Email Marketing: Strategy, Tactics, And How To Win With This Still-Crucial Channel

I get it: email just seems … well, kind of boring when you compare it with other channels on the market. Chatbots, automation, dynamic websites, account-based marketing. And then there’s email marketing, where you try to stand out among the 100s of other unread, text-heavy annoyances in everyone’s inboxes.

But I’d argue this is still a vital bedrock to a winning strategy for any company, no matter if B2C or B2B (though I will focus more on B2B here) – and it’s often underutilized by companies both large and small. In fact, I’d even go as far to say that email is even more important as reliance on tech such as cookies fades in reliability.

So, let’s dive in and find you some wins for your email marketing strategy and execution:

Click to jump to a section:

Is email still relevant? | Who’s the audience? | Tactics | What Good Looks Like | Make Sure They Get Your Email | Test!

Want more? Our free email marketing course is available now in Revenue Marketing University, and you can always get a helping hand with our Experts on Demand and Managed Services options!

A Few Things to Consider Before Starting:

Make sure you have the following locked in and ready to go as a foundation prior to creating your email marketing plan. After creating thousands of email campaigns for large-scale clients, I’ve found you won’t go as far as possible without these:

  1. Customer journey map (check out our blog on customer journey mapping here to get a deep dive)
  2. Marketing automation tool (we’ve got the perfect primer for that!) – don’t worry, if you’re working in an email service provider, this blog is still relevant to you!
  3. Lead management process (Build an effective process with seven key stages)

Got those squared away? If not, you should bookmark this page and put a block on your calendar to read in a couple of months.

Go read those instead and get to work 😉

Is Email Marketing Still Relevant?

Absolutely! That’s the short answer.

A longer answer: One single email campaign won’t get you to where you want to be, but it’s a great start. Becoming a master at email marketing will be an incredibly effective skill to apply to your revenue marketing toolbox.

In fact, shifting from one-touch, batch and blast emails to multi-touch email nurtures can make a big revenue difference. One of our clients saw a BILLION (with a B) dollar impact in switching to segmented, multi-touch nurtures for their risk investment advisors. 

We worked with this client to create an 8-month email nurture campaign to reach their target audience. The immediate result was $1.1 billion in asset value contributed to the sales pipeline and help in closing deals representing more than $100 million of net new assets.

Now, let’s start with a simple fix that way-too-many companies (even large ones!) still do … repeat after me:

DO NOT SEND A SINGLE EMAIL TO YOUR ENTIRE DATABASE! (This is often referenced as “batch and blast”)

Batch and blast is a TERRIBLE way to do email marketing

A single email should be a tactic in a multi-channel experience to truly engage your audience. A multi-touch email campaign enriches the customer experience and gets you the results you need:

A series of three emails performs better than a single email: 90% more orders for welcome emails, 63% more for abandoned cart emails, and 75% more for customers reactivation. (Omnisend, 2018)

With this said, there are A LOT of reasons why email marketing has consistently been identified as the most profitable and measurable channel for B2B marketers for the last decade.

Email Marketing Statistics

Just in case you need to make a business case to your manager, here are a few compelling statistics to show bring to the table:

  1. Half of the world uses email. There are 3.9 billion daily email users. This number is expected to climb to 4.3 billion by 2023. (Statista, 2020)
  2. We spend a lot of time in our inbox. Consumers spend 2.5 hours a day checking email (Litmus, 2019)
  3. It’s easy to measure. 90% of content marketers say email engagement is the top metric they track to measure content performance. (Content Marketing Institute, 2020)
  4. It’s an effective channel. 47% of marketers rate email marketing as the most effective marketing channel (39% for social media, 33% for SEO, and 33% for content marketing). (Get Response, 2019)
  5. It packs one heck of an ROI. Email marketing boasts a 4200% ROI. (Litmus, 2019)
  6. You can automate email for higher engagement. Automated emails average 70.5% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than “business as usual” marketing messages.
  7. It’s great for lead generation. 89% of marketers use email as the primary channel for generating leads. (Mailigen, 2016)
  8. It’s cheap. Unlike other channels, with email marketing, you can send as many emails as you wish with whatever platform you have at your fingertips. In fact, 35% of marketers send their customers 3-5 emails per week. (Hubspot, 2020)
  9. Email engagement is on the rise. 78% of marketers saw an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months (Hubspot, 2020)

When you think about it, it makes total sense: It’s ingrained in company culture as a primary method of communication, and it’s still effective… so it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Who will (and should) receive your emails?

