magnifying glass on an email audit

How to Conduct an Email Marketing Audit

Whether it's a new year, a new fiscal year, or you're starting a new job, doing an email marketing audit of your existing campaigns and database is a smart way to begin. These audit numbers can help you establish a baseline for improvement, as well as bragging rights.

You can begin an audit in many different ways. In this article, I will show you how I would conduct an email marketing audit, but of course, you’re welcome to pick and choose to make this work better for you.

For this audit, I will be focusing on the following:

  • Email sending systems
  • Email marketing database
  • Segmentations and lists
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Email templates
  • Email processes 

Email sending systems

This is completely optional, but at larger organizations, it's often a good idea to compile a list of all of your sending platforms. Every year, take note of any changes in this list. For example, at some companies, emails are deployed from the marketing automation platform as well as tools like Outreach, Salesforce, and Gainsight. I keep a simple list of these sending systems, as well as system owners and sending domains.

Email marketing database 

I tend to focus on my marketing automation database for this exercise, but if your company uses a data lake to pipe data into your Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) or Email Service Provider (ESP), you can look there too. I begin the email marketing audit with a spreadsheet or Google sheet with all my data so I can both share it and save it for comparisons later. 

It's a good idea to take a yearly (or even quarterly) audit of these seven factors:

  1. The total number of contacts: This is how many unique email addresses you have in your MAP or ESP.
  2. The total number of marketable contacts: Define marketable as it relates to your company and business. For example, contact records that are unsubscribed,  missing "job title" or "country" data values may not be immediately marketable (this is a B2B example).
  3. The number of marketable contacts that you’ve emailed in the last 12, 6, and 3 months: This gives you a good indication if you're missing out on mailing large cohorts of your database, and it allows you to create a strategy for reaching them.
  4. The number of marketable contacts that are inactive (or you can flip it to view active contacts) in the last 12, 6, and 3 months:  Once again, you'll need to work within your business rules to establish a definition for "inactive." Often it means contacts haven't been opening or clicking emails, filling out forms, visiting the website, etc. Why measure inactive contacts? Because it's good practice to suppress inactive contacts from your email marketing campaigns.
  5. Database growth: The number of new contacts added in the year. 
  6. Database attrition: The number of contacts that have unsubscribed or hard bounced. You can also include another cell in your spreadsheet with the number of contacts who became inactive. 
  7. The total number of emails sent: Instead of looking at contacts, for this metric, we want to know how many total emails were sent for the year, quarter, or month. 

Here's an example of how I set up this part of an email marketing audit spreadsheet:

email marketing audit spreadsheet layout

Segmentations and lists

If you only use a small number of lists (or segments), use this time to think through whether creating additional segments is needed. Or, if you think it’s a worthwhile idea to test, you can start planning for those tests. If you employ dozens (or even hundreds) of segments in your email marketing, now is a good time to ask these questions:

  • What are the segments you’re using in your marketing? If you use too many to count, what are the main segments you’re using?
  • How is each segment performing? How are your main segments performing?
  • What improvements can you make to your segmentation?
  • Do you have the need for a new segment or segments? For example, your company started marketing to a new persona. Do you have a matching segment created?

Email marketing campaigns

If you’re an email marketing team of one, you might already track which campaigns you sent for the year and how they performed.

However, if you’re part of a larger company where multiple teams are sending emails out of the same MAP, it’s a good idea to take note of what business-as-usual (BAU) campaigns were sent, who they were sent to, and how they performed. If the campaigns were part of an A/B test, I keep track of those results, as well as the winner (if there was one). 

In your spreadsheet, make a column for:

  • Email campaign name
  • Date deployed (or dates)
  • Segment or target list
  • Subject line 
  • A/B test (if applicable)
  • Number of emails sent
  • Hard bounce rate
  • Soft bounce rate
  • Unique open rate
  • Unique click-through rate
  • Click-to-open ratio
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Conversion rate (optional, this metric might not be readily available)

This is basically just an email marketing campaign report for the whole year. Please add or remove columns to fit the needs of your email marketing audit! With a whole year’s worth of campaign data, you can see what efforts have been more successful than others.

Do the same for automated email campaigns. Note which campaigns are running, and how they performed. You may not need to include a deployment date, but you could pull the rest of the metrics.  

Email templates

So you’ve taken a look at your email campaigns and your database, but you don’t want to forget about your email template(s)! During this annual email marketing audit, make a note of your existing templates.

Ask your stakeholders and yourself

  • Do you need additional email templates or modules (sections within your email templates)? 
  • Have you received any feedback or learned any new findings in previous A/B tests? 
  • Have your email templates been tested in the last year? If not, it’s a perfect opportunity to use Email on Acid to test compatibility and fix, update. 
  • Does your company have a new logo or imagery that you need to update? 
  • Does your footer need a new copyright year? This is the time of year to make those improvements, including making your templates accessible and dark mode friendly.

Email process

A new year is an opportunity to audit your existing email production process and see where you can make improvements. Need ideas? Check out this article titled How to Improve Your Email Creation Process, by yours truly. 

Now that you’ve compiled all this great information together in your awesome spreadsheet, it’s time to share the email marketing audit with your team. Also, if you want to go the extra mile, create a presentation or slide deck add bits of your data and learnings to it. Share it with your manager and team to show them what email marketing has been up to in the last year! Also, use this data to create your email marketing strategy for 2021. What campaigns can be repeated with a few tweaks? What automated campaigns are performing best but could potentially do better? 

Download an Email Marketing Action Plan

email marketer works on 2021 action plan

After auditing last year's email campaigns, you can use that information to inform your 2021 email marketing strategy.

If the changes that came with 2020 left you scratching your head, check out the special report, Email Marketing and the Next Normal, featuring insights from Senior Email Marketing Manager, Betsy Grondy.

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