Why are my open rates so bad?

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There are a lot of reasons that an email open rate may be low. It may very well have something to do with your content, but it could also mean that something is not working correctly on a technical level. It may also indicate that there is a problem with your targeting.

First, it is important to establish what a good open rate is. Let’s look at the standard MMM funnel (as taught in Music Marketing Manifesto).

No matter how hard we try, not everyone is going to open our emails. But I like to see an open rate on the first email of at least 80%, or very close to it. If it is much lower than that, open rates should be addressed. You can expect your second email open rate to drop, but I like it to be over 40%. Third email sometimes drops a little more, but not drastically. During the limited time offer that follows, you can expect open rates to drop even more since you are emailing every day for three days. But ideally you are still seeing an open rate between 20% – 35%.

Real time broadcasts typically receive open rates between 20% – 40%, depending on the size and age of your list, and your relationship with your subscribers.

There is a lot of wiggle room here, and these numbers are not set in stone. What is more important is your ROI. But the above is a guideline that gives you some idea of “normal”.

Here are a few scenarios that come up fairly often…

Your ads perform poorly and those who do subscribe are not openingĀ 

When this is happening, it typically indicates that you do not have a well developed USP and your copy, and targeting needs work.

Your ads perform well and your squeeze page is converting well, but the open rate drops off sharply.

We often see a scenario where everything appears to be working well, and the open rate is normal on the first email, but then we see a steep drop off after that. This typically indicates that people are not connecting with your music and/or your copy. This may just be because you are targeting the wrong people. But it could also be that your music still needs some work. However, it is important to also pay attention to the sales conversion rate in this situation, because it is not uncommon to see a funnel that alienates half of the audience, while completely thrilling the other half. So if your sales are high, and/or your email open rate remains relatively consistent from the 2nd email on. It may still be worth running this campaign. If the music and funnel experience is good, then alienating those that are never likely to become fans is not necessarily a bad thing. The ROI is what matters most.

The open rate on your first email is very low.

I often get reports of people who see open rates as low as 45% on their initial email. This always strikes users as puzzling because it’s hard to imagine that someone might sign up to get free music, but then not bother even opening the email that delivers that music. This is my take on why this happens…

Typically, when I see open rates of less than 65% on the first email it is because people have confirmed opt-in turned off. Doing this is not always a bad thing. However, the reason it can sometimes result in low open rates is because Facebook’s algorithm has become almost a little too good at doing it’s job.

Lets say, for example, that you have created a Facebook or Instagram ad that targets Bob Dylan fans, and that Facebook recognizes 5,000,000 people as being interested in Bob Dylan. And lets also say that the “objective” of your campaign is “conversions” (getting people to sign up to your mailing list). Facebook does not just target fans of Bob Dylan in some chronological order. Instead, the algorithm looks at all of the people that are landing on your designated thank you page (your conversion goal) and creates a segment of those 5,000,000 that most closely match the profiles of those people who are landing on your thank you page. Then Facebook targets that segment, rather than the entire 5,000,000 people.

However, the people most likely to subscribe are the people that have less concerns about handing over their email address. These are often people that have a secondary email address that they don’t check often, or who don’t monitor their primary email often. They have less resistance to signing up because they are not concerned about the inbox clutter. Facebook’s algorithm has become so good at cloning the psychological profiles of people within a segment, that they are effectively cloning the “low hanging fruit” of your target audience. In other words, those who are less likely to check their emails. With confirmation turned off you inadvertently end up feeding the algorithm with these unresponsive, less resistant subscribers, which in turn teaches Facebook to target even more people that are just like them. It;s a terrible cycle that just drives open rates down.

This doesn’t happen 100% of the time that you have confirmed opt in turned off, and there are times that you still want to have confirmed opt in off, but it does seem to be happening more and more. The solution is to make note of your ROI, and then create a duplicate campaign that has confirmed opt in turned on. Track your open rates, click through rates, and ROI separately to see what generates the most overall revenue.

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