Let me first note that if you don’t fully understand privacy laws such as CASL, GDPR, and CCPA, read up on those and avoid potential issues later.

But for this, I want to focus on segmentation and personalization. These aren’t a trend – they’re a necessity.

Your audience is smart and expects you to send emails that only pertain to them. If you don’t, studies show 94% of consumers take care of generic emails quick:

  • 68%: Automatically delete emails
  • 54%: Unsubscribe from emails
  • 45%: Categorize emails as ‘junk’ or ‘spam’
  • 29%: Become less willing to buy your product / service
  • 13%: Visit the website less frequently
  • 10%: Never visit the website again

Take the time to segment your target audience. Not only will you minimize the above, but you will be ahead of your B2B competitors. Research conducted by Janrain and Blue shows almost all consumers (96%) have received mis-targeted information or promotions.

Go above and beyond for your prospects.

An example

Once upon a time, I was working with a client to create an email nurture targeting an IT persona.

We found out quickly that not all IT professionals need or want the same thing. System admins need the how-to, in-the-weeds details, while IT leaders need to know the business case for why their tool was effective and efficient.

Two completely different messages sent to the “same” persona. We segmented these two audiences and created two completely separate email nurtures fo them with complimentary messages that made sense for each role: 

  • System Admin Message: This HOW you find the right logs you need to solve the problem. 
  • Direct of IT: Save your team HOURS of log management research with this platform. 

Going further, we decided to personalize the emails such that each email addressed the recipient by name and mentioned their company name based on the data we had in our database.

Here are a few tips to help you create realistic targets:

  • Marketable – Can I actually identify this group of people?
  • Measurable – Can I measure how many there are?
  • Meaningful – Are there enough people in this group to make it worth my effort and resources?

Now that you have a specific target audience, how are you going to email them?

What type of emails should they receive?

Okay, let’s get into the details. The following are definitions of different tactics and campaigns that you can deploy leveraging email as a channel.

One-off tactics are most effective when embedded into a multi-part campaign. The multi-part campaigns might seem complex, but always break down your email campaigns to deploy in smaller pieces… that is the beauty of email!

My rule of thumb is: if it takes you more than 30 days from ideation to launch, you need to break down the campaign into smaller components.

One-Off Email Tactics (Put these together to create an email campaign)

Offer Email: Provides a link to register or content download the offer. Typically, this type of email contains a single call to action (CTA) and can be embedded into a nurture campaign.

Resend Offer Email: Offers the same content but is sent if the recipient did not open first email. Change your subject line and email copy.

Thank You Email: Includes a link to the asset requested from the download. Typically, this is a shorter, simpler email than the offer email. Can include an additional CTA to get the lead to interact more and thus increase lead score.

This email is considered operational in nature.

Make sure your email marketing integrates cohesively with other emails ... and each's purpose

Re-Engagement Email: An email sent to a portion of your database who has not engaged in any campaigns for a set period of time (such as six months, but yours may be different). Goal is to re-engage the lead with an enticing offer.

System Notification Email: Email sent to customers to notify of any platform down time, notification, etc… This email is considered operational in nature and primarily for any company who has a service or section of the site requiring a user login, such as a health / insurance portal or use of software.

Multi-Email Tactics:

Drip Campaign: A set of multiple offer emails sent to a targeted audience over a period of time. The cadence is set on a schedule and leads may enter and exist based on list criteria. Consider this a static email campaign.

Nurture Campaign: A set of multiple offer emails sent to a targeted audience over a period of time. The nurture campaign can change in frequency or content based on the target’s interaction with the campaign. The goal is to progress the lead to the next stage of the buying process. Consider this a dynamic email campaign.

Newsletter Email: This email is meant to be sent on a regular cadence with multiple articles, links and helpful content to an audience. The newsletters of the past are company centric, while converting newsletters are customer centric.

