Open rates can be a useless metric
Open rates can be a useless metric

Measuring email marketing success can be challenging, especially if you're running complex campaigns. Most markets keep track of open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates, conversions, and other metrics, but more is needed. 

Focus on getting your audience to engage with your content and move further down the sales funnel. A good email open rate is around 20-25%, and these figures can go up to 70% for highly personalized emails. But while high open rates are great, you also want your subscribers to take action, whether buying a product or scheduling a call. 

Engagement is email marketing's true gold, and for good reason. Subscribers interacting with your content are more likely to provide feedback, make repeat purchases, and support your brand. As an entrepreneur, you can capitalize on their interest in your business to build lasting relationships

Email marketing funnel

Why open rates are no longer reliable

Open rate is one of the most widely used email marketing metrics, but it tells only part of the story. As its name suggests, it indicates the percentage of subscribers who open a given email. 

Let's say you email 100 people, and 20 of them open it. In that case, your open rate would be 20%. 

Until recently, high open rates were considered the pinnacle of email marketing success. This number somewhat matters, but you should rely only a little on it. First of all, it says nothing about user engagement. A potential customer may open and read your email without taking further action. In fact, the majority of them will.

Second, many email clients block images by default to protect users' privacy and security. 

Open rates are often tracked using a transparent pixel image embedded in the email. If someone reads your message but doesn't enable image display, your email will be marked as "unopened."  

Similarly, even if your subscribers or targets open text-only emails, they aren’t always tracked accurately.

Some email clients allow users to preview the emails they receive without opening them. Others turn off tracking pixels by default, or block email tracking, which can further affect open rate accuracy. 

A good example is Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, a relatively new feature that prevents marketers from using invisible pixels to track email data, including open rates. Similarly, DuckDuckGo Email Protection enables consumers to block tracking technologies. 

Email open rates can be misleading

The above measures intend to give customers more control over their data. But leaving this aspect aside, you still should rely on something other than email open rates. Contrary to popular belief, high open rates don't necessarily translate to increased engagement. 

A potential customer may read your email out of curiosity, delete it, and ghost you

Even if they’re interested in your message, they may wait to reply due to other commitments. 

Additionally, some recipients may open your email after seeing the subject line but still need to read the rest. 

Therefore, they aren’t absorbing the context of the email. You’ve done a good enough job with the “hook” of the subject line to convince them to open the email, but that doesn’t mean they’ve read all the content.

Also, note that many email service providers (ESPs) automatically mark emails as open, inflating the numbers. Under these circumstances, the best thing you can do is track other, more meaningful metrics, such as subscriber engagement and click-through rates. 

focus on meaningful email metrics

Understanding data governance is just as important. Not only does this practice allow you to stay legally compliant, but it can also improve your marketing efforts and increase customer trust. 

All in all, there’s no need to track email open rates to measure the success of your campaigns. A better option is to look into how subscribers engage with your emails and the value they get from them. 

Start tracking email engagement to measure campaign success

An engaged subscriber will click on the links in your emails, ask questions, or give feedback. Simply put, he'll interact with your brand and take some sort of action. Many brands focus on metrics like subscriber acquisition costs, open rates, conversions, etc., which are important. The problem is they often ignore the human side of things and focus solely on numbers. 

Companies can build a loyal customer base by focusing on subscriber engagement and gain a competitive edge. This approach allows them to connect with potential clients more deeply and keep them returning for more. 

Engagement metrics also provide valuable insights into customer needs and preferences. For example, you can collect data on which types of content generate the most interest or which subject lines work best. When you have that data, it’s much easier to build more engaging content in the future. Your content is based on data-driven insights in these instances, not on hunches.

These insights can lead to more meaningful interactions and maximize your marketing efforts. Plus, you'll be better able to segment and score your leads, resulting in higher engagement and conversion rates.

How to engage email subscribers and turn them into paying customers 

Most businesses target multiple customer groups with similar needs but different characteristics. 

For example, a sports apparel store may sell products for hiking enthusiasts, gym-goers, and professional athletes. You can break down these customer groups into multiple segments based on age, income, location, and other pertinent criteria. 

