Running a successful email marketing platform is many times one of the best ways to convert leads and build repeat customers. While open and click-through rates tend to be low, and conversion percentage sometimes seems to be immune to influence, there are some steps you can take to improve your email campaigns. This article will look at MailChimp in particular, but the practices can be employed on other email marketing platforms.


The Math Behind Opens, Clicks, and Conversions


The unfortunate truth of the matter is that only a very small percentage of your email list will open a given email and click through. The good news is that it’s still quite a bit higher than direct mail.


Now, this may be a contrarian argument but consider this. The actual percentage of open and click through rates aren't as much a measure of success as it is a measure of list quality. Here’s an explanation.


Let’s say you (Business A) have a mailing list of 5000 people, and your neighbor (Business B) has a list of 1850. Now on a given week let’s say both e-blasts receive about 425 opens. Business A has an open rate of only .09%, while Business B has an open rate of 22.97%. If I asked you, which company was doing better without looking at the other data, you would for sure pick Business B. However, in this scenario, they are both getting the same amount of value from their email.


Again, for the sake of argument, let’s assume 10% of opens click through, and 25% of clicks convert into sales of $50. Regardless of your original email list, both businesses earn roughly $531.25 from their email campaign. So the reality is that your open-rate doesn’t matter as much as your ability to convert opens into sales.


The argument for a larger, lower quality list: If you can bear presenting abysmal open rate numbers week in and week out, there is a potential benefit of having a larger list that is generally of lower quality subscribers. Using the same numbers as above, let’s say 1% of dormant subscribers click through every month with 25% of those converting. Because of this, Business A earns an additional $571.88 from these extra conversions while Business B earns an extra $178.13. So if you can get dormant subscribers to open and click through on larger lists, there is greater earning potential. The cost of emailing this many people also needs to be considered if your list is large enough.


The key takeaway here is to focus on how well you are converting on opens and sales instead of becoming distracted by open rate.


Analyzing your MailChimp Campaigns

mailchimp campaigns


So we’ve determined that your open rate is a great measure of list quality, but doesn’t play a huge role in average potential conversions. Now it’s time to look beyond your mailing list, and dig into what content you’re actually sending out. How can you create better click through rates on MailChimp campaigns?


The good news is that MailChimp provides some very helpful, and insightful analytics tools to help you select better email content.


After finishing a campaign, click on the view report link for that campaign. From there should be a list of top links, and an option to “view all”. Click on the view all, and navigate to the “click map” link.


The click map will not only show you which linked content performed the best, it will also show you which content blocks were clicked on, so you can compare the effectiveness of image, button and text links.


Typically you’ll see a healthy spread of 5-10% across several areas. However, sometimes you’ll get an outlier that can reach into the 25-35% range. Take note of that. Was it a blog post, product promotion, or something else? In addition, make note of the subject matter itself. Let’s say half of your newsletter is about camera bodies and accessories and the other half is camera lenses. Then you notice the camera lenses portion is getting twice as many clicks.


Now that you have a rough idea of what content might be winning, go back through your old campaigns, and find more outliers or more examples of previous findings. After going through a dozen or so email campaigns in this manner, you should have a nice set of data to test in future campaigns. This data could point to the type of content or its method of delivery (button vs image vs text).


Testing Possible Improvements


Just like in science, you can only test one thing at a time. It’s likely a bit slower than you would like to improve your MailChimp campaigns, but it’s really the only effective method. Even if you just tested two new things, you won’t know how each variable affects the outcome. You might have a big gain from one change and no change from the other. Or one variable could decrease results while the other increases it, leading to a false conclusion. Then you’d have to go back anyways and re-test each individual item, leading you to do three tests instead of just two. So always keep in mind that you can only test one thing at a time.


If you’re looking for big results on your MailChimp campaign adjustments up front, the actual content will be what you want to change first. You should have a list of winning content types from the previous step. Add around 20% more of this type of winning content. It’s important to not replace your content entirely with the content found to be successful. If you do, you end up blanketing out subscribers who were interested in the other content, potentially leading to a negative or neutral change in click through rates.


It may take a few rounds of testing to find a nice sweet spot. Once that’s done, focus on look and feel changes that can increase click through. Tweaking things like link color, placement, and size all can play a role in how often a link is clicked. These UI (user interface) changes will likely lead to smaller increments of change, so don’t expect a large jump in numbers each round. Instead look to increase click through rates by 0.3 to 0.5% each round. If you do get a multiple percentage point increase, that’s a big win.


Don’t forget to take advantage of MailChimp’s A/B headline testing if your list is large enough. You can test more click-bait style headlines compared to more informative ones, and gauge new headline direction from consistent results.




With enough research and testing, you should be able to drive and keep your open rates high. It’s also important to remember that your open rate is really just a metric of list quality, not campaign success. You can determine campaign success by looking at the value of each open by dividing total profit from the campaign leads by the number of opens.