Welcome Campaign: A set of multiple offer emails sent to a targeted audience over a period of time. The nurture campaign can change in frequency or content based on the target’s interaction with the campaign. The goal is to progress the lead to the next stage of the buying process.

IP Warming Campaign: IP warming is the practice of gradually increasing the volume of email sent with a dedicated IP address according to a predetermined schedule. This gradual process helps to establish a reputation with inbox providers (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) as a legitimate email sender.

There are MANY MORE email campaigns to be listed, but the above covered the basics most marketers need to round out an initial email marketing strategy.

But what do you say in these emails – and how do you make it engaging?

What does an engaging email look like?

In order to engage your audience, you’ll need a few things:

  • A stand-out subject line
  • Simple and to the point email copy
  • Engaging graphics (or not?)

Subject Lines:

It’s very easy to gloss over the majority of the marketing email that enters your inbox, so getting your marketing email to rise above the rest starts with an engaging subject line. Here are some tips to consider when creating engaging subject lines for your messages. 

Do’s:

  1. Create three to five subject line ideas per email send. Brainstorming is a good thing and will yield better options in the end.
  2. Short, concise subject lines will engage the reader (under 50 characters). Subject lines that are too long may get cut off within the preview pane of the email client.
  3. Emojis can also make your subject line stand out, but be aware of rendering across all email clients
  4. Use A/B split testing to verify which subject lines are performing best; look for the batch that had higher open rates.
  5. Make the content offer easy to identify by using brackets or colons, such as “[Webinar]” or “Webinar:”
  6. Try to stand out by using a unique number in your subject, for example: “17 Tips and Tricks for Sales and Marketing Alignment.”
  7. Create a sense of urgency with your email, without sounding like spam. Avoid using terms that would be caught by spam traps
  8. Measure engagement with email subject line tools from CoSchedule or Email Subject Line Grader

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t use your company name in the subject line. It’s a waste of real estate. The “From” address contains that information.
  2. Don’t use symbols such as exclamation points or spam words such as “free” that could get your email stopped by a spam filter.
  3. Don’t use all caps in your subject line.
  4. Don’t be deceiving in your emails by placing “Re:” and “Fwd:” in front of your subject line.
  5. Don’t use long subject lines that get lost in the email preview window.

Copy

Your email copy should stem from your customer journey mapping crossed with your persona messaging. All you are doing here is manipulating those messages as identified for your campaign for this particular channel of distribution.

For email, marketers need to provide concise, personalized content that is easily read at a glance. The following tips will help keep your content stay targeted and engaging to increase your email conversions:

  • Personalize your email. According to a research conducted by the Circle Research Group, you can improve your email’s effectiveness by 32%—it pays to personalize your email content to your reader.
  • Summarize your benefits with bullets. Highlight the benefits of your email offer within 3 or 4 bullets. These bullets will jump out to the reader within paragraphs of text.
  • Don’t forget your alt-tags. You can assume that a portion of your audience will not see your images as most email clients automatically block images from emails. By using alt-tags you can design an email that will clearly communicate your offer even when its images are turned off.
  • Keep a 60/40 ratio of text to graphics. Avoid spam filters by keeping a heavier emphasis on text instead of graphics. Time spent looking at your email includes images—make these images engaging and supportive of your email offer.

Anatomy of an engaging email

You have precious seconds to grab the attention of your reader… so every piece of your email counts! Make sure to optimize each area of your email for engagement and conversion:

From Label – Prospects should get used to seeing the same name or persona to build trust. Use a lead owner, sales manager, or company “thought leader” name. Do not use your brand name alone. One well-known example – “Ann Handley – Marketing Profs”

From Address – Use a lead owner, sales manager’s or company “thought leader’s” actual address. Do not just use a corporate blank email account such as “sales@” or “info@.“

Reply Address – The reply-to can be a generic email address if you want a single point of contact within Marketing to monitor the replies, otherwise, match the from address.

Subject Line – Subject lines should be short and clearly state the CTA value proposition. Get to the point within the first 35 characters and do not exceed 50 characters. This is the first thing most recipients will read, and it often determines if they’ll click into the email at all since they see this in th email preview.

