What is a favorable internal newsletter/email open rate?

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I've seen lots of industry open rates for external newsletters/emails, but nothing for internal. Can someone help?
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ICF International

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Posted 5 years ago

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Katie Lewis, Official Rep

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Hi there! I haven't seen a firm internal open rate either, likely because there are a lot of factors. I can give you a real-world example, though: Every two weeks, I send a company-wide email sharing the kind compliments Emma users have shared about our products, support and design. It's sent every other Friday at 3 p.m. Central and acts as a warm and fuzzy entry to the weekend.

Using the Compare mailings button on the Response page, I took a look at the last five mailings' open rates. The average is 87.34%. Important factors:
  • The email is consistently sent, and it arrives to inboxes on Fridays, close to when people are doing their final inbox check before the weekend.
  • The email has no call to action other than to read it.
  • The content is positive.
  • The email goes to email marketers, and it's about their own platform.
My point is that this is an easy email to open, so I'd call that massive open rate uncommon when it comes to typical company correspondence. I'd love to hear the open rates others are seeing for their internal emails! I'll share this link around, and please share below the type of industry you're in, when you're sending, the typical content and the open rates you're seeing.
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Ted Hogan, Champion

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Katie, does that imply that +12% of Emma's own employees don't open company emails. I might have kept that little nugget to myself. ;)

I started to skip this since I didn't really think it applied to me.  I've been focusing my efforts on outbound emails targeted towards lead generation rather than on internal communication.  But after a minute's reflection, this post started me to thinking that a regular email targeted internally to our employees might be an excellent idea for me to pursue.

Our company is spread out over 13 locations in 8 states, and this might just offer me a very useful tool to open an internal dialogue about what we're doing with the website and our larger marketing efforts to promote the company. I think it's worth a shot (and measure the response) ... thanks for a good idea at the right time.
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Katie Lewis, Official Rep

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Hey, it's real life! And this lines up with what I'd expect: Most of our company is customer-facing (Support, Design, Concierge, Sales), so they account for those opens, as their teams are likely to be singled out by a user.

It sounds as though internal email would be a great way to connect the cultures of your separate location. Our Portland office sends a periodic email to the company keeping us in Nashville in the loop about what's happening in their neighborhood. It makes us feel closer.
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American River College

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My college just converted a former PDF weekly employee newsletter to Emma. The results after 3 editions: 16.7% open rate and 28.4% click rate. Very low numbers. It is the end of the semester for us and folks are tired, buried with finals, etc. However the open rates are discouraging.

Looking at the data, we can guess that no one was reading the newsletter when it was previously sent as a PDF attachment - now we just have data to prove it. I think we will need to do some work in the next semester to promote the new Emma version, get folks to understand that the newsletter now is mobile-friendly, more click-friendly, etc.
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Ted Hogan, Champion

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I wouldn't be discouraged by those numbers if I were you. They would be pretty darned good if targeted to a larger, more general audience. If your newsletter is targeted in-house only to your employees, I would want to know if they each opted-in to the list or if you are sending out a blast to everybody's company-issued emails. Initial audience member buy-in has an enormous impact on overall open rates and click-through rates -- so that provides a framework for evaluating your audience response.

Using the personalization tools that Emma offers may improve your open rates -- for example, addressing each recipient by their first name or publishing dynamic content that varies by department. Offering compelling content will help your response rates more than anything else. A weekly publication cycle means you have a deadline every week for producing new and compelling content. It can be a real challenge to consistently feed that machine with excellent content unless you have a large writing staff or a large pool of existing resources to draw from and repurpose.

There is always the need to educate any audience and to elevate their expectations. And as you already suggest, you have a new set of tools in your toolbox to make the email newsletter more engaging, mobile-friendly and clickable for your audience than before. 

I know perhaps it has become a cliche, but it certainly applies here -- the activities required to communicate with any audience (especially employee communications) are better thought of as an ongoing journey where you never reach a final destination.

Like I say, I wouldn't be discouraged by those numbers if I were you. You now have an excellent benchmark against which to measure the growth and success of your progress. 

Good luck!
Ted 
(Edited)
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American River College

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Ted, I can see why you are a champion - thank you!

I agree with all your points. Employees don't opt-in; this publication has always been a blast to all emails. It used to be a hard copy in mailboxes (!) until 2013 then was transitioned to a PDF attachment, now Emma. So the journey continues.

The personalization idea is a good one, which we'll look into. We only have 3 Emma issues under our belt, so we're still trying to see what content people are clicking on. That data will help drive what we publish. But we need to get them to OPEN first before we can start seeing what content they engage with.

Thanks again!
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Ted Hogan, Champion

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You might also consider if Emma's email automation tools are appropriate for what you are trying to accomplish. In simple terms, if a recipient takes some action you define, like clicking through on a link or a call to action, then you can set up a drip campaign to send that recipient a follow-up email with additional content.

If is easy to overwhelm people and create audience fatigue (an unintended consequence), but perhaps a drip campaign using the automation tools in Emma might help you build engagement with at least that part of your audience that is receptive to your messaging.
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American River College

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Good point. We haven't really used the automation so far so we'll have to look into that.

