Undoubtedly, the most common question I am asked when speaking to event industry leaders is: “Do you think our open rates and click through rates are above or below the benchmark for the industry?”
While I haven’t officially surveyed the conference professionals that I know, I have many conversations to draw upon, and in my experience email is still hugely important to event companies. They really care about the results they are getting and want to know how they measure up to competitors and peers.
Now, when it comes to actual figures, I believe you have to take them with a pinch of salt. Many marketers like to think that they are already taking the right approach, and simply want to be assured of this. In addition, if you were to ask your marketing manager what kind of results they are seeing you will likely induce panic, and cause them to demonstrate only their best performing pieces for fear of criticism.
But, based on my experiences across the board within the event industry, here are the metrics you should expect to see:
When you buy lists and blast the hell out of them
Open rate: 5 – 10% Click through rate: 0.25 – 1%
Surprise surprise – buying a list of totally unknown, irrelevant, unverified email addresses does not leave you with a multitude of engaged contacts. And yet savvy, intelligent event marketers are still taking this ill-advised route.
There are many reasons for the failure of this approach; the email addresses may no longer be in use (which puts you at risk of falling head first into a SPAM trap), the contacts do not know you so are the least likely people to open your communications or find them relevant, your content is likely to be so non-specific it does not appeal even to contacts you recruited via recommended channels… and on it goes.
And when your open rate is this low, along with your content being non-targeted, you really shouldn’t be shocked to find that few recipients click through to find out more.
When your communications have a content framework to drive events
Open rate: 7 – 20% Click through rate: 1 – 3%
Already you can see how the numbers pick up once the magical term “content” features in your email communications. When you stop blasting hard sell messages to every email address you’ve ever come into contact with, and start by simply explaining what your event is about, the benefits to attending (in non-sales speak), and how it has relevance to the day-to-day challenges of the professionals you engage with, you’ll begin to see an uplift in response rates.
Click through rates increase in a similar fashion when your contacts feel that they are not simply being sold to, and that your communications are personalised in some way. This is probably one of the most realistic email benchmarks in the event industry worth comparing your own performance to, and these figures are more than achievable if you put the time and effort into a structured content campaign.
Generally across B2B content driven marketing campaigns
Open rate: 10 – 40% Click through rate: 3 – 10%
A well thought out content marketing campaign will generate consistently high open rates and click through rates. This tends to occur when contacts are highly engaged (perhaps through an opt-in rather than opt-out process), the content is targeted, personalised and hugely relevant, and it is educational rather than promotional.
Within the event industry it is not always possible to tick all of these boxes, but if you can take this approach outside of your promotional schedule, you’re certain to encounter a far more engaged database when it does come around to delegate registration time.
Now does that answer your question?
I always say that the most important email benchmark in the event industry is your own! If you’re a growing start-up, you’ve got a history of blasting emails, or you just haven’t got to grips with content marketing yet, you’re unlikely to be experiencing the results from the top end of the scale. Try and better your own performance from where you were this time last year, and build your progress incrementally.