What’s a good open rate?

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A question we’re asked very often with new clients is what kind of success metrics they should expect to see with their e-mail marketing campaigns. Marketers want to know if they should expect a 20% open rate, or a 10% click-through rate; they have the desire to compare numbers to some industry standard to judge success. This can be a dangerous trap for us as we try and judge what constitutes a “successful” e-mail program.

The first thing we should look at is the industry we’re competing in as senders. Some specific verticals may have exceptionally high open and click rates. Loyal audiences in some areas can yield 50% or higher open rates. Some senders concentrate on higher volumes to compete with the glut of messages in their discipline. In these cases a .5% open rate may be exceptional and profitable. It is very important to evaluate your campaign relative to other like senders.

Now that we have an idea of whom we’re competing against, it is time to put a dollar figure on our deliveries. You should always have an idea of how much it costs to acquire customers, and then how much those customers are worth to you over the life of your program. Armed with these two numbers, you should have an idea of how much profit each customer interaction--opens and clicks--generates. These figures will give you an idea of what you should be spending to generate the number of interactions needed by your program.

The last thing to strive for is consistency. An e-mail program built the right way has consistent numbers that are easily forecasted and attainable. You should see little day-to-day change in statistics. This consistency makes it easier to identify small issues proactively before they become fatal.

Kevin Senne is global director of deliverability and product services for e-marketing solutions at Premiere Global Services (

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