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What do you do with email opens that don't reply or click?

We have a client that we're building a high volume email automation system for, and I thought someone here might be able to help with this question. In most funnels, there is an open, a click, perhaps a reply, depending on your call to action. If the process ends at an open (no click or reply), what do companies experienced in outbound do with that dead end? Do you follow up a few times and then abandon? Any stats or data to share would be helpful. Specifically, I'm interested in any stats or data you may have related to dead end openers (openers who don't click or reply).

Thanks for any info you're willing to share.

10 Replies

Paula Chiocchi
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Paula Chiocchi Entrepreneur
B2B Email Marketing Diva and CEO, Outward Media, Inc.
Hi Kevin. Not sure if your client is a B2B or B2C marketer. We counsel our B2B marketer clients depending on their resources to pull opens and clickers and send to an outbound call center. You can continue to do outreach thru email to openers with relevant content. We have seen with some of our B2B clients it take a long as year to convert openers.

James Hipkin
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James Hipkin Advisor
CEO, Managing Director at Red8 Interactive
What Paula said.

It's also a good idea to send an immediate follow-up email to opens that don't click, and clicks that don't convert. The copy might be different. Test to find out what works. For example, for clicks that don't convert, have emails ready that address the link topics in more detail. If there is a link about left hand widgets, have a follow-up email prepared that does a deep dive into left hand widgets. Send this to the folks who click the left hand widget link.

Good luck with it.
Frank Cohen
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Frank Cohen Entrepreneur
CTO and Founder at Appvance
Hi Kevin, reading your post makes me think of three things: 1) What's the difference between an open and what Google Analytics would consider a bounce? 2) Does the amount of time a user spends on the page become part of your service's analytics? 3) How are you testing your system for security and performance under load? -Frank
Paul Geller
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Paul Geller Entrepreneur
Web Executive, Entrepreneur
One thing you can do, to change it up, is send a personalized, physical card in the mail. My company (Thankster.com) authentically simulates handwriting and can automate this sending through our integrations with Zapier and others. We have several clients who use us for this use case. Curious to hear what approach you end up taking.
Kim Albee
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Kim Albee Advisor
Marketing Automation & Content Marketing Strategist
Hey Kevin
First you want to know that the people you are sending to that aren't opening or clicking are actually receiving your emails in the inbox.

A good list cleanse company can help identify if there are any issues with the emails on your list - and we have learned a ton going through this process - like spam traps will open your emails! So just because you're seeing an open doesn't mean anything.

An open is the most unreliable metric in email marketing. We like to look at it- but in reality, all it means is that the images were downloaded. And some ISPs cache images.

What is reliable is the click.

We have done this to pretty great effect:

Set up a sequence of 3 or 4 emails asking for a specific action - to register in a Webinar or download an attractor (aka lead magnet). Each email in the sequence asks for the action differently. Different subject line, different message.

Key: you must know your audience and the content must be relevant.

If someone doesn't open (or all they do is open) they get the entire sequence. As soon as they click or take the desired action on the landing page, stop the sequence. In fact you could have another sequence of emails that you trigger leads into that clicked but didn't convert... Because you can talk to them differently.

You can be more personalized in your sends. At the end you see how many of your non openers have opened.

And you start again with the non openers. We did this where we'd only send a series like this once per month to the non openers. We always added more to the openers and as we sent more campaigns to the openers we got more who click

And those who are opening but not clicking you work to find their hot topic - and those that click, then you can dive in with more content that is helpful based on their click.

I think it's something like 80% of people will buy after the 7th touch (I think it depends on your market), but most people stop after the third try.








Jessie Towns
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Jessie Towns Entrepreneur
Product Marketing Specialist at Wellspring Worldwide
Hi Kevin,

Lead scoring may be helpful for you in your campaigns. A prospect could receive emails for months from you and open only one time. If you attribute points to a lead and when they open an email, they can be on a specific list for which emails they are opening. After time you can reach out to them with a more targeted campaign.

Opens are not the best metric because they could be trying to delete your message instead of opening it. It is important to be targeted in your approach with specific content relevant to them.
Paul Garcia
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Paul Garcia Advisor
President at TABLE
There's a huge amount of research available to you on this subject. This information is usually part of the sales collateral from ESPs like ConstantContact, and also from inbound marketing companies like HubSpot. You may have to participate in their training programs to get the information, but it has no cost other than your time. You'll surely get some good nuggets of information even if you do not use their services. There's also a series of content from MECLabs (marketingexperiments.com) which test assumptions and explain in detail what works and doesn't with email content.

