Starting from scratch: What to expect from your first email campaigns

A couple of weeks ago, we had a concerning conversation with one of our clients. They had just launched a newsletter campaign, and were a bit stressed about it. They only had 23 sign ups after a month, and were starting to wonder if email was worth the investment.

There are a couple of things that we’d like to clear up. One’s about expectations: your first campaign is not going to earn you everything you’ve ever wanted for your business overnight. The other’s about metrics: at first, your results will depend on the traffic you already have, and momentum will take a while to build.

Expectations: what to know before you start

We advise clients to set their expectations by the quality of the data they start with. The more traction you already have, the more effective your campaign will be.

For example, if you’re already generating a lot of traffic to your website, a scroll box inviting readers to sign up and providing an opt-in incentive will yield results. Merely adding a box to Entrepreneurial Spark’s website secured them 3,000  sign ups in three months, while HS Johnson secure an average of 120 new signups a week by offering subscribers a discount on their first purchase.

If you're starting from a low starting position in terms of awareness and momentum, it will take longer to build your list. Opt-ins and existing customers will yield more results than a bad list, full of cold clients and unconfirmed prospects. The first thing to do is clean your existing data, and look at importing your existing networks by approaching LinkedIn contacts or Twitter followers and asking them to sign up.

Metrics: how to tell if you’re doing well

Considering your campaign’s results in isolation is never a good idea. We need context to evaluate our performance in any field, and email marketing is no different.

Check your campaign against benchmark figures in your industry; you’ll usually find that any concerted email marketing effort results in a bump against that standard, as well as against your previous performance. Our clients generally beat industry averages by 50%. After about six months of continued campaigning, and provided their analytics are up to scratch, most have a realistic sense of how well they’re doing and how to change or improve their strategy in future.

Ultimately, though, opt-ins are based on the traffic you already have. Whether you’re inviting signups through scroll boxes on the website, social media shouts with a call to action or conversions from other media platforms, you’re still working with people who already know you exist. Realistically, 5-10% of your existing traffic would be an amazing signup rate; 1-5% is more likely.

Email marketing is not a quick fix or a silver bullet, and it depends on getting people to sign up - which means it goes hand in glove with other channels that bring people to your website, social presence or events. The goal of email marketing is to warm up prospects and build long-term rapport with them; not to get a thousand subscribers in a day.