One concern I have is watching so that automation isn't invasive or rubs people the wrong way, privacy-wise. I don't want to use automation in a way that makes my readers think I am tracking them in ways that are inappropriate.

Do you have any thoughts on the privacy issue?

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Ted Hogan, Champion

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I make a very concerted effort not to ever overdo it, but there is no hard and fast rule to let you know how much is too much. I know the recipient is not obligated to receive our messages, so I always consider it a privilege to have an invitation from someone to place our message in their inbox. 
In that sense, if we are their guest I don't ever want to wear out my welcome.

In our case, the website and email campaigns are all about lead generation so when someone initially opts into our mailing list I use Emma's automation tool to immediately send the first of a series of 3 emails to introduce us to the new subscriber.

The first email uses personalization to address the recipient by name and contains 3 links to additional content on our website which may be of interest to them. This content is all designed to help answer questions or objections they may have.

One day later, my automation sequence will send the second email in the series containing a short, concise 60-second video which provides an overview of our services.

One day after that, I use the Emma automation tool to send out the third and last email in this campaign with a summary list of bullet points. Each email is written and designed to build on the message of the previous one, and to encourage the recipient to contact us to get answers to their questions.

And, I stop this series at 3 emails.

I want to keep the new subscriber interested and I want to lay the groundwork for a recruiter who will follow up with the lead. I figure the content provided by the 3 emails is enough to keep them engaged without creating fatigue and prompting a negative user response.

Over time, I look to my performance numbers for this automated series to guide me as to what is appropriate So far this welcome series is getting a 44.9% overall open rate, a 39.9% overall click-through rate with only 7 opt-outs (out of several thousand emails sent). I notice that my open rate and CTR is even stronger for the 2nd email than for the first, but the response rates start to slip a bit on the 3rd email. That tells me that 3 emails in the series are probably appropriate and 4 might just be too much.

Test. Measure. Make adjustments. Repeat.

Again, your mileage may vary but this seems to be working pretty well for us.
:)
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American River College

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Good feedback - thanks Ted. Do you do any automation once they are subscribed and opening? In other words, do you use automation if subscribers click on certain links? Just curious - thanks for your help.
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Ted Hogan, Champion

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Not yet, but I hope to test and experiment with that idea some more after New Years'. I may be overly cautious, but for now, I have not wanted to risk my automated campaigns overlapping and hitting the user's inbox at the same time (potentially creating user confusion and fatigue).

Links in my regular newsletters (which I send out every 3-4 weeks) direct user clicks through to additional related content on my website. Every landing page I link to has a prominent call-to-action and an email contact form.

And we have 12 locations in 8 states, so I do use dynamic content insertion based on a user field I defined called closest location to vary one section of the newsletter content based on where the recipient is located.

Again, our goal here is lead generation. Not every contact is ready to commit when they first reach out to us for more info, so I feel a 3-4 week newsletter publication schedule gives me a second bite at the apple, hopefully without driving anyone to the point of opting out.

I use Google Analytics tracking codes within my Emma emails, so I can see a dramatic spike in our website traffic and leads attributable to our email newsletter every time I sent one out. You asked earlier about newsletter ROI, and that is one way I can measure and prove results from our email campaigns to my managers.
(Edited)
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American River College

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Good info. I also am wary of confusion/fatigue.

Our arts and athletics newsletters are weekly, as there is always some music event or game happening - and there are always results. Obviously, we appreciate people supporting our arts/athletics programs but we also want them to take the next step and attend an event. That's the real conversion we're looking for: take the info about an upcoming event and act on it by attending that event. We don't want our student artists and athletes performing for tiny audiences; we want them to hear applause, not crickets chirping. So we are brainstorming how a newsletter can help drive that action.

Thanks!

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Ted Hogan, Champion

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People love to get a glimpse behind the scenes, so maybe you could feature some stories with photos of theatre rehearsals, or inside an art studio, or team practice, etc. Give your audience an inside peek behind the curtain. The more visual you can make it, the better.

Try to think of ways to incentivize the action you want people to take. Perhaps by using the email newsletter to promote an awareness campaign on social media. Close the loop by using that same social media to build awareness of the new newsletter format. Perhaps you could even engage students with a promotion to encourage them to submit photos and comments from events on campus, then feature selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter and social media feeds.

If you can make it fun or rewarding in some way, you can create an opportunity for viral content that your audience will share for you.

Just a thought... Good luck!
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American River College

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Great ideas - thanks. I agree we need to work on ways to incentivize!
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Emily Hollingsworth, Alum

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Hi friends -- I'm so glad to see some helpful solution sharing going on here! :)

I wanted to chime in to let you know that in addition to the Emma tools Ted referenced here, our services team can also offer results-boosting consultation services! In the context of your questions here, American River College, I think the Open Rate Booster package would be a great fit.

If you find yourself needing an extra hand on moving those numbers, let me know. I'll get you connected!
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Ted Hogan, Champion

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I see what you did there, Emily  ... excellent use of call-to-action!
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American River College

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Thanks Emily. We'll check that out. Agree with Ted - good use of the CTA!