How to measure and improve the impact of your marketing emails

Marketing in the time of coronavirus is a unique experience, but one thing remains consistent: marketing to your existing leads and customers is a good way to generate new or repeat business without spending too much money. Early data also indicates that email engagement is rising during the pandemic, making email marketing an affordable, effective way to reach customers right now. In addition, after an initial boost in March and early April, email volume has been consistent or even less than the same time in previous years, making now a good time to reach people when they aren’t overwhelmed with other messages.

Of course, it isn’t enough to send a message out to your list and wait for the sales to roll in. That’s why it’s important to think strategically, test, and improve all your marketing efforts – especially email.

Understanding Industry Benchmarks for Marketing Emails

Before you can begin measuring the success of your marketing emails, it’s important to understand what standard performance looks like for your industry. MailChimp, a leading email marketing platform, has compiled benchmarks that include average unique open, click, and bounce rates for 45 industries with lists of 1,000 or more contacts. Here’s a look at benchmarks for some of our clients’ industries:

Industry Average Open Rate Average Click Rate
Business & Finance 21.56% 2.72%
Education & Training 23.42% 2.90%
Hobbies 27.74% 5.01%
Legal 22.00% 2.81%
Media & Publishing 22.15% 4.62%
Non-Profit 25.17% 2.79%
Recruitment & Staffing 21.14% 2.53%
Software & Web App 21.29% 2.45%
Average for All Industries 21.33% 2.62%

One easy way to see how your marketing emails measure up is to compare your metrics to the benchmarks for your industry.

Of course, benchmarks can illustrate how much engagement an email receives, but it’s also important that you connect your marketing emails to any new leads or profits they generate. Take a look at our recent blog on marketing ROI to learn more about tracking leads and sales from your campaigns.

Following Best Practices for Marketing Emails

Now that you understand what your marketing email performance should look like, let’s review some best practices to help you achieve and exceed those benchmarks.

How Often Should I Email My List? According to a SmartRMail survey, companies that email their lists 1-2 times per week have higher open and click rates.

  • When is the Best Time to Send Marketing Emails? It’s more difficult to measure the best time to send your marketing emails. Marketing consultants used to recommend Tuesday through Thursday, between 8am and 10am, but an increasing mobile society has led to people opening and clicking on links in emails at all hours of the day and night. The best practice now says to experiment with your list to see when your messages get the best engagement; you might be surprised at the results.
  • What Should My Marketing Emails Look Like? Make sure your email template matches your brand to avoid any confusion from customers or leads. If you don’t have a professional designer on staff, many popular email platforms will help you customize your template to fit your brand guidelines.

How Do I Write a Good Email Subject? Keep the subject of your email brief, clear, and engaging. Experts suggest 3-5 word subjects perform best, but as with everything in marketing, A/B testing can help determine exactly what works for your audience.

  • What Should I Include in My Emails? Conversational tones tend to work best in email, but don’t take too long to tell your readers what they need to know and why they should care. Always make sure to include a clear, concise call-to-action in your message; you can perform an A/B test to find the best placement for your CTA.
  • How do I Avoid Mistakes in Marketing Emails? Whatever you do, don’t send an email to your list without first testing to make sure everything looks good and works the way you intended. Check for misspellings, broken links, images that won’t load, and other visual or typographical errors. Take your time and avoid the embarrassment of sending an email that looks unprofessional or frustrates your customers.

Trouble-Shooting Your Marketing Emails

If you’re experiencing low performance, there are several things to consider. As with all marketing, testing different ideas, offers, and designs is a great way to figure out what resonates best with your audience.

How to Fix Low Open Rates

Low open rates can be a result of several factors. Try experimenting with:

  • Subject: If your subjects are generally long, try something shorter and more punchy. Consider including a special offer in the subject line itself.
  • Day or Time: In our connected world, it’s nearly impossible to predict when your contacts might open an email. Try sending later at night or earlier in the morning to see if you can trigger a change in performance. If you’re in B2B sales, consider sending your message on a weekend when someone may be receiving less work-related email.

Be aware, also, that email open rates are notoriously unreliable. Emails can be recorded as unopened even when they have been viewed, since many email programs show a preview of the email in a separate pane. Recording as open also requires a pixel image to load, so users who have images disabled won’t count as opens even if they read your whole message.