Don’t forget to provide 3-5 subject line options for testing to find a clear winner!

Pre-Header This will be the preview text a prospect/customer will see in their inbox – it should not be the same text as your subject line as it is a second chance to capture prospect interest

CTA Header – The CTA should be less than 40 characters if in text – as in a headline or in an email banner graphic.

Greeting – Make sure to use their name in the greeting, such as “Hey Majda!” for a basic step into personalization. This has become commonplace, and so is nearly expected at this point.

Body Copy – Leverage pain points or needs of the audience and even their personal motivators right upfront – are they ego-driven? Do they want some peace and quiet? Is there a particular problem you can help with? Put them first, so the reader wants to keep reading!

Keep the body short and use bullet points to call out benefits and features of the offer. Finish strong with a sentence or two and consider adding a “contact me” link for those readers who want to speak with someone. 

Closing/Signature – Close the email with the signature line of the sender. Include the title so the recipient knows the sender’s role and relationship to them.

Right Column CTA – Provide a clear call to action with a sense of urgency such as “Download the White Paper,“ “View the Webinar,“ or “Register Today“ where applicable.

Content Thumbnail – Make sure you include a thumbnail image of the offer. This image should be no wider than 150 pixels and compressed (no large images!).

Company Footer – This can be a shortened version of your corporate PR “about us” copy. This should remain static in all emails.

Unsubscribe Footer – The unsubscribe link within the email is a requirement. Include company address and disclaimers for any promotions. This will not change from email to email and is typically system generated within your email platform.

Template Design

There are many styles of email templates available to leverage. We’ve found that whatever template you use, the following best practices help keep your design focused on conversion:

Mobile optimization

for mobile templates, simplicity is key. The more columns and content elements in the email wireframe, the more difficult it is to view an email from a mobile device. Keep in mind an optimized window of total email width is 320 to 480 pixels.

According to a study conducted by HubSpot, 35% of business professionals check email on a mobile device and 46% of all email opens occur on mobile devices. (Hubspot 2019) As with nearly everything digital, design for mobile first and desktop will fall into place!

Use this wireframe for effective emails to your databse

Two-Column Wireframe

Most outbound B2B emails have singular CTAs, as such to streamline the prospect’s behavior. These email wireframes should incorporate a 2-column design with 2/3 width attributed to a body column and 1/3 width attributed to a secondary column.

This wireframe can also be used for events as the smaller column can highlight event logistics.

Multi-column emails

Multiple columns can be used for newsletters or as a testing ground for more than one CTA. The goal of this busier email template is to give multiple offers to the prospect or customer.

I recommend leveraging this type of wire frame if you have a lot of content you are trying to test within a short period of time. Once you have established the best performing offers and content, leverage a 2-column email wireframe to serve that offer in subsequent campaigns.

Rich-Text Emails

In addition to creating wireframes with multiple columns or graphics, consider the impact of a simple text-based email.

Some verticals and roles prefer a non-HTML email. For example, I had a client whose text-based emails outperformed HTML emails by 40%. We found the main reason was the target audience was an IT vertical and prefers simple emails with little to no graphics.

Graphics in Emails:

Graphics, like every other element in an email, serves a purpose.

Use graphics sparingly in your email marketing. Too many graphics in your email could set off a spam or phishing alert. Depending on your audience, you may find that sending an all-text email is much more engaging than an html graphic email 

When using graphics, consider the following:

  • Banners in an email serve a purpose – to help guide the recipient of the email to the call to action.
  • Do not use generic imagery just to make it look “pretty”. If the imagery doesn’t articulate the value or enhance the relevance to the recipient – go without
  • If the call-to-action is to download something, provide a thumbnail of an image. If it is an event with featured speakers, provide headshots. If it is a promotion of a product, feature a picture of the product
  • Consider using imagery as a way to personalize by the recipient’s job function, industry, pain, etc.
  • Always include ALT tags! ALT tags act as a failsafe, providing the user with important information if images fail to load correctly (or the recipient has to click “download images” to show them, such as in Microsoft Outlook). ALT tags should accurately and succinctly describe the image.

