Optimizing Internal Emails for Engagement: The Role of Benchmarking

Optimizing Internal Emails for Engagement: The Role of BenchmarkingBenchmarking plays a crucial role in business, whether it involves internal assessments or comparisons with industry standards. By evaluating metrics such as sales and employee retention rates, companies can determine their strengths and weaknesses in relation to both their own past performance and that of their competitors. This analysis helps identify areas for improvement and growth opportunities within the organization. 

This is why benchmarking is so important in business — both internally and externally. Whether it’s marketing and sales or some other department, one firm’s metrics may appear robust in comparison to themselves yet feeble when placed next to similar figures from competitive organizations. Companies need to know where they stand both in comparison to their past performance and their industry peers to properly identify strengths, reveal weaknesses, and uncover opportunities for growth. 

The ROI of sales and marketing analytics is fairly straight-forward, starting by simply calculating revenue – costs. Marketing and sales teams can likely tell you how many leads they produce per month. They tend to have tools that measure performance, such as 4.5% of new opportunities came from content posted to a particular social media channel, for example. 

Can the same be said for internal communications? 

Like marketing and sales, content must be created for, and delivered to, employee audience groups to educate, engage, and motivate action, yet the measurements of this activity often lag, likely due to the lack of an easy-to-calculate revenue ROI. Worse, companies might attempt to force-fit existing external tools for these internal use-cases, turning what was authentic internal email into externally flagged messaging on a level similar to spam — which is unfortunate at best and detrimental at worst. 

A company that communicates with employees efficiently and effectively, and doesn’t overload them with irrelevant messaging, is far more likely to have higher employee productivity and lower turnover than one that doesn’t. It’s also better prepared to handle change management activities, embrace industry innovations, and deal with difficult industry challenges when they arise, because the channels are open, and employees are engaged and listening. All of this, of course, helps drive financial performance.  

Accurately sourced benchmark data provides valuable reference points for your company’s key performance indicators (KPIs). Collecting your own data, and comparing it to industry benchmarks, will help you identify not only the best practices and KPIs that matter for your organization, but will reveal the channels, cadence, and narratives that are moving you toward your organizational objectives. 

Internal communicators looking for a benchmark resource should look no further than our 2024 Internal Email Communications Benchmark Report, which examines more than 4 billion emails sent to over 15 million employees around the globe. The annual study arranges the findings by S&P industry sector and distribution size — from fewer than 1,000 people to 50,000 or more — so that professional communicators of all sorts can compare and contrast their results with benchmark data relevant to their particular company. 

At present, statistics show employees receive, on average, 14 corporate email broadcasts a month containing 30:46 minutes of content with 163 links. Email utilization spiked during the pandemic and has remained high as a majority of employees continue to work from home. As companies evaluate their communication analytics and make improvements, messages get shorter, more frequent, and have less linked content per message – which reduces information overload and leads to higher engagement rates. 

The average corporate email open rate now sits at 68%. The top fifth of all firms that demonstrate email best practices, meanwhile, have an average open rate of 83%.  

One of the key best practices is having clean, accurate distribution groups. Too often, corporate distribution lists contain a large number of former employee email addresses, yet neglect to include the newest employees. This creates a denominator problem whereby the exaggerated list size reduces the open rate. 

Focusing on the right combination of metrics is also crucial. Communicators and the people they broadcast for tend to get fixated on the email open rate, despite the fact that recipients often immediately delete or skip past email messages they open. And open rates can be deceptive for other reasons, as today many email security tools  automatically open messages and links to scan them, generating superfluous data. Updated versions of Outlook open emails multiple times to increase download performance. 

For these reasons, PoliteMail’s internal email analytics go beyond counting opens and clicks, with a focus on attention, readership and engagement. 

Unlike marketing and sales software, PoliteMail’s internal email measurement tool is integrated with Microsoft 365 and Outlook, which allows communicators to continue sending email using their familiar day-to-day email platforms while measuring a variety of key metrics. Armed with this analytics data, building evidence-based communications plans and reporting key performance indicators is now possible. PoliteMail’s 2024 Benchmark Report serves as a valuable reference point for communicators to determine if their strategies are working or not. 

As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Creating a winning internal communications strategy requires a foundation of objective, accurate, and reliable data. Otherwise, it’s all guesswork. 

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