Email campaigns – statistics aren’t the whole story.

Posted | 2 comments

Over the past few months I’ve been doing some experimenting with different email campaign formats for various businesses.

It’s interesting to note that statistics really do not tell the whole story and should not be relied upon to define whether a campaign was successful or not. In typical direct response ratios, a 20% to 35% open rate is considered pretty darn good.  In regular direct mail, this statistic is impossible to track.  You can only track response rates which are considered good at the 1.5% mark.

With email campaigns, however, there are a lot more statistics available.

You can quickly see:

  • bounce rate: inaccurate or invalid addresses
  • open rate: number of people (and who) opening your email
  • click through rate: those who click on a link in the email
  • forward rate: number who forward the email to someone else not on your list
  • opt out rate: those who unsubscribe from your list
  • spam report rate: those who report you for sending them unsolicited emails – a serious allegation that can result in you being barred by your service provider from sending any emails at all.

These statistics help you assess a few different things:

  1. the accuracy of the list
  2. the precision of the targeting of the list
  3. the impact of different types of subject lines and offers
  4. how many gross idiots you have on the list

In explanation, let’s look at each of the above points in turn:

  1. accuracy:  a high open rate is only the first step, a high level of interest can be achieved without a high level of accuracy – you’ll see the accuracy of your list reflected by the number of sales resulting from a campaign, not necessarily from the open rate.
  2. precision of targeting: once again, the more precisely targeted the list, the higher the actual bottom line response will be
  3. impact of the subject line and / or offer: this one is truly a 2 edged sword.  I’ve seen mysterious and intriguing subject lines garner more opens and less action than a more prosaic subject line.  For instance, in one campaign, the subject line:  “They’re arriving!” garnered a 35% open rate while a more traditional “$20 coupon enclosed” garnered only a 27% open rate.  Yet the bottom line action was higher on the second than on the first. The first step is to get people interested enough to open the email, the second is to keep them interested enough to read the offer and the third is to have an offer that’s attractive and compelling enough for them to take action.  Mess up on any of these aspects and your bottom line suffers.
  4. how many idiots you have on the list: this point isn’t really anything that you can do anything about, it’s just a petty frustration.  For some reason, I’ve found women on lists to be the biggest culprits here.  They sign up for a list – then suddenly one day, out of the blue, rather than unsubscribe, they file a spam report against you.  Because spam reports are anonymous (who the heck knows why?!) you cannot remove this person from your list.  They fail to unsubscribe and therefore receive your next email, and the next and the next… each time reporting you for ‘spamming’.

When you are planning an email campaign, every single step of the process is important, from the list to the look of the email you’re sending.  From the subject line to the offer.  From the frequency of the mailing to the web site sales page.

One way to ensure that you get the best possible bottom line response is to map out the entire campaign on a white board to ensure a smooth flow and a logical argument that can be accurately targeted to your audience.  Trying to just do it ‘in your head’ can lead to a much more difficult and unsatisfying experience for you, and your list.


  1. I recently had a client that brought in a 35.2% response rate from an PURL email campaign using Purlem. It was very simple and effective. I can forward you some details on the campaign if your interested.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Mary
      thank you I’d be interested in receiving this information.
      Best wishes

      Post a Reply

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