Given these aspects, it's crucial to personalize your email campaigns for each target audience to drive engagement. At the same time, you'll want to re-engage lost leads and bring them back into the sales funnel. 

Still trying to figure out where to start? Use these strategies to increase email engagement and drive conversions. 

Make it personal 

Most consumers receive 100 to 120 emails daily, of which 85% are spam. This aspect can deter potential customers, keeping them from engaging with the brands they love. 

image showing a pie chart of spam emails vs legitimate emails

Adding a personal touch is the best way to make your emails stand out. According to McKinsey, companies that get personalization right generate 40% more revenue than the average business. 

For starters, personalize your subject lines for each customer group. Address your subscribers by name, then look into their browsing history and other data to create personalized content. 

Go one step further and incorporate dynamic images into your emails. This approach will change the image's content based on the target audience. For example, you may use dynamic hero banners illustrating the product categories a customer has purchased. 

Similarly, you can use demographic and geographic data to deliver dynamic content, discount codes, or special offers. 

Harness the power of storytelling 

Storytelling can add a personal touch to your marketing emails and give your business a human face. At the same time, it creates a sense of community around your brand and fosters meaningful connections. 

You need to craft compelling stories that resonate with the target audience. Simply put, you'll want to build a narrative around your brand and products and encourage customers to become part of that story. 

First, think about how it all started. What's the story behind your brand? What sets it apart, and why should your readers care about it? 

Next, tie your story to your customers' needs and interests—and personalize it for each audience segment. Use real-life examples to illustrate your point, sprinkle some humor here and there, and end with cliffhangers to keep readers coming back for more.

Optimize the preview text

Most ESPs display the email subject line and one or two lines of text. This section should act as a hook and tell readers what to expect from your email. Ideally, keep the preview text between 30 and 55 characters to ensure it is fully displayed. Don't just repeat the subject line; build on it by adding more information. 

Let's say your subject says, "A special discount just for you." In this case, the preview text could be something like, "Take a 10-minute survey for 10% off your next order."

Marketers also use this section to spark curiosity or tease readers. For example, you can state a surprising fact to grab their attention and entice them to open your email. Remember to personalize your preview text for each audience group. Test a few different versions, measure their impact, and optimize your copy accordingly. 

Encourage a two-way conversation 

Your prospects and customers want to feel heard, and you need their feedback to improve your offerings. With that in mind, ask your subscribers what they think about a topic and tell them you value their insights. Encourage them to tell you more about their needs and wants so you can better meet their expectations. 

If you plan to launch a product or service, ask them how they feel about it. Are there any features they would like to see? And how much would they be willing to pay for that particular product? 

You can also use this approach to re-engage inactive subscribers. Simply ask for their feedback or address a topic they're interested in and wait to hear back. 

Note, though — if your emails go unanswered more often than not, your domain name may have been blacklisted. This guide explains everything you should know about domain blacklisting, so you might want to check it out. 

Incentivize your subscribers 

Last but not least, incentivize customers who actively engage with your emails. 

For example, you could offer exclusive deals, branded merch, product samples, or free access to webinars. In exchange, ask your subscribers to take action, such as filling out a survey or mentioning your brand on social media. 

Another option is to create a referral program. Encourage subscribers to recommend your products and reward their efforts with a special discount, cashback, or freebies. 

Such incentives make people feel valued and create a sense of loyalty. 

Over time, they can boost email engagement and set your brand apart. 

Take your email marketing up a notch 

Email marketing success means more than high open rates. This metric matters to some degree, but it's useless on an island. You also need to consider how customers interact with your brand, their actions, and where your efforts make a real difference. 

An engaged customer is a happy customer. Not only will he buy your products, but he may also recommend your brand and provide meaningful feedback. Therefore, it makes sense to prioritize engagement over vanity metrics.

As a final word, remember that email marketing is an ongoing process. Experiment with different subject lines and types of content, redefine your audience as needed, and keep up with the latest trends. Most importantly, engage your subscribers with personalized messages that match their ever-changing needs.

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