Louise Knapp

Campaign Management: Benchmarking Your Traditional Email Campaigns

Measurement category icon Measurement

by Louise | 11 May Read Time5 min

About the writer: Louise Knapp, Client Services Director at Dice, has been with us since the very beginning, following a highly successful career as a Senior Account Director within the medical communications industry for several years. Louise is a hands-on director; her involvement in every stage of a project is hugely valued by the wider Dice team, as well as our clients.


Pharmaceutical brands have little choice but to use digital channels to engage with HCPs in this day and age. While many practitioners still value face-to-face interaction, their receptiveness to alternative forms of communication has seen a notable increase – whether through choice or circumstance. 

In spite of the myriad of technologies available to pharma companies today, traditional email marketing is one of the most utilised forms of digital marketing that continues to reign supreme. A recent survey revealed that 66% of HCPs prefer to receive pharma communications via email, compared to the 17% who prefer direct contact.

Here, we take a closer look at the effectiveness of email marketing in pharma, and how benchmarking performance can help you measure your campaigns’ success.   

Please note: This article has been written from the perspective of traditional / mass email marketing best practice, as opposed to Veeva email best practice.

The advantages of email for pharma brands 

So, what makes email such an attractive channel for pharma brands and HCPs alike? 


The first thing working in email’s favour is its non-intrusiveness. People can choose when to check their inbox, so an email from a prospective supplier is unlikely to interrupt their day in the same way as a phone call, for example. There’s also a lot less pressure to respond to an email compared to a message sent via Facebook or WhatsApp.

Clear ROI and KPIs 

While Google and social channels allow for audience targeting with their ad platforms, they can’t tell you the precise identity of people who have seen and engaged with your ads. On the other hand, you’ll know exactly who received, opened and engaged with an email, giving you the data you need to review performance and tweak subsequent campaigns accordingly. 

Captive audience

GDPR dictates that HCPs have to “opt in” to receive your email communications. If your brand is GDPR-compliant, as it should be, you can assume that everyone receiving your emails already has a vested interest in your brand. With a captive audience at your disposal, you just need to ensure your content is strong enough to convert subscribers into customers. 

Key engagement metrics for email


Like all marketing channels, engagement metrics are incredibly important when it comes to email. After all, if you don’t know how your emails are resonating with subscribers, it makes it very difficult to analyse their effectiveness. 

With that in mind, here are the key metrics to consider when assessing the performance of your emails, along with some industry benchmarks and top tips on how to get your metrics moving in the right direction. 

Engagement time 

Engagement times will tell you how long people spend reading an email once they open it and before they click on a link (if they click). By combining this metric with open and click rates, you’ll get a good picture of performance and how to improve your campaigns

For example, if you’re seeing low click-through rates but high engagement times, it might mean that subscribers are struggling to find the CTA. On the flipside, high open rates coupled with low engagement times and click-through rates could indicate that your content doesn’t align with what your subject line promised. 

Open rate 

The open rate is ultimately a measure of your subject line’s effectiveness, unless you’ve given subscribers another reason to ignore your emails. 

The average open rate for the pharmaceutical industry is 18.58%, according to Mailchimp’s latest email marketing benchmarks. Whether you’re using the industry average or your previous campaigns as a benchmark, there are a number of ways you can improve your subject lines, and in turn your open rates. This could range from testing different subject lines on different audience segments to making sure your key message comes first. Taking stock of the best days and times to send an email is also very important for open rates.  

Relevant Article:

Click-through rate 

A high click-through rate (CTR) is a positive sign for your email campaigns, as it means people are engaging with the content and clicking through to your website or landing page. According to Mailchimp, the average CTR for pharma brand emails is 2.25%. 

If your click-through rate is falling short of the industry average, you may wish to consider the strength and visibility of your CTAs, and whether your email content is relevant enough to the target audience. Similar to testing different subject lines, consider changing the design and messaging of your emails for each audience segment. 

Including a video could also have a positive impact on your CTR. According to Campaign Monitor, video content can boost click-through rates by as much as 65%. 

Bounce rate

The bounce rate is the percentage of subscribers who didn’t even receive your email. There are two types of ‘bounce’: a soft bounce and a hard bounce. 

Soft bounces tend to result from temporary issues such as an inbox being full or inactive, a recipient’s email server being down, or the email message not meeting a recipient server’s anti-spam requirements. The average soft bounce rate for the pharma industry is 0.53%. 

Hard bounces, on the other hand, are an indication of permanent issues, such as the recipient’s email address not existing, or their email server completely blocking delivery of your emails. The average hard bounce rate for the pharma industry is 0.39%. 

You can lower your bounce rate by immediately removing any hard bounces from your email list and reviewing what could be triggering your recipients’ spam filters. For example, try to avoid using ‘no-reply@yourcompanyname’ as your reply-to address, or sending your email from a non-business domain such as Hotmail or Gmail. 

Unsubscribe rate 

This indicates the percentage of your subscribers who have asked to be removed from your email marketing list. The average unsubscribe rate for pharma brands is 0.17%, according to Mailchimp. 

A higher-than-average unsubscribe rate is a sign that subscribers are no longer finding your emails valuable enough for their inboxes. Alternatively, if you’re finding that people are unsubscribing because they never opted in to receive your emails, you may need to rebuild your list organically to avoid falling foul of your email service provider’s (ESP) guidelines, not to mention GDPR. 

Organically-built lists also have five times the open rate of a purchased or scraped list, and four times fewer spam complaints, according to Campaign Monitor. 

The importance of benchmarking 

Benchmarking your email metrics against industry averages and your previous campaigns is undoubtedly the best way to measure the success of your traditional email marketing strategy, and improve the performance of future campaigns. 

At Dice, we apply our Pharmacohesion approach to email marketing, ensuring every campaign is driven by the best insights, strategy, execution and measurement. If you need help with your own email metrics, don’t hesitate to get in touch today.