In email marketing, one thing you learn pretty quickly is that sending your email is only the half of it. The next part (and arguably the most important) is what happens after the reader receives the email. You track opens and clickthroughs, as well as other metrics, but even this doesn’t provide the whole story.

You should put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes, and ask what you would do if you received your own email. Whether the campaign worked or not depends on the many things your readers do when they get your mail.

Here are twelve popular ways they can respond:

  1. Respond. Your message resonated with the subscriber and motivated a response (ie., purchase, order, donation, renewal, or some other type of action).
  2. Subscribe. You’ve engaged them and have received their vote of confidence that you will continue to provide great content or something of value. When they want to continue receiving your emails, they’ll “subscribe.” This is the ultimate achievement.
  3. Scan. They “scan” it for relevance, get right to the core of the content, and skip the rest.
  4. Assess. They find the content interesting and “assess” its relevance and value for them personally and professionally.
  5. Save. The content is so relevant that they “save” it to revisit at a later time.
  6. Shift. They are so deeply affected, in a positive way, by the content of your email that it “shifts” some of their values and beliefs. In other words, they find the email content to be transformative.
  7. Forward. The content is not only useful to them, but also to other people they know personally. They simply “forward” the email to friends, family and colleagues.
  8. Spread. They find the content interesting enough to “spread” to anyone and everyone via a blog, Twitter or other social networks they belong. Hence, the email becomes viral.
  9. Skip. They make an assessment that it might be worth reading at a later time. In this case, they have not necessarily written you off yet, but if you repeatedly send content that is worth “skipping,” the recipient might write you off for good.
  10. Delete. Perhaps the subscriber no longer fits the demographic, the message isn’t relevant to them, email or subscription best practices weren’t followed, or frequency isn’t satisfactory.
  11. Unsubscribe. They “unsubscribe” because the message is not relevant, useful or of value to them.
  12. Mark as Spam. If your email is not relevant or interesting to them, does not provide a reasonable Return-on-Interaction (ROI), is sent too frequently, or is simply self-serving or useless, they will mark it as spam. Sending email that is marked as “spam” is the fastest way to ruin credibility and lose trust.

The more you can learn about your audience, the better you can connect with them by sending messages that are relevant and targeted. Observe your audiences’ online activity so you can segment and serve them appropriately.