How’s Your Email Open Rate? Here Are Two Reasons Why It Doesn’t Matter.

By October 11, 2013 Email Marketing
How's Your Email Open Rate? Here Are Two Reasons Why It Doesn't Matter.

Sounds nuts, I know.

Especially coming from someone who regularly obsesses about my open rate. After Gmail tabs made their debut, I pulled gray hairs out as I calculated losses in a few percentage points.

But I also obsess about Klout, even though I know rationally that it’s a pointless thing to do.

And I count Twitter followers like a mad scientist.

It’s the numbers. They’re addictive, and we like to see them get bigger and bigger even though we tell ourselves that it’s an illusion and that quality trumps quantity.

Still, quantity is cool.

And still, I’m about to give you two reasons why your open rate doesn’t matter, so you can tuck them under your hat the next time you’re watching the numbers like I do. Because ultimately, numbers can be deceptive.

Open Rate Is A Function Of Technology

You may think that whenever someone views your email it counts as an “open”.

Not true.

The way open rate gets calculated is that your email service drops a tiny, invisible graphic into each HTML email that you send.

When someone downloads the graphics in your email, they also download the invisible tracking graphic and that gets counted as an open.

And thus the problems start popping up like weeds.

What if you send a plain-text email? No open tracking.

What if someone doesn’t download the graphics in your email? No open tracking.

Sadly, even if someone does download the graphics in your HTML email, that doesn’t mean they read it. It could just mean they clicked through on their way to that coupon for Pier 1.

Open rate can give you a general gauge of the relative success of an email campaign. If you’re used to 20% open rates and suddenly you see a drop to 5%, something is probably going on.

But instead of worrying that your rate is 20% and not 30%, you can be looking at other metrics, instead.

How about click rate? If you regularly add links in your emails, whether to your blog posts, sales pages or events, what you really want to know is how many people are interested enough to click through to find out more (and even convert!)

Who cares if 50% of your list opened an email if nobody bothered to buy your thing?

You can also track your responses. Are people sharing your email with others in their social networks? Are they replying to you when you ask questions or make requests? What kind of feedback are you getting from your readers?

If your relationships are growing, and you’re generating leads and sales, I bet you’d take that over a sparkling open rate any day.

Open Rate Reflects The Interests Of A Limited Set Of People

Here’s a thing I’ve learned about content that I produce, whether it’s in the form of an email or a blog post: sometimes people like it, and sometimes they don’t.

There are times I’ve written something that felt so awesome and profound, and that did get great feedback – from all six people who it resonated with.

Sometimes, the feedback has been so immediate and so delightful that I thought, “Wow, this is going be the best open rate ever! Everyone is going to love this!” And then I look at the numbers and they’re the worst I’ve ever seen.

Inevitably I find that the more I think people will like something, the less they do. But that’s not a bad thing. It just means that instead of speaking broadly and getting general interest from a general audience, I’ve really nailed something meaningful to a specific set of people.

Those are the times I meet the best people and do the best business.

Open rate? Not so hot.

Success rate? Much better.

So when you’re building relationships, generating leads, making sales… go ahead and count those numbers. If your open rate doesn’t quite match up?  Take the rest of the day off to worry about your Klout score, instead.

Do you worry about your open rate? Is it worth losing sleep over? Let me know! You should probably also sign up for our emails (from the sidebar) because they’re awesome. And be sure to open!