needs to serve their interests, not yours.

Experiment with subject headings, and also with the day you send your newsletter out. Studies have found that the best open rates for consumer-focused emails are seen on Saturdays and Tuesdays, though it may be different for your own contact list. Switch it around and see what happens.

Content and click through

So your newsletter has reached a valid customer, and your spellbinding subject line has tempted them to open it. Now what happens?

That is measured, first, by click through rate (CTR), which is the number of times your newsletter content prompted someone to click through to your website.

The more your content engages and persuades, the higher your CTR. The figure will be low (often just a few percent), because it tends to measure clicks against every email you send. Don’t agonise over this too much. The important thing is that you compare CTR over time, note the type of content that consistently prompts clicks, and tweak your newsletter accordingly. If rates are going up, you’re doing something right.

You can get some quick wins here by personalising your newsletter, which really can drive CTR, and experimenting with the time of day you send it.

You may also have heard of click to open rate (CTOR), which is a subtly different engagement metric and tends to produce reassuringly higher percentage figures. CTOR only measures clicks against the number of people who opened your email (rather than every email sent). That makes it an excellent measure of the performance of your content. Again, compare over time, see what works, and modify your newsletter in line with your findings.

Sweet spots and unsubscribers

After CTR and CTOR, share rates are like the cherry on the cake. If readers are going to the trouble of sharing your content, you know you’ve hit the sweet spot. If an article gets higher than average share rates, try to emulate it in future newsletters.

Finally, keep an eye on your unsubscribe rates. There are all sorts of reasons people unsubscribe from newsletters and some are beyond your control. But rising unsubscribe rates are a worry. Bring them down by making sure your newsletter design is clear and readable—and that means on mobile too. Make sure your content offers real value, with your best blog articles interspersed with offers and newsletter exclusives. And don’t swamp inboxes—alongside other forms of email marketing, a monthly newsletter is probably enough.

Keep an eye on these metrics over time and patterns will emerge. Take action in response to your findings and your newsletter will progressively become more engaging and valuable to consumers, drawing more of them to your website and ultimately helping to drive sales.

This piece is part of a series on key metrics to boost your digital marketing performance. Next up: key metrics for your website.

Topics: email marketing, metrics, newsletters