4 min read

Email marketing: The new open rate strategy.

We may even see a mass exodus at advertising and marketing agencies along with company changes for internal marketing teams.
Email marketing: The new open rate strategy.
Photo by Katerina Pavlyuchkova / Unsplash

"Dear Reader,

At some point you were kind enough to sign up for ###. Since then, we’ve sent you stories you can’t find anywhere else, ranging from scandal and politics to film, television, and food.

We haven’t heard from you in a while, and we want to make sure you’d still like to receive all that ### has to offer, including our weekly Saturday issue but also our charming new podcast and our weekday newsletters, recommending the best in the arts (Wednesdays), books (Thursdays), and the world of kids (Fridays).

Follow the link below to visit our preference center, where you can choose what kind of content you wish to receive and how often you’d like to receive it.

And if there’s anything we can help with, please do let me know. It’s as easy as replying to this email."

That's an email I received last week from a newsletter I open regularly.

I don't subscribe to many email newsletters using my email address. Rather, I use Instapaper as my email newsletter catcher. I'm pretty sure these emails do not trigger an open event.

And that's why I probably received this email.

The funny (or annoying) thing about this email is that in a few weeks, I am about to receive (many) more of these.

It's a publisher's subtle trick of doing two things:

  • Ensuring my 'open' counts in their rates (which impact advertising revenue)
  • Pretend they care about a relationship

What's new.

Today at 1:00 PM Eastern, Apple will unveil its latest devices. And, in doing so, the company will also provide dates for device availability and with those new devices come new operating systems.

Of particular interest, iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. In addition to new updates to iCloud, these new OS updates are building on last year's Application Tracking Transparency (ATT) update, providing user-focused privacy and security features.

I've been running a developer version of iPadOS 15 for the past few months and in testing the new privacy features. My conclusion:

Many publishers are in for a lot of trouble.

We may even see a mass exodus at advertising and marketing agencies along with company changes for internal marketing teams.

Business impact.

Email open rates will plummet and any company or agency using open rates as a key metric for growth will be in big trouble.

How much time will these companies and agencies have? If recent cycles are an indicator, three weeks post-launch.

And if these companies and agencies haven't planned or discussed a response to these changes, the knee-jerk reaction will likely be one (or more) of the following three outcomes:

  • Start internal messaging that open rates aren't that impactful of a success indicator (no matter what they've said in the past)
  • Start sending messaging out similar to the one outlined at the opening of this article (in hopes of open rate fulfillment and potential customer acquisition into other channels)
  • Blame Apple

What should companies and agencies do?

  • Short-term: How many users are using Apple Mail? While this may seem like a defeating thing to do, it will give marketers and advertisers a better impression of where their messaging might be falling flat.

    And while there might not be a lot that can be done with this data (outside of those knee-jerk reactions), at least there will be a better understanding of the magnitude of the impact to your messaging
  • Shot-term: Organizations should review their marketing operations and technology stack, and begin using the proper DNS records to remove any additional hurdles to messaging being received by the organization's audience.

    Look at DNS entries such as SPF, DKIM and DMARC along with the ranking of the email domain.

    These are all important items to ensure emails (and domains) 'trusted' end-to-end, with secure exchanges between publisher email servers and recipients' email servers.
  • Long-term: Start building relationships with audiences. This will take some time, however the sooner started the sooner the payoff.

    Continue using the same channels (email, web, social, etc.) with new calls to action focused on meetings, calls, etc. The more marketing is removed from the process, the more frictionless the process becomes and the easier it is to build relationships with clients, prospects and markets.
  • Long-term: This is one email change from one (app) provider. It's time marketing professionals begin thinking about the next provider that will make a similar change and what the impact it will have on connecting organizations to their audiences.

    This might also be an excellent time to redefine success metrics. If open rates were at the top of the marketing team's success, it's to rethink outcomes.

    If there are brand-related activities, what's the ultimate outcome for success? If demand generation activities, what's the conversion for success?

    CMOs or vCMOs, even if it's one small step, need to start that process today.

Industry impact.

The impact on the industry (email, analytics, agencies, etc.) will take longer to shift. Short-term changes might include a change in job titles or a change in responsibilities.

(One thing I'd like to see is more focus on success over the long-term.)

How research is reported will change to include two data sets:

  • Pre-iOS 15
  • Pre- plus post-iOS 15

Will agencies and email service providers see the writing on the wall and begin selling while their value is relatively high? (We may already see this with Intuit's acquisition of Mailchimp.)

And what will happen to email newsletter companies like Substack, along with the adjacent creator / freelancer / consultant economy?

Certainly more questions than answers.