What to Expect From Your Email Marketing Campaign

February 2nd, 2012 by Search Influence University

No joke, this is what my wife's inbox looks like.

I’ve sent out a few newsletters in my time at Search Influence, and I’ve had to curb the client’s expectations more than once. Email marketing can be a time-consuming, arduous process and returns what seems to be very little. While email marketing is becoming more obsolete in this social media-dominated world, it’s still worth pursuing. Your expectations just need to be adjusted (read: lowered). Below I’ll break down the different metrics, what they mean, if you should care about them and what you should be expecting out of a successful campaign.

Open Rate
The Open Rate is exactly what it sounds like… well, sorta. It measures how many recipients opened the newsletter, but beware. These numbers are usually vastly underreported. For instance, if the recipient’s email blocks images, it will not count as an open unless they click to display them. Many people (including myself before learning this information) choose not to display these images, so I wouldn’t put much stock in this metric.

If you do, however, here is what you should expect. I’ll use an industry familiar to me – Beauty and Personal Care. I had a client express disappointment with the performance of a particular Mother’s Day campaign. It went out to roughly 1,500 recipients and had an Open Rate of 19%, which looks pretty terrible on the surface; however, MailChimp reports that the average Open Rate for this industry is 14.94%. It might not be something to write home about, but after delivering this information to the client they were much more impressed with their campaign.

Click Rate
Good thing these names pretty much define themselves. Saves me some time. The Click Rate (click-thru rate or CTR) is how many people click a link from your campaign. This metric is going to be drastically lower than your Open Rate. It’s possible to get into a double-digit percentage here, but not likely. In fact, The Click Rate average for most industries is less than 5%.

Bounce Rate
In email marketing, the Bounce Rate is determined by the number of email addresses that failed to receive the message sent. There are two types of Bounce Rate: hard and soft. A hard bounce occurs when the recipient email address does not exist or is unrecognized. This is generally anywhere from 1% – 5% for most industries. It’s important to purge the incorrect addresses when this occurs, as it can bring down your sender reputation.

A soft bounce is when the message is sent back from a valid email due to an issue with the server, such as an inbox that has reached capacity. There’s not much you can do about these, but the average is typically less than 3% so it doesn’t have a negative impact.

Abuse Complaint Rate
One of my biggest pet peeves is also one of the most ridiculous. I cannot stand it when someone abuses the “Abuse Complaint” function in eblasts. Its intended purpose is to mark spam or emails to which you may not have subscribed. If you use an eblast client like MailChimp, it will automatically remove these emails from your list. If you’re sending out your own, you could be blocked from the ISP if too many complaints are received, so constant vigilance is needed.  The industry averages are mostly below 0.01% for this, so if yours is higher than that I don’t know what to tell you. Delete all emails in your list? Wipe your harddrive? Burn your computer? I don’t know, I’m just spit-balling here. This feature is not intended to be used as a quick way to stop receiving annoying emails because you hastily forgot to uncheck the “send me news and specials” box of a form. That’s what the next section is for!

(Sorry, I know I can get unnecessarily worked up over something so trivial. My therapist and I are working on it. For the time being I’ll shift my hatred to those who are more deserving of it, like people who leave shopping carts in parking spaces or in the middle of the lot because they’re too lazy to walk the 30 feet to the cart corral.

People who leave shopping carts in parking spaces. People who leave shopping carts in parking spaces. People who leave shopping carts in parking spaces)

Unsubscribe Rate
…is, again, exactly what it sounds like. It’s the rate of people that unsubscribe from your newsletter. This is what most people intend to do when reporting you as spam, but are too lazy to find out the proper way to do so and end up doing unwarranted damage to your campaign stats.

I’m just going to stop here before a tirade ensues.

People who leave trash in movie theaters. People who leave trash in movie theaters. People who leave trash in movie theaters…

These are the basic factors that you’ll be looking at when running an email marketing campaign — remember, while your success can be tracked with some measure of accuracy, it’s all relative. Next time you send out a newsletter or special email offer to your subscribers, take a look at your metrics. You might be pleasantly surprised!