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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Are you effective? How to measure your personal email signature!

If you're a manager of any kind - product, engineering, people, cats - you send email.  Lots of it.  Each email message you send is an opportunity to build your social network and product awareness. But you don't know how effective your reach is or if you should be changing your messages.

Luckily, it's really easy to measure your email traction.  Follow these three quick steps.

  1. Create a link you can measure in Bit.ly.
  2. Add these links to your signature
  3. Measure, modify, and measure again!

1. Create a link you can measure with Bit.ly or Google Short Links.

Bit.ly is typically used to create short, easy-to-share links.  But since it's a redirector, it captures that the link was clicked on and who clicked on it.  This is your measure.  It's easy to create a link - just paste it into the Bit.ly website and copy the funny URL you get.  See Figure 1 - that funny "bit.ly/QhJof3" link is what you want.  Click to copy!

Fig. 1.  Create a link in Bit.ly
UPDATE: If you want to track multiple sources to the same point (e.g. in my case I want to know whether my Alumni group is generating more traction than my Meetup group), you need to create unique URLs.  On most sites you can append a parameter to the destination URL to make it unique.  For example, my book's URL is:

http://www.amazon.com/Shipping-Greatness-Practical-launching-outstanding/dp/1449336574/
And if I want to make it unique for my Google alumni group, I just add something to the end as a "querystring parameter" - something starting with a question mark and followed by some characters.  You may need to try some different combinations, but on Amazon I just used:
http://www.amazon.com/Shipping-Greatness-Practical-launching-outstanding/dp/1449336574/?ref=goog

2. Create a signature.

In my case, I created a clear call to action and also linked to my other presences, including this blog.  See the figure below.
Fig 2.  Create an email signature in GMail.  Or whatever.

Now, the Scaled Recognition website has Google Analytics hooked up, and Blogger (my blog hoster) has great analytics, but by creating a signature with links I can measure specific clicks from MY sent email.

3. Measure!

One of the mantras I espouse in Shipping Greatness (note the bit.ly link!) comes from Lord Kelvin: "That which cannot be measured cannot be improved."  Now that you have measured, you can improve.  You'll get charts like you see below in Figure 3 (just click on Stats in Bit.ly).  


Fig 3.  Measure!
One challenge here is that you can't do a proper A/B test in which some recipients of your email get one treatment of your signature and others get a different treatment.  That's OK - sometimes we have to settle and ship the software we have.  You can still change up your signature in a week or two and see whether your audience changes, your traffic changes, and so forth.

What you'll need to do to make this number meaningful is control for email volume.   To do this, create a search in your GMail, or Outlook or whatever, that gives you a count of the number of messages you sent.  In GMail I entered the following into the search box:
after:2012/8/30 before:2012/9/6 from:me in:sent
And from there I get a count of the number of email messages I sent.  The metric you want to drive up is the click-to-email ratio, A.K.A. "conversion."  It is simply this:

# of Bit.ly Clicks / # of email messages sent

Good luck!

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