Ensuring your success in email marketing

Ensuring your success in email marketing

Email as a form of communication dates back to before the Internet and remains one of the most broadly used Internet tools today. Mass communicating via email is one of the most cost effective and highly targeted marketing tools an organization can use to inform customers and build loyalty.

Over the last few years, we’ve gained quite a bit of experience with email marketing. In most cases this has been newsletters mass emailed on behalf of our clients but occasionally we’ve also been asked to send out one-off special messages

In every case a couple of key questions are invariably asked: “What’s a good response rate?” and “How can we increase the response rate?” (For the purpose of this post, I’m going to ignore the question of the actual purpose of the newsletter as this will also affect expectations on response rates.)

Now let’s have a look at those two questions.

What’s a good response rate?

This is actually a pretty hard one to answer as it’s going to vary considerably depending on the type of communication and who it’s sent to.

For example, an email promoting large discounts on boating products  sent to only people who own boats will always have a higher open rate than one sent to a less targeted list. Therefore I believe the best way to work with response rates is to measure this compared to other emails you have sent to the same list. Use it to work out if your results are improving or declining.

Assuming the type of people in your list of recipients remains relatively constant, making adjustments to other elements of your campaign should help to improve your own open rate. At TSBC however, we tend to send out newsletters to fairly similar target groups and with similar types of content, so, for the record, and as a benchmark, I’d expect about a 25-30% open rate. I’d also expect that this would be higher the first time you email a group as there will be a certain percentage of recipients who will be curious enough to open the first edition they receive, and then not bother with future editions.

How can we increase the response rate?

Response rates are going to vary depending on a number of factors such as design, use of images, domain keys, email software compatibility and the use of HTML vs text only emails. It’s a large topic so in this post, I’m concentrating just of what you can do with email content to improve your response rates.

Subject line. This is a key factor. It’s important that this be consistent and if feasible to also describe the content to encourage recipients to open the email. This works like an invitation to read more.  A consistent subject line also provides brand awareness. They’ll remember it from last time.

Content. Response rates are higher when the content fits the audience, is of high quality and when the recipients have previously read good content in your emails.  Therefore never settle for average content as it could be hard to win back recipients you disappoint. Make sure that the content is actually of interest to the people on your list so research your target group and include content that is highly relevant to them.

Clickable links. Including clickable links to ‘more information’ is a pretty good way to figure out if what you are saying is of interest, and can help to get the content right. If you find people are clicking on certain types of content, you can easily create similar types of content in future editions.

Time of delivery. There are a number of arguments to be had regarding day of week and time of day, but research shows that it probably makes minimal difference. Experimenting with your own mailing list delivery time may improve response rates but it’s very debatable whether this actually makes much difference at all. The other three factors above are more important.


Glen Senior
Glen Senior

CEO Glen Senior has been helping small businesses start and grow since 1989. Along the way, he has published 6 books on small business development and business planning, created training courses, built e-learning platforms, and developed Microsoft USA’s Small Business Plus program which was delivered into 9 countries.Since 2005 Glen has focused on the banking sector and has built up an extensive knowledge of how banks can engage with the small business segment. He has presented at a number of small business banking conferences and is sought out as an opinion leader in this space.


  1. Good post in my opinion, I think the perfect mail need to be well organised, to have a catchy subject, and to be well expressed. Best regards and keep going on !

  2. Thanks for your comment. Any thoughts on time of day or day of week? I’ve been reading a few posts that suggest it has almost zero effect on readership.

  3. From studies made on response rates, its suggested Tuesdays 11am is a good time since Mondays everyones snowed under.

  4. I’m of the opinion that frequency is a factor also. Too frequent and I’m not interested (unless it’s one of those annoying deal a day things) as it will tend to bombard my inbox.

  5. Good point. I’ve always subscribed to the same theory, aiming for Tuesday/Wednesday or Thursdays, Timing the delivery so that the recipient is more likely to be at their desk when the email arrives. More recenlty however, I’ve been studying my own responses with emails, I regularly scan my inbox for all the unopened emails, and I think I am probably just as likely to open an email that arrived last night as this morning. I’ll be testing this further, but for now, I am not going to be too concerned anymore on those occasions that a mid-week, morning delivery can’t be achieved. More imporant to ensure the content is excellent instead.

  6. I agree Justin. You need the right balance between often enough that you don’t get forgotten yet not too often to be annoying. Another danger for many businesses when sending an ‘information’ email/newsletter too often is that the quality of the content can suffer as it becomes harder and harder to come up with the ideas, time and inspiration to create the requried volume of material. PS – I love dealaday emails! Also ‘Idea a day’ like Springwise (springwise.com) PPS – Good luck in the new job

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