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Ken Magill

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Finally, the Top Email Marketing Questions Answered


By Ken Magill

Whenever I do a webinar or speak at a conference, one of several questions invariably comes up.

Well, I’m here to answer them once and for all.

Here they are along with my answers to each:

Q. What’s an average click rate? A. Penguin.

Q. What’s the best day to send email? A. Cleveland.

Q. What’s the industry average open rate? A. Oprah.

Yes, those answers are nonsensical, but they are just as relevant to an individual marketer’s email program as any.

Am I advising against monitoring clicks and opens and testing for best days and times to send email? Of course not.

What I am advising against is paying too much attention to industry averages other than to use them to manage expectations.

An individual marketer’s clicks may be well below the off-the-top-of-my-head average of 2, 3 or 4 percent, but their conversion rates could be high enough to make up for the perceived shortfall in clicks.

An email marketing newsletter I once edited, Magilla Marketing, had basement-low open rates. But it drove more page views on average than any other weekly email newsletter in the organization.

Near as I could tell, the newsletter’s open rates were so low because it was designed—not necessarily intentionally—so it could easily be read and clicked on without seeing its graphics. [An “open” is recorded when the email’s graphics are turned on.]

As a result, the low opens weren’t indicative of that particular newsletter’s performance.

I once worked for a business-to-business cataloger that garnered response rates of between three and four per thousand.

But our average order size was several hundred dollars. So someone looking solely at that company’s response rates might deem it a marketing failure. It wasn’t.

Industry benchmarks are a good tool to keep people’s expectations in check, however.

Showing the boss Epsilon’s or Experian’s latest quarterly benchmark report can go a long way toward explaining that an 18 percent email open rate is fine.

As for the best day/time to send email: If your ESP has a feature that allows you to send email to individuals when they are most likely to read them, by all means use it. But pay no attention to studies that claim, say, Tuesday at 1 p.m. is the best day to send campaigns.

Almost half of this newsletter’s readership is outside the U.S, in particular in Western Europe. As a result, my Tuesday at 1 p.m. will be many readers’ Tuesday at 7 p.m. I get the newsletter out on Tuesdays when it’s ready and never sweat the time.

Oh, and there’s on other question I often get:

Q. Where can I buy email lists? A. Dr. Phil.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: David Redpath
Date: 2013-12-17 17:02:28
Subject: Read Rate

Return Path reports on the ISP "Read Rate" of its subscriber panel. This metric uses dwell time, instead of a tracking pixel and side steps problems caused by both consumer behavior and default image rendering.
Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2013-12-17 16:54:31
Subject: Best Day To Send

Good point. I hadn't thought of that, but you are right. Indeed, just ship.
Posted by: Savvy Vet
Date: 2013-12-17 16:15:51
Subject: Best Day To Send

Even if your ESP has a feature that allows you to send emails to individuals when they're most likely to read, remember that they can only do that for subscribers who have open often enough to get enough data to make that inference, so you're often optimizing for your most rabid readers anyway. Just ship.