Introduction to email marketing

In this world of social media, display advertising and a multitude of marketing channels, email marketing is very easy to dismiss. However it is still one of the most powerful and least resource intensive platforms that we as marketers have at our disposal.

Email marketing is a great way to let people and organisations know about programs, products, and many more varied messages we will discuss in further detail.

If you’re new to email marketing, we’ll start with some of the basics of popular terms for reporting, and look at the tools you can use and how best to optimise your campaigns.

Basic terminology

It’s important to understand some of the basic terminology surrounding email marketing to make sure you can understand the concepts involved and how it works in tracking the success of your campaigns.

It’s also important to know of some of the benchmarks in other sectors, to make sure you can have reasonable expectations of the effectiveness of your campaigns.


An open in email marketing is recorded every time a recipient opens an email you send. This is often tracked using small, invisible images, so some email systems will not track an open for a user that has ‘download images’ turned off in their email client.

This is usually expressed in terms of:

  • Views or Opens – total times an email has been opened. Each time a recipient opens an email, a view or open will be recorded.
  • Unique views or opens – total times an email has been opened by unique recipients. A view or open will only be recorded once per recipient.

Open rate

This is the percentage of recipients who opened your email. A typical open rate will vary depending on the type of email you’re sending out, and tools like Mailchimp track the average open rate for your list and the industry average for you to benchmark against.

Mailchimp have found 46.7% to be a benchmark in the not-for-profit/NGO sector, however e-commerce is only 22.2%.

Click through rate

Click through rate, or CTR, is the percentage of recipients that clicked on any links in your email.

Mailchimp benchmark the NGO sector at a click-through rate of 3.6%, which means that 3.6% of recipients click a link in emails, while e-commerce is 2.9%.

In practice that this varies considerably depending on the message involved, and is potentially much higher if you’re launching a new product or program.


A bounce is when an email can’t be delivered. In some cases, you may want to send your bounces to an inbox so that someone can contact organisations that may have changed contact people and let them know they need to change their contact details.


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