Knowledge Bulletin: Expert Advice from Peter Hogenkamp.

The numbers lie: Opening rate, clickthrough rate, deregistration rate and rate of return – these are the key figures in email marketing. Maintained B2B newsletters should reach a 30 percent opening rate, says Peter Hogenkamp, ​​head of Swiss newspaper marketing specialist Scope Content. However, he advises that statistics be closely monitored because security software and privacy features are increasingly distorting the numbers. Hogenkamp’s expert advice appears as part of the bulletin weeks for the 15th anniversary of the morning tour bulletin2.

What are the most important key figures in the success of a newspaper and how meaningful are they, Peter Hogenkamp?

“I’m glad you asked” – because in this area, which had been stable for years, suddenly started to move a lot. More about this below.

So far, these four KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) have been the main focus of newsletter marketing and its measured values:

1. Opening rate: How many recipients open the newsletter?
The open rate describes the number of open emails in relation to emails delivered as a percentage. Most systems distinguish how many openings occur in total (“Total Openings”) and by how many people (so-called “Unique Openings”), in which each person is counted only once.

2. Clicks Rating: What is the minimum number of people who click on a link?
The click-through rate tells you how actively your newsletter has been consumed. It shows the percentage of people who clicked on a link in your newsletter in relation to all the people who received the newsletter. “Unique percentage of clicks” counts people who have clicked several times only once.

3. Deregistration rate: How many people have been unsubscribed from the newsletter?
Some people lose with each shipment, this is normal and should not necessarily be an alarm signal. Still, it is worth looking at this number after each shipment, so that you can tell if you have produced an outstanding indicator above. Because then you obviously bothered people, you were very provocative, very boring or very trivial, you sent too often or whatever – here it might be worth asking individually. If the deregistration rate is too high (> 0.35 percent), the integrity of the email will suffer and your email sender may be marked as spam by the recipient’s mail server, which in turn may also mislead your newsletter delivery service provider.

4. Rate of return: How many emails do not arrive?
Divided into “Hard Bounces”, which are emails that could not be sent, usually because the person has left the company, and “Soft Bounces” (out of the office, full inbox, etc.), which can arrive again in a week. next. With any kind of newsletter, you should (have) to delete hard jumps and keep an eye on soft jumps. Especially in the case of B2B newsletters, it is worthwhile to individually track down liars as this improves the quality of your CRM data. (Most people can now easily be found again with the new employer and can be tracked.) Clearing backups is also important to maintain email integrity and consequently delivery, because incoming mail servers classify high newsletter bounce rates as spam. Karma is important in newspapers, in a not at all esoteric sense.

When is an open rate good?

As always: it depends. The opening rate of a newsletter widely distributed to millions of recipients by an e-commerce provider like Otto or MediaMarkt is probably in the low one-digit percentage range. You do not even have to be frustrated if you can get the right pitch so invest in a good capo.

If, on the other hand, you see your newsletter recipients as your expanded circle of friends, as Sport1 editor-in-chief Pit Gottschalk convincingly explained here recently, you should aim for a 30 percent opening rate. This issue would also aim for a well-maintained B2B newsletter, even if there are no friends but a business community, but even these are united in a common interest in a topic.

At 30 percent, I think it’s important not to be disappointed and think, “I mean, 70 percent don’t open my newsletter!” This may be true for a single number, but the 30 percent openers rotate. If a news portal sends me 26 newspapers in the morning every month and I open 30 percent of them, then eight, the media brand is probably stored in my head like, “I read the newsletter regularly.” This is great for brand loyalty. And as I said, sending newsletters is so cheap that as a sender you can overcome 18 unopened ones.

Current developments: KPI under pressure

Like I said, for years everything was pretty consistent, but especially in the last two years it has started a lot, unfortunately not for the better from a marketing standpoint. This is mainly due to two factors: privacy and security.

1. Privacy: Newsletters have always been a great tool for tracking readers very accurately, something most of them probably have not even figured out: when and where to open email, with what devices, how long they read, where they click? As in other areas of digital marketing, there have been efforts over the years to significantly reduce this transparency. Apple in particular, which is very committed to privacy, introduced innovations last year with new versions of the iOS15 and macOS Monterey operating systems to protect users, whether they like it or not, and leave senders in the dark. For example, you can use Apple to generate addresses available for newsletter subscriptions whose real recipients only Apple knows; still a little used option, but who knows how it will develop.

Also in the fall of 2021, Apple introduced the “Mail Privacy Protection” feature for its mail applications. If enabled, Apple opens almost all emails in advance and thus activates the tracking pixel as well. This increases the opening rate, but the statement if an email has actually been read is fake. As a result, the opening rate, the most important KPI in newsletter marketing to date, see above, loses much of its meaning. Other providers are following suit, such as Firefox maker Mozilla with its mail client or Protonmail provider, which is highly privacy-oriented.

2. Security: Every week we all read a new horror story about a ransomware attack in which a poor middle-sized company or municipality finds all of its coded servers and has to pay an exorbitant amount. How did malware get into their network? Practically always the same thing: An unsuspecting user clicks on a link in an email on a malicious code page. Of course there are countermeasures: Security software providers initially direct all emails through their mail server, where the software “clicks” on all links and checks that none of them lead to a malicious page. Undesirable side effect: Suddenly all links are counted as clicked. The sender is happy to increase the click-through rate dramatically – but unfortunately no one got involved, so the clicks are worthless. We have seen our customers grow up to triple from one week to the next.

Anyone who observes something like this should look closely at the statistics. If, for example, all emails for all recipients at a bank or insurance company are clicked, you can be sure that the security software was actually working here. So it’s better to remove these from the stats – which is also a shame because some may have actually clicked. Some posting systems recognize such automated clicks and drop them automatically, but again, this countermeasure to countermeasure has yet to be developed and deployed.

At the same time, A / B testing or automation (“If someone clicks on Mail X, the system sends Mail Y two days later”) becomes difficult if not impossible, especially in the B2B sector. These processes also need to be controlled.

Conclusion – what next?

The main figures of the previous bulletin are therefore under pressure from two sides: While the opening rate, depending on the group of recipients, can sometimes no longer be used for evaluation, the click-through rate usually still works, with the drawbacks mentioned. However, it is unclear whether this situation will remain so. The security solutions described so far have been used primarily by large companies, but it would not be a surprise if mail providers like Gmail & Co. follow the example – then the two main figures would have more or less completed.

What will continue to work: If you put a link to your website in the newsletter, you can certainly give it a tracking code and count it correctly as inbound clicks to the analytics tool there. These statistics are robust and also allow conclusions to be drawn regarding the performance of the newsletter. However, it is a descent and therefore less useful and wonderful.

In any case, you need to keep an eye on the deregulation rate, just as you need to constantly clean up the jumps.

Despite the new challenges in measuring success, newsletter projects still work perfectly – nothing has changed for readers – and newspaper marketing is still one of the most effective and efficient measures in the marketing mix.

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