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The Startup

Why Smart Marketers Don’t Care About Email Open Rates

Here’s what they do instead

Image by Freepik

Many people have an email list. But most of them leave money on the table.

Listen:
I’ve been using email marketing in my business for over a decade. And for most of those years spent in the trenches, I was guilty of imposter syndrome.

Here’s why:
I thought that sending emails was weakening the relationship with my list.
I thought that sending emails would increase my unsubscribe or spam ratio.

But I was wrong. And by far.

The guy I credit for this mind shift is Ben Settle, a brilliant email marketer. He was the first to hook me up on the idea of writing daily emails until I saw the results myself.

Since then, I’ve been sending emails. And a damn lot of them.

Email has been proven to outbeat (and by far) every other online marketing channel in the last decade. Yet, most people freak out about mailing frequently.

Not later than yesterday, I spoke with a fellow content creator. He was comparing his way of doing emails and mine. He’s playing the safe bet. He sends out a weekly email, while I’m on the aggressive side of the fence.

When we talked about my daily emails, he came up with the (in)famous question: “But won’t it hurt the open rates?”

Let me tell you this:
Worrying about open rates is the most stupid thing you can be afraid of. Not because I’m smarter. Not because I know the almighty truth. But for the simple reason that I’ve made this mistake myself!

Worrying about open rates can even be dangerous, and here’s why.

It’s impossible to get accurate data

Do you know how open rates are measured? Let me give you a two-sentence-short crash course.

Every autoresponder embeds a so-called pixel (or “invisible” image) in every email you send. Every time the pixels fire, it counts as an open.

But here’s the thing: Nigerian Princes and Privacy Robbers use emails, too. That’s why many email providers block images. (Ever noticed the “Display external images” banner in your mail app?)

But it can go worse:
According to a study by Adobe, 85% of users use smartphones to access their emails. And mobile accounted for over 40% of all emails opened over the 3 years.

So now comes another interesting fact: Did you know that Android phones and popular apps like Gmail have HTML and images disabled by default?

And guess what?
Roughly 70% of mobile users are on Android, the other 30% iOS. With the latest iOS privacy updates, tracking on iPhones becomes harder, too.

And to go even further, some research even showed that iOS 15 reported inflated open rates.

Anyhoo, all this to say that there is no accurate way to measure email open rates.

Sure, it can give you a clue.

But what’s the point of clogging your mind with clues when you can get accurate data?

Let me explain:
While open rates are more guesswork than an exact science, there’s another metric nobody can mess with.

This metric is called… Sales!

Yes, instead of making decisions based on an invisible 1 by 1 pixel, trust the data that shows up in your merchant account.

In fact, I recently heard Ken McCarthy talking about old-school copywriters. They didn’t care about how many people opened their letters. They cared about the sales that were coming in.

(In case you wonder who Ken McCarthy is… He’s the guy Time Magazine admitted his discoveries on click metrics became the foundation of the online advertising industry and still used until today by Google & other tech giants!)

To make it short: Open rates don’t pay the bills. Sales, do.

Personally, I don’t care about having a 100% or a 1% open rate as long as I have sales coming in. I suggest you do the same. (Making sales is why you started an email list in the first place, right?)

Be a welcomed guest, not an invasive bug

Smart marketers do their research. They know what they’re talking about and who they’re talking to.

Rookies don’t.

Another great lesson I’ve learned from Ben Settle (who credits FBI negotiator Jim Camp for this gem) is that you’re always safe as long as you’re in the other person’s world.

Picture this:
You have a problem. May it be diabetes, getting out of debt, issues with raising your child, whatsoever.

You sign up for an email list that is supposed to help you overcome the problem. Every email adds something to the conversation. You may find an eye-opener, a great lesson, a valuable takeaway, or even an opportunity to buy.

If you truly have a bleeding neck, would you be annoyed by somebody emailing you about it?

I bet not. Heck, I would be happy for someone to care about my problems probably more than I do, day in, day out.

The only people who may get annoyed are those who don’t have the problem or those for which the problem is not painful enough. And in both scenarios, they’re lukewarm people who are just inflating your autoresponder bills.

Funny fact: Writing more emails forces you to become a better marketer.

Moral of the story?
If you know your market and the inner dialogue that’s going on, you can never be wrong about emailing about it. (And a lot, please!)

It’s time to get serious about email marketing

I think that it’s time to stop focusing on the wrong metrics. It’s time to focus on stuff that truly matters.

So many marketers and creators optimize for the wrong metrics. And open rates are one of them.

Optimizing for open rates is as stupid as posting content on social media to only get followers. Yes, followers may help increase social proof. But for God’s sake, stop chasing subscribers. (If you’re reading this, your goal is having a business, not a vanity metric showroom.)

Know your market, write interesting emails, and make sales.
Amen!

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