How to Fix Low Click Rates

If people are opening your email but not clicking on your links, you can try the following ideas:

  • Try a different call-to-action. Test different offers to see what your audience finds most appealing.
  • Move the placement of your CTA. We like to make sure it’s one of the first things a reader sees, but different placements may work for different audiences.
  • Make sure your CTA is visible. If you’re using an image button, some users might not see it at all. Make sure to use a text link as well.

Do you need help finding the flaws in your marketing emails and making significant improvements? Talk to a member of our team today to learn more about how we can help with email marketing.



In last week’s post, we broke down how to interpret the various email marketing metrics available to marketers, ultimately identifying the single most important email marketing metric (hint: it’s not open or click rates). So now that you know how to evaluate your email marketing campaigns, let’s talk about how to keep improving your email marketing efforts. This week, we’re going to address four email marketing best practices.

Email marketing remains the best outreach tool marketers have.

1. Use Email Marketing to Segment Your Customer and Prospect Lists

When discussing email marketing best practices, it can be easy to jump right into conversations about design and personalization and overlook one of the key benefits that email campaigns provide: the ability to segment your audience. Each time your prospects and customers receive one of your messages, they take an action (even if that action is to ignore your email). And that action allows you to sort your audience into various buckets based on their behavior.

To capitalize on an email campaign’s use as a segmentation tool, begin by reviewing your email open and click rates, tracking your list’s email and web activity at the individual level in order to sort contacts who responded to your emails into buckets such as the example below.

Sample Email Marketing Campaign Activity Distribution

Notice that we’ve highlighted the individuals who always open or click your campaign. If you’re a B2B email marketer, you may want to prioritize these individuals for sales contact. If you’re a B2C company, this segment might turn out to be your evangelists who are primed to respond to new product releases or loyalty offers. The key is to separate your campaign responders and nurture them appropriately. The number of email marketing permutations you can use to speak to different segments of your email lists is limited only by your creativity, so as you build out your email campaigns remember that an email marketing best practice is to do so with the goal of segmenting your audience in order to filter out those most likely to purchase.

Email #marketing can be a great tool for getting an early read on lead source performance

Want another email marketing tip? If you’re working with lists of prospects, email campaigns can be a great tool to use as an early indicator of a lead source’s viability. If you’ve just run an ad campaign that has brought in hundreds of names, but none of them responds to your email, there’s a good chance your ads aren’t reaching the right audience. Conversely, if you’re seeing record open rates, you’ll know you’ve found a great source of potential customers.


2. Improve Your Email Marketing with Personalized Content that Drives Action

Your customers are smart. They know you, and they expect your business to know them in return. Email is an ideal medium to provide your audience with the level of personalization expected by today’s customer, and an email best practice is to speak to your audience as individuals. Most marketers fail to personalize their email campaigns, yet personalized emails are proven to have higher open and click rates. Experian Marketing determined that personalized promotional emails had 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates. Personalization can be as easy as adding a name to the subject line. According to HubSpot, click rates are higher when the recipient’s first name is used in the subject line, so it’s high time you started with these easy wins.

Targeted Email Marketing Call to Action

This button doesn’t go anywhere, but a call to action like this should be in every single one of your emails.

But email marketing best practices go deeper. Personalization also means including relevant content for the recipient that compels them to act. You should be tracking your audience’s clicks, browses, purchases, and other indications of interest from your customers in a database that you can access to segment and target these individuals. Prospects interested in webinars, for example, will be ideal fits for a targeted campaign driving them toward a learning event about your new product. Every email you send should be compelling them to take action.


3. Mobile Optimization for Email Marketing is a Must, but It’s Not Quite What You Think

Mobile Optimization for Email Marketing

Optimizing for mobile is a balance between text and images

According to the latest research conducted by Litmus, 55% of emails are opened on a mobile device. If your emails are not optimized for mobile devices, they may end up going directly to the trash. What’s significant for a best practice email marketing campaign is the battle between media-rich emails and image blockers on mobile devices (and email in general).

Research conducted by the Relevancy Group has determined that marketers who use digital media such as videos in their email campaigns note a 40 percent rise in revenue. HubSpot also noted that 65 percent of people prefer emails that contain mostly images rather than mostly text. And yet, the first thing your mobile readers will see is likely text, along with a question about whether they want to load your images at all.

Nearly every email marketing software on the market will automatically format your messages for mobile devices. Your challenge is handling your audience’s first impression on mobile. Best practice email marketing works well in both text-only and graphical formats by using styled text more heavily than large graphics and by incorporating image ALT tags that entice the reader (for example “Click for Fall 2016 deals” instead of a random hash of letters and numbers).


