Your email open rate may not mean what you think. What the Silverpop Benchmark study can teach marketers.

Do something useful or I'll unsubscribe from your email

Email service provider Silverpop conducted a benchmark study which reveals some interesting email marketing information that impacts senders of bulk email. Below is the recap which may open your eyes.

Your open rate may not mean what you think:
Email recipients are now commonly using their mobile device to scan their email messages. Many emails are deleted, but some are opened on a mobile device and then saved for later viewing on a laptop. This could register two opens for the same subscriber. It might seem that this subscriber is really interested in your email message and was so darned excited about it, she had to reopen it later just to take a look at your rippling prose. Let’s put it this way; she’s not as excited about your prose as you might think just based on the fact that she opened your message twice. Don’t get me wrong, she likes you, but you aren’t exactly dating yet either.

Size matters:
No matter what you’ve been told, (email) size does matter. Emails that are lengthy are more likely to be opened a second time for another look. Don’t get carried away here and go all “War and Peace” on us. But, this data also reveals that you shouldn’t write an email so short that the time it takes to read it is the same amount of time it takes for a jackrabbit come home from a date either. Emails that also include deadlines, especially deadlines with offers in them, are also more likely to get a second look from your recipient. When it comes to the physical size (in KB) of your emails, keep in mind that your subscriber might be downloading your email on their mobile device, sitting in the lounge at the airport, listening to the live stylings of “Murph and the Magic Tones”, with two lousy bars of cell signal. In that case, your 290KB message isn’t going to load too fast. The best rule of thumb is to try to keep it to under 50KB.  Don’t go too small though. A message of only a few KB “is likely a text-only message and may significantly underperform versus a comparable but HTML-designed message many times larger”.

Murph and the Magictones business card

Lighten up on the cheese:
Emails that are heavier on news, are educational, or contain really relevant information get higher click through rates and engagement compared to those cheddar-filled, sales-ey cheese-ball things you’ve been throwing lately. Three industries seem to excel in the anti-cheese department. Computer Software, Media / Publishing, and Consumer Services were the best performing verticals in click through due to their focus on low-Brie email content.

“List Churn” doesn’t have anything to do with making homemade butter:
List churn includes what we at Thought Reach like to call “the ugly.” The ugly is comprised of things like unsubscribes, hard bounces, and the dreaded spam complaint. The study reveals that recipients that unsubscribe may be trying to tell you something. Your email is irrelevant. Or, something far easier to handle- the fact that they just want to change their email address or subscription preferences, but they don’t see that as an option on your email.  Since they don’t know how to change these things, they simply unsubscribe.

Was it over when the German's bombed Pearl Harbor?
Was it over when the German’s
bombed Pearl Harbor?

The spam complaint is the Grand Poo Bah of the ugly. “While each ISP is different, the rule of thumb is to not exceed one to two complaints per thousand messages”. Those subscribers may be telling you they simply don’t trust your unsubscribe process in the first place. Worse still is if they simply can’t find how to unsubscribe, so they click the spam complaint button instead. And the ugliest of the ugly is when they click unsubscribe, yet your page wants them to login before they are able to unsubscribe. Requiring a subscriber to login to be able to unsubscribe is not only a violation of CAN SPAM, it’s just downright un-American. In fact, it almost reminds me of when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

Managing your list is critical as well. “Top-performing companies had hard bounce rates one-twentieth that of average performers”. I’d repeat that statement again, but instead, why don’t you just reread it so I don’t have to. If you just do it right, keep your list up to date, and stop emailing non-engaged bozos, your hard bounce rate would plummet to near zero. Top performing companies are spending a lot less money reacquiring the same customers that you keep trying to chase.

About Nate Goodman

Nathan Goodman is the bestselling author of The Special Agent Jana Baker Spy-Thriller Series. "A terrorist on the loose, a country in panic, and time is running out..." For a free copy visit the author's website. He's also a freelance writer and entrepreneur.