When looking at outbound sales prospecting metrics, most companies track email response rate. What’s a good response rate for a startup?

Many small businesses use email as a customer prospecting tool. For 81 percent of SMBs, email is their primary marketing channel. Tracking your email response rate reveals how effectively your emails engage your market. Let’s look at some benchmarks for startups and how to optimize outreach engagement rates.

Key Takeaways:

  • Email response rate benchmarks are a good starting point, but they require context to truly measure channel effectiveness. 
  • To boost lead generation and customer acquisition, send emails to the right people.
  • Email campaigns that lead to conversations with customers are successful in their own right.

What Is the Average Email Response Rate?

Average response rates vary by industry, email type, time of day, and quality of subject line. A 10 percent response rate is a good benchmark for a startup, with a goal to achieve a minimum of 15-20 percent over time. As you analyze email outreach metrics to learn more about your prospects and what they need, you can adjust your deployment and messaging strategies to drive better engagement.

  • What time of day are your prospects most responsive? If you aren’t sending emails at the right time, your response rate may suffer despite a genuine market interest.
  • What type of content resonates with your prospects? For example, focus on two key industry problems and A/B test your emails to pinpoint information your prospects consider most relevant. Use this same method for product benefits and features.
  • Which market segments are opening emails and responding the most? Segment your target audience and organize metrics along your new segments. Focus on a specific challenge or product value point to validate interest and need from your audience.

Wait until you’ve gathered and analyzed a considerable amount of performance data before making major adjustments to your email messaging and/or deployment strategy. Then, test one A/B version set at a time. This agile but systematic approach will enable you to pivot your email engagement strategy successfully without mistaking noise for signal.

Response Rates vs. Effective Engagement

While response rates can effectively measure email prospecting  performance, this metric will always take a back seat to engagements and conversions.  A great startup outreach campaign should start conversations with prospects: 

  • Can their problem be solved with your solution?
  • Does your message resonate with them?
  • Does your product or service align with their business stage and budget?

Use this long-term view as context when reviewing your email response rates. Prospects will engage with your emails and participate in a conversation when you understand their challenges, and goals. Effective email outreach doesn't stop with open rates; rather, it primes a prospect to engage at a deeper level and move further along the buyer journey.