4. Email Marketing is Ideal for A/B Testing

Have you ever gotten into a debate with other staff members about which elements of an email marketing campaign work best? These types of discussions about email marketing best practices aren’t uncommon when every percentage point increase is key. The good news is that A/B testing will help you improve your email marketing strategy by testing multiple versions of an email campaign and settling the argument once and for all.

A number of email marketing tools let you conduct automatic A/B testing on a variety of areas such as those below:

  • Subject lines
  • Sent from name/address
  • Copy
  • Images
  • Send times

The more advanced email marketing software suites allow automated testing that will evaluate open and click-through rates on a small sample of two lists to identify the email most likely to drive response and then send that email to your audience. For example, a retail marketer may want to test its content in order to determine if a coupon elicits a purchase. One email could read “We haven’t seen you in a while. Come back and see us!”. The other email with the coupon may say “Take 20% off your next purchase if you visit us within the next five days”. And rather than debate how either will perform, you can let the software do the work to determine your best offer and format.

Testing email #marketing? Let your software evaluate the As and Bs for you!

So that’s it! Pretty easy right? These four simple (but often ignored) email marketing best practices should put your email campaigns in top shape. If you still need help with your email marketing strategy, feel free to contact Young Marketing Consulting.




The ultimate measure of email marketing is did it drive the results you wanted.

When discussing email marketing metrics, the conversation often stops and starts at open and click-through rate benchmarks. Although important measures, these email metrics are not 100% reliable for reasons that we’ll discuss in a moment. But they also belie a bigger point about email marketing: even though its measurements are fuzzy, email marketing undoubtedly works: 82% of B2B and B2C companies use email marketing of some kind, generating a 4,300% return on their investment.

The challenge is that many marketers don’t understand exactly how to measure their email marketing’s effectiveness. So this week, let’s dive into some email marketing success benchmarks that can show you where to focus.

Email Marketing Open Rate Benchmarks

Email open rates can be off by as much as 35%.

Email open rate measurements are far from accurate, with some estimates noting that reported open rates can be off by as much as 35%. There are several explanations for these inaccuracies. First, open rates are calculated based on user downloads of a tiny tracking pixel image, but 30% of email clients automatically turn the image download feature off for security reasons. On the other hand, any recipient using a preview pane which displays emails and downloads the images automatically may be counted as an open without having ever clicked or read your email.

Below, we’ve included some email open rate benchmarks for different-sized businesses from Mailchimp and Silverpop, two email leaders:

Email Open Rates for Small and Medium Businesses

Email Open Rates for Small and Medium Businesses (source: MailChimp)



Email Open Rates for Large Businesses (source: Silverpop)

Email Marketing Click-Through Rate Benchmarks

Click-through rates are often viewed as a more relevant, accurate measure of email effectiveness. The following charts display industry averages for the metrics we have discussed among small and medium, and large-sized businesses.

Email Click-Through Rates for Small and Medium Businesses

Email Click-Through Rates for Small and Medium Businesses (source: MailChimp)



Email Click-Through Rates for Large Businesses (source: Silverpop)

Google Analytics is an excellent tool for tracking “beyond the click”. Email campaign tracking with Google Analytics allows you to isolate site visitors from email and understand their behaviors. After setting up a tracking code, you can see how guests interact with the website as well as conversion outcomes.


Email Marketing Unsubscribe Rate Benchmarks

Now we’re getting to one of the hidden keys of email marketing success: your unsubscribe rate. Keep in mind that even if they don’t open your email or click a link, your recipients will be seeing your brand’s name in their subject line every time you send an email. And when they do, the email will force them to take action (deleting it, marking it as read, etc.). Email’s ability to force your customer to take action is the true key to understanding successful email marketing. As long as your potential customers don’t unsubscribe, they’re granting you permission to keep your offers in front of them until they’re ready to purchase. Low open or click rates are ok, they’re the equivalent of your customers saying that it’s not a good time right now. High unsubscribe rates are not.

Email marketing’s key benefit: it forces your recipient to take action.

So from Young Marketing Consulting’s perspective, the most important email marketing success metric is your unsubscribe rate. Anything with rates higher than the benchmarks below means it’s time to reevaluate your email strategy.

Email Unsubscribe Rates for Small and Medium Businesses

Email Unsubscribe Rates for Small and Medium Businesses (source: MailChimp)

Next week, we’re going to look at exactly how you can capitalize on some of these email marketing best practices. But for now, we hope that these 2016 email marketing benchmarks are helpful for you.