ROI

The Magic Content Marketing Ratio: Email Conversion Rate

By Ray Cheng July 13th, 2015

We may think of email marketing as a relatively new phenomenon, but it’s actually been around for so long that’s probably older than a lot of today’s CMOs. You’d have to go back to 1978 to find the first email campaign. It was sent to a few hundred recipients, reportedly generating an astounding $13 million in sales. Fast-forward almost 40 years later, and people now send more than 120 billion emails per hour.

McKinsey recently estimated that email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. And among top-performing B2B marketers, Forrester found that email marketing was reported as the most effective tactic for lead nurturing. For every content marketer out there, email conversion rates (and the stories you tell in them) should always be top of mind.

What is ECR, and why should you care about it?

Last week on The Content Strategist, I wrote a piece about the importance of measuring both long-term and short-term success metrics for your content marketing program. In the article, I explain ROCI (return on content investment), the formula we developed to help marketers determine which metrics they need to focus on most. To give you a clear understanding of everything that goes into ROCI, we’re planning a series of shorter pieces that will explain different components that impact ROCI, and for the first post, we want to focus on website traffic to email conversion ratio, or ECR.

ECR contributes to both hard-dollar and soft-dollar returns on content investment because it’s a primary driver of brand awareness, new leads, and audience loyalty. As it relates ROCI, ECR is a critical building block to generate revenue from leads in the short term and share of voice over the long term.

To calculate your ECR, you just have to divide your new email subscribers in one month by the number of unique visitors for that same month. So if in June, you had 2,000 new email subscribers and 50,000 UVs, your ECR is four percent (2,000/50,000 = .04).

There are three reasons we decided to start with ECR:

  1. There are a number of important best practices and resources related to email conversions that can transform the effectiveness of your emails very quickly.
  2. This ratio is a great litmus test for the health of your content and the quality of your audience.
  3. According to Neil Patel, email has the ability to drive audience loyalty, onsite engagement, social engagement, and even SEO, which can all benefit your organic traffic.

It is widely accepted that a standard ECR ranges of 2–12 percent, depending on your industry. For example, e-commerce firms often see an average of 7–12 percent ECR because email captures tend to be associated with offers and discounts. Meanwhile, startups and professional bloggers may see ECRs closer to the two percent mark. Regardless of your industry, we believe that any brand that produces relevant, high-quality content will be able to push its ECR two or three percentage points above the industry average.

Right now, our current ECR stands at about seven percent. We’d love to be able to rival the ECRs of a top e-commerce site—like everlane.com, for example—so in addition to testing and optimizing our pop-up approach, we also plan to start giving away a lock of our co-founder Shane Snow’s hair to boost results.

Shane Snow

I’m kidding… sort of.

What can you do to improve your ECR?

If you’re interested in upping your company’s ECR, there are three steps that will help you. First, you need to produce high-quality original content as a strong foundation for your email newsletters. We recommend working on more longform content—over 2,000 words—buoyed by a unique voice and interesting stories.

Next, once you have the right content, you should use a great email capture tool like SumoMe to design professional placements and scroll boxes that prompt users to sign up for your newsletter. Bottom line: You want to make it as easy as possible for someone to give you their email address.

The third and final step is to test and optimize your best performing content as much as possible, including headlines, offers, visuals, and paid social. Right now, for example, the scroll box that appears on each TCS article page reads: “Become a better content strategist. Get our best tips, trends, and analysis in your inbox.” That’s it. We’re always testing out alternatives, but this brief, positive message usually wins out, and has helped us increase our ECR over the last few months.

Which leads me to my next point. Now that you’re familiar with ECR, you’ll need to keep those email subscribers coming back for more. On TCS, for example, we found that readers who check out at least five articles in a given month are more than 70 percent likely to return to consume more content the following month. So with that teaser in mind, stay tuned for the next content marketing ratio deep dive on repeat visitors versus first-time visitors.

And if you have any questions or comments on ECR, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @ray_jing.

Image by Marijus Auruskevicius
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