The problem with key performance indicators (KPIs)

One of the constant debates I have with people is to what extent you should seek to drive people back to your site from outbound email. Now I know this sounds odd. For some sites particularly those that are transactional in nature there doesn’t appear to be any other option.

My comment relates to those emails that are sent to either inform or educate. My argument goes as follows: if the topic allows for it and if the email can be kept short and pithy, why not try to put the message within the email itself  – rather than trying to drive people elsewhere.

My reasoning is that I want to reach as many people as possible with my message. If I force people to click through to my site from the email I am going to lose some of the audience I am targeting along the way. Even if 80% click through, as far as I’m concerned I’ve still not reached 20% of my audience.

The general response I get to this argument from web masters usually goes something along the following lines.

“One of my key KPIs relates to the volume of traffic my site receives. Driving traffic to my site via email helps me meet those KPIs”.

While I understand the reasoning behind this I consider it shortsighted. I think it is ‘our’ responsibility to be involved in the KPI setting process and to educate our managers around the criteria that we should be measured on.

No, the real issue for me, particularly in the B2B space where I tend to operate, is ensuring that there are still mechanisms in the email that will provide me with sufficient management information to make the mailing valuable.

The ‘value’ I talk of comes from the ability to be able track what people are interested in by how they interact with the email.

This can often be achieved in the informational / educational emails I have referred to above by including links to:

  • Printer friendly versions of the email – particularly relevant if the email is for instance a market update or press release.
  • Relevant literature, factsheets or sales aids
  • Pod casts or online presentations

I have actually found that by structuring an email in this way:

  • It is often far more likely to go viral with recipients often forwarding them on to each other.
  • That response rates are overall higher.
  • And importantly, rather than simply driving traffic to my site, I achieve my objective – getting my message out into the market.

Of course one of the advantages of this approach was the discovery of my network of ‘canaries’ – but I think I’ll save that for another post…

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