I’ve had any number of people ask me lately “What’s a good email open rate?” It’s an impossible question to answer, for a whole variety of reasons.
What Are You Sending? It’s no surprise that companies that send useful information tend to get a higher open rate than those that bombard their subscribers with promotional emails. To get the most from your email campaigns, don’t condition your readers to expect nothing but sales, but rather give them positive reinforcement for opening your emails.
How Often Are You Mailing? Finding the optimum frequency for emailing requires testing. Many companies tend to overdo it, especially at holiday times. Others leave money on the table by not mailing often enough. Like so much in direct marketing, the answer lies in testing.
How Old is Your List? You may be mailing to valid email addresses, but if your recipients haven’t heard from you in a year, they’re much less likely to open your email. Developing a relationship with your email subscribers right from the beginning is crucial to maximizing your results.
How Is Your Open Rate Measured? Different systems measure open rates differently. For instance, most subtract bounces (emails that aren’t delivered for a variety of reasons) before calculating the open rate, but not all systems do. Others count emails seen in the preview pane as being opened, when in fact the recipient may not have seen your entire email.
For all these reasons, comparing one company’s email rate with another’s is a precarious business. If pressed, I tell people that our clients’ open rates generally fall somewhere between 20% and 70%…a range so wide as to be meaningless.
What’s helpful is to compare your own open rates, looking for trends and anomalies. Those that are especially high point towards strong subject lines and topics of special interest. Those that are low let you know what to avoid in the future. Dwindling open rates indicate that you’re mailing too often or not providing enough payoff in content.
Knowing whether your own numbers are rising or falling is far more helpful than comparing your metrics to those around you, so stop looking over your shoulder!