A new benchmark email marketing metric study conducted by marketing automation provider, Silverpop, looks at average email open rates, click-through rates and more.  But, are the statistics optimistic or misleading?

What’s key to understand is not all email campaigns are created equal.  Click-through Rates (CTR) vary wildly depending on the warmth of the list, how recognizable the sender, the offer/promotion, and even the time of year.

Silverpop Survey Report CoverIt’s also worth noting, some email distribution tools calculate “opens” by counting recipients who choose to download images contained in the HTML email.  Many will open, but not download the images.  I know I don’t always click ‘download images’.

So when the study says the average unique open rate is 20.1% and mean CTR of 5.2%, I’m inclined to call bullshit.

For a prospecting email to a fresh list, I’d expect a 5% to 10% open rate and a 0.5% to 2% CTR – about HALF what the Silverpop study suggests.

A result I DO agree with from the study is that the best email marketers are getting better and the poor ones are getting poorer.  But isn’t that how it always goes?!  In any free market, the gap between top and bottom performers widens with time, sophistication and innovation.  That’s nothing new.

So what benchmarks should I use?

If you’re looking for email marketing benchmarks you can use, look no further than your own backyard – or email dashboard, anyway.  Inside all those old campaign reports are a wealth of information perfectly representative to your business, your list, and your best (or worst) practices.

To put that another way, don’t benchmark your golf game against Tiger Woods.   Benchmark it against yourself – striving to BE the next Tiger Woods.