November 4, 2022

Why the Industry Standard Email Open Rates are Typically Below 30%

This hugely popular outbound sales and marketing channel's potential is not being reached. Don't be one of those companies that's happy to have over 70% of prospects ignore what you have to offer.

Seb Vissers




It’s one of the oldest digital marketing channels with over 306 billion emails being sent daily to around 4 billion email users - no wonder people tend to get apathetic about opening their 50th cold email of the day and why email tools, filters, and integrations are more widespread and sophisticated - especially when it comes to Enterprise inboxes. While open rates vary (pretty wildly) between different industries, sources indicate anywhere from 15% - 30% as an average for all industries & around 24% for Agencies

These statistics may seem normal to you if you’re currently running your own outbound marketing campaigns but in reality companies could be achieving a much, much higher level of engagement from their contacts. I think Michelangelo said it best: 

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

So what’s holding everyone back? I’ve outlined the main reasons below:

Poor domain reputation

The very first thing you should be doing is testing your domain health and reputation. There’s ample choice out there for tools to test this and (luckily) they don’t have to be overly technical and just assign you a simple score. If you score poorly then you’ve successfully found the first

reason for your bad deliverability. Here are some simple steps you can take to immediately improve your domain reputation:

  • Keep fancy formatting in your emails to a minimum, including your signature.
  • Warm up any new emails you set up. There’s a lot of services that do this for a reasonable price as it’s not something you want to do manually - trust me. Consistency in send volumes is extremely important here.
  • Ensure your lists are clean. It hurts your domain if you send to prospects that bounce and prospects that are just going to hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button.
  • Improve your messaging. More on this below, but for now it’s important to note that you should always avoid using spammy buzz words in your subject lines and email body. Spam triggers go crazy for words like “free”, “buy now”, “deal”, “act fast!” etc. etc.

WIth those four steps you’re already well on your way to increasing those open rates! You’d be surprised at the amount of organisations who run their own outbound that don’t abide by these fairly simple rules. 

Poor message relevance

Everyone has gotten a fair share of emails that make them say “this doesn’t apply to me” or “I actually really don't give a s**t about that” - probably even fairly recently. Most agencies don’t have the capacity to send unique, personalised, and highly relevant emails to every one of their prospects on high volume campaigns. Many of them will tell you the ROI is worth it to get a 24% average unique open rate on a good day, but fail to account for the damage it does to their brand as they end up coming off as spammy, overly-eager, and bothersome. 

The first two things a prospect sees before deciding whether to open, ignore, archive, or flag an email are the subject line and preview of the first line. If these aren’t attention-grabbing & relevant to the prospect then it’ll get ignored, or worse - flagged, which affects your overall deliverability. As many of us are constantly bombarded with these types of emails, it’s getting more and more difficult to actually capture the attention of these prospects.

If you’re like most other companies that run their own outbound, your copywriting department probably just consists of a few SDRs that update a generic template once in a while after some slight nudging from the marketing department. So you probably don’t have the capacity to make it relevant for every single prospect. What can help in this instance is adopting an ABM style approach in your outbound. Bringing your Sales & Marketing teams together to target your best-fit customers can actually lead to up to a 208% increase in marketing revenue without putting extra strain on your current resources. The topic honestly deserves a post of its own, however, it’s fair to say that the poor message relevance (in part stemming from the wrong approach by sales teams) is the #1 reason for poor overall engagement in campaigns.

Poor sending frequency

So many companies fail to properly set effective cadences for their emails. Email cadence is so much more than just a send schedule: it’s a strategy in and of itself. Ramping up sending just because you need to increase your win rate before the end of the quarter isn’t an effective strategy. Spacing out your emails depending on the situation and lifecycle stage of the prospect is a neglected art when it comes to email outbound. Properly nurturing leads, using data-driven insights, and fine tuning with A/B testing can all be a bit time-consuming but will have a noticeable effect on engagement almost immediately.

Need help increasing your campaign engagement?

We have run thousands of outbound campaigns for both ourselves and our clients over the years. With this experience (and lots of testing!), we were able to get an average unique open rate of 85.5% in 2021 for our outbound campaigns. We’d be happy to help you get similar results by implementing an ABM style outbound solution in your campaigns. Contact us if you need to increase your overall engagement while lightening your SDRs’ workload so they can focus on closing deals. 

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