You don't know what you don't know which is why many business leaders look at what we call 'vanity metrics'.
Vanity metrics are numbers that make us look good and feel good about the work we are doing but they don't necessarily mean anything when it comes to using data to make decisions and measure return.
Here are some examples of email vanity metrics:
Number of subscribers
Number of emails delivered
Number of emails bounced
Outside of email, we have vanity metrics that include:
Website bounce rate
Blog post views
Social media follower count
What we do care about are the metrics that we can act on and 1) Demonstrate the channel is working to drive acquisition and engagement and 2) Help identify areas to improve that directly support business KPIs.
The breakdown of these metrics comes back to your defined KPIs. Say you want to use email marketing to drive new customer acquisition. The % of emails opened really doesn't matter. You care about the number of people who clicked and performed an action such as filling out a form, scheduling a call or engaging with an online chatbot.
With this data you can now see what is and isn't working. If recipients are clicking but not converting, you have an issue with the destination experience. Focus on that and fix it.
Now consider you want to use email marketing as an ongoing format to keep your brand top of mind and educate customers, inform stakeholders and nurture prospects. Here we want to look at how the recipient interacts with your email. In this instance we want to look at replies and engagement with the content ie. clicks.
If recipients are not clicking on anything and not responding to messages, your email copy needs work. Focus on that and fix it.
TIP: When in doubt, always refer back to your email strategy and remind yourself of why you are spending time and resources to begin with. Then take a look at how you are measuring to determine success. If you are using vanity metrics, you are most likely going to be way off the mark.