Analyzing your email marketing campaign is a lot more than just looking at your open, click, unsubscribe, and action rate.   Even A/B testing will only show you so much, though my favorite clients are the ones that run an A/B test on every email.

There are a number of interesting analysis techniques that you should run over a long-term sample of your email marketing work that will tell you valuables things about their effectiveness.   Two of the ones I’ve performed for clients are “email shelf life” and “subject element correlation” analysis.  Today I’ll talk about “shelf life”.

Email shelf life analysis

Do you know how long your email is really productive?   How you time your emails and how long you can expect them to perform is an important question.  Can you really go two weeks between emails and have them still generate clicks?   One of the types of analyses I perform for my nonprofit clients is to look at the activity generated by their email and on their website over time, and see exactly how long people still interact with it.

I typically measure activity, in particular clicks, in hours from delivery completion.   Here’s an example of a graph of clicks on an email over time from such a study:

This graph shows that the most activity came in the seven hours after it was delivered.  At that point night fell and activity picked up again the next day, and so on with diminishing returns.   By my eyeball, this email was still performing 100 hours out.   However you need better statistics than eyeballing a graph, so instead I created a metric called “90% performance of clicks“.   In other words, if you measure an email far past it’s useful life, exactly how many hours does it take to earn 90% of it’s lifetime of clicks?   For this email it was 3.9 days, or 95 hours.   Others I studied for this same client generated 90% of their performance in roughly 5 days.

This leads to two important questions of frequency and timing for anyone trying to maximize their email results. Notably:

  1. Does my audience click on my emails and respond on the weekend?  If they don’t and my emails have a 90% performance rate of four days, then I pretty much need to send all my emails no later than Tuesday morning of any given week.
  2. Am I waiting too long between emails?  If the 90% performance rate of your emails is 5 days, but you only send an email once every two weeks, why would your audience give you any money, or do anything for you during the off week?

At all times, you should be either conducting experiments on your email campaign, or studying the results.  If you’re ever not doing either, you’re wasting a perfectly good opportunity to get a higher yield (dollars, volunteers, advocacy actions) from your list.

And once about every 6-8 months, you should be doing a long-term study of your email program for questions like these.

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2 Responses to Analyzing your nonprofit’s email to determine their “shelf life”

  1. Peter Genuardi says:

    Good article, Shabbir. I think a lot of people wrestle with how frequently to be mailing…and this is a straightforward way to measure the decay of your interactions’ halflives. We’re looking at how social presence might suggest to send more or less frequent email AND direct mail. People with a certain number of social handles look like they respond favorably to email offers and poorly to postal mail. So why not take them out of postal mail and save the $$?

  2. Shabbir says:

    So, you know I’m just dying to find a client who will let me experiment with sending email every 5 days, just to see if it would depress long term rates…