The top two things to consider are 1) what kind of relationship do you already have with the email recipient 2) relevance [are they ready to buy/use today whatever you're talking about in the message]

There's no substitute for testing messages. There is no message that cannot be improved. To engage your messages a recipient must find it interesting enough to open, relevant enough to take interest, and timely enough to take action. It's a pretty high bar, but more than clicks and opens, ideally you know more about your audience than just individual message behavior. Data points like how soon after the message is sent is it opened, is it forwarded, on what kind of device is it being read, was it opened more than once, are all messages or just some opened, if B2B do other people at the same company react differently to the same message, what style of content gets a better response from the same recipient?

For people who aren't yet your customer, until they say stop, you have nothing to lose by continuing to be present, be relevant, and be ready for their decision. For people who are your customer, you have other ways to reach them and find out what's going on and how they perceive your messages and value.
Michael Hartzell
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Entrepreneur, Addicted to "Yes" - When Everyone Wins
Since there is not a way to understand why, we continue to keep them on a list until they unsubscribe. Too many times people are grouped into one big basket... and are treated the same. We avoid this debacle by narrowing the email lists to maintain relevance, improving the open and click rates.

@Paul Geller - Unique personal invitations -- one the five essentials to business success. thumbs up.
Peter Liepmann
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Peter Liepmann Entrepreneur
Family Physician, Policy Wonk, Systems Analyst, Healthcare MBA
First, I'm assuming you 'know' they opened your email because you have a 1 pixel jpg embedded. People who are savvy about computer security turn off automatic loading of remote content for exactly this reason. So you will never know unless they choose to load remote content.

Be sure you have an 'unsubscribe' link in your email. Sending folks who don't want your product more email is called SPAM!
If a vendor is particularly persistent and obnoxious, I create a specific filter to delete all their emails without reading....

You might send non responders ONE more email, just in case, then put them on an inactive list, to get emails no more often than every 6 months.

Remember, making potential customers angry at you is bad marketing.

People share a good experience with 4 people, a bad one with 11. Being too persistent risks getting nasty comments posted along with your company name- NOT what you want to come up in a Google search!
Paul Garcia
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Paul Garcia Advisor
President at TABLE
Peter, I respect that you want to protect reputation, but testing has revealed that those formerly believable assumptions about email recipient behavior are no longer accurate. They sound rational and were somewhat true at one time, but it's not actually how people are behaving today. For following up on inquiries, research on the subject shows that the never-ending drip campaign works best, and that more than 4 out of 5 recipients takes between 7-23 messages before they evolve to the next action. The "there when you need us" aspect of continuous contact is what currently turns into sales. Abandoning someone who has not yet become your customer is fruitless. Sticking with it at a low intensity proves to be most successful. You have nothing to lose because you didn't have them as a customer anyway. And complaints against continuous campaigns are almost non-existent since the tools to ignore are so much easier than the effort to complain.

SPAM (single post across multiple) is not quite technically the same as UCE (unsolicited commercial email), and the rules are that if your company has an existing customer relationship with someone, you can send them commercial messages for 1 year since your last transaction, unless they request you to stop. You can send for longer if they subscribed to your message service or made an inquiry (as the original question suggested), implying a perpetual interest, until they ask you to stop.

Yes, all messages except transactions are required to have unsubscribe and physical address of the sender, along with many other elements that are included in the CAN-SPAM laws.

Truly unsolicited email messages where no relationship exists are forbidden to start with, so it's not even relevant here. The original question implied that the automated email system was to handle inquiries and then follow up for some period of time to close the sale.

An ethical company will always immediately process unsubscribe requests and complaints, and a smart company will always send relevant messages. As long as there's value to the content, there's no reason to stop sending relevant messages unless asked to stop. This is what current research demonstrates.

Sending irrelevant messages is annoying the first time, and worse when repeated, but that's why contact management systems that give recipients control over frequency improve attitudes. Making sure the messages have some value is the most important part of writing them, even if you aren't specifically asking for a sale.

Anyone can theorize on the attitudes of email recipients, we all do it, but it's better to stay current with the research being conducted and follow the best practices of the day (year). I recommend following MECLabs (marketingexperiments.com) to see real-world examples of just how wrong most marketers are when making decisions about email marketing, me included sometimes. This is why we always have the need to test assumptions.
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