I frequently get asked questions about how an email marketing list “should” perform. How a particular brand’s engagement metrics “should” compare to industry “standards.” The answer I always come back to is this:
Every email list is different.
This is not to say that you should toss out industry benchmark reports altogether. But comparing your list to others in your industry or in general becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy—either you feel good about your numbers, you feel terrible about your numbers, or you start to rest on your laurels that you’re “hitting the average.”
Why is every email list different? I point to two major factors:
1.Your Brand is Different
Even in your category, your brand is different. It’s viewed differently by your current customers, your potential customers, and the world at large. Your products and services are going to be viewed differently. If you truly have a unique selling proposition (marketing buzzword bingo alert!), then why wouldn’t your list engage differently with your content versus the content of your competitors?
2. Your email list is filled with human beings. People.
Our friends over at Inbox Group put together this wonderful infographic a while back about the real people on your email list. In it, we’re reminded that:
[People’s] lives change constantly, just like ours do. They might get a new job. They move, they get married, they get divorced, they have a baby, they buy a home… and they deal with all the same life issues every one of us deals with on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis.
Buying habits change due to changes in life. Engagement patterns can change as well.
Okay, great. My list is filled with people. Now what do I do?
You need to establish your own internal benchmarks. Perform an audit of your current email marketing program (or we can help you) and determine your averages in these key metrics:
- Open Rate
- Click-through Rate
- Click-to-Open Rate
- Unsubscribe Rate
- Conversion Rate
- Average Order Value
- Revenue Generated Per Send
- Revenue Generated Per Open
- Revenue Generated Per Click
These are just some ideas. Maybe your email list isn’t designed to drive revenue but other types of engagement. Whatever your definition of a “conversion” metric is, focus on that in your audit.
Once you’ve determined your benchmarks, focus your efforts on marginal improvements. You can hit a home run every once in a while, but progress is made through incremental growth and focus, not the big shots.