E-mail marketing: deciphering response reports

If you’ve sent out an e-newsletter, you’ve most likely logged on to your mail service to view the response. If you’re like me, the first time you saw the percentage of people on your email list who actually opened it, you were flabbergasted: only 20% / 30% / 50%?

So what does the open rate mean, anyway? Here are a few facts I’ve compiled:

•  According to MailChimp.com: 20-30% is a normal open rate; Clickz.com (a news and marketing resource for email marketers) says: “Average open rates for house lists are running in the mid-30s (34.3 percent, according to DoubleClick). The range I’m seeing, based on public sources and my clients’ performances, is the mid-20s to just over 50 percent.”

•   Click rates, according to Clickz.com: Average click-throughs for house lists (calculated as a percentage of messages delivered, not the percentage opened) are running in the high single digits (DoubleClick reports 8.2 percent); the range I’m seeing is just over 1 percent to just under 20 percent.

•  Reporting may be low due to people reading the email on their pda or offline

•  Mail is not reaching the recipient, even though it is shown as “delivered” (corporate filters send emails right to the Junk mailbox, users haven’t added your from address to their address book)

•  Timing: Most opens are within 72 hours, so you need to wait long enough to analyze the reporting results

Potential factors affecting open rate (outside of technical issues):

  • Subject heading: your subject heading may not be providing enough hook. Solution: send the next email with several different options and see what works best. So what makes an effective subject line? Describe the subject of your email. Simple, but direct. If it’s a newsletter, tell them in the subject line. Make the first 15 characters the most descriptive for Blackberry users.
  • Content: emails that are attempting to make a sale (and weren’t requested by the recipient) have the worst response rates. It’s good to use an e-newsletter format to build trust/value with your clients and your brand over time.
  • Your list: the biggest factor in determining performance. Issues with the list could include:  not a strong enough connection between your company and the people on the list. You see a stronger open rate with people who willingly signed up to receive information, say if they signed up on the homepage for the e-newsletter
  • Some people just don’t read email. These are people who are more apt to respond to postal mailings or a phone call.
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