How do I ensure the email makes it to the inbox? (a.k.a. deliverability)

With nearly 16% of all emails never making it to the inbox (Email Tool Tester, 2020), you need to make sure you are reviewing these eight components that contribute to good email deliverability:

  1. List quality
  2. Spam traps
  3. Blacklists and filters
  4. Complaint rate
  5. Email configuration
  6. Transmission rate, volume and frequency
  7. Content
  8. Opt-in

There are key components that contribute to good email deliverability (and similarly, a good sender score), which is a must for any company looking to regularly send content to current and potential customers!

But, how do you make sure you have a strong sender score and your emails continue hitting people’s inboxes – and not the junk folder?

First, some technical resources:

How do you configure things properly to ensure this isn’t your barrier to delivery? If you’re working with a marketing automation platform, you should start there and contact support to get the ball rolling. They will provide you with the necessary documentation to get this configured on your side (Hint: IT will probably need to be involved on your end).

If you are working with a home-grown system, here’s a few resources for the technical configuration aspects:

Now, let’s get started on eight items to examine to really boost your email deliverability.

1. List quality, regular maintenance, and hygiene

Keeping your list clear of bounces and regularly removing inactive subscribers reduces the appearance of being a spammer. A clean list is comprised of regularly emailed, active subscribers who have not bounced, unsubscribed and are routinely engaging in your marketing emails. ISPs look suspiciously on email senders who have a high volume of unknown recipients, inactive recipients and regularly send to bounced email addresses.

Bounces fall into two categories: soft bounces and hard bounces.

  • Hard bounces are email addresses that are invalid, closed or non-existent, these are permanently invalid.
  • Soft bounces are email addresses that are active but the email is turned away prior to delivery, this is temporary problem.

Soft bounces are more nuanced than hard bounces, the data returned to the sender contains reason codes, which should be mined for information and processed accordingly. A full list of server reason codes can be found here, although not all codes listed are applicable to email directly but email bounce codes can be found in the list starting with 5xx.

It is highly recommended that senders build a programmatic approach to handling soft bounces. This should include logic that parses the bounce codes differently based on what the status code is relaying.

List quality also helps avoid the pitfalls of spam traps and blacklists. While no list is immune to these it is a significantly smaller risk when you maintain a fully permissioned opt-in list that is regularly purged of inactive and invalid data.

2. Spam Traps

Improve your email engagement rates with these tips, tricks, and more from practicing experts!
Try our free email engagement course for hands-on learning!

A spam trap is an email address that was typically not ever intended for communication but purely intended to lure spam. In order to prevent legitimate email form being invited the email address is typically only published in a location hidden from view but visible to email address harvesters (which are illegal under CAN-SPAM).

Since no email is solicited by the owner of this address any messages are considered to be unsolicited and therefore spam.

3. Blacklists and Filters

There are five major types of blacklists and filters.

  • Third Party/Public Blacklists: Companies that publish publicly available databases of bad senders. No special credentials are required to start a blacklist but some are more popular than others and are actually used as references for ISPs and some corporate IT departments.
  • Sever-side filters: These are filters such as SpamAssassin or Brightmail, they use their own sets of filtering rules to catch messages suspected of being spam. Some of these technologies use heuristics, Bayesian analysts and collaborative filtering. Many ISPs rely on customized server-side filters to filter messages. These filters may also take message volume into account and block a sender who exceeds a set transmission rate.
  • Client-side filters: Recipients know that spam can make it through the various processes in place to block it and therefore can utilize tools such as Norton AntiSpam, McAfee SpamKiller or even rules built into their Outlook client to filter messages.
  • Corporate blacklists: Software filters and hardware tools are available to email administrators that provide them the ability to create an internal blacklist and therefor block email originating from any organization for any reason for any length of time.
  • Private blacklists: Large providers like Gmail (Google) and Outlook (Microsoft) are likely to maintain their own proprietary list of known spammers and problem senders. Some provide feedback loops that give senders warning they are in violation of spam rules at the ISP and some (like Gmail) provide no feedback at all.

Deliverability testing through tools provided by your marketing automation platform or third-party services such as Litmus offer the opportunity to test emails for filtering prior to sending, thus giving a sender the opportunity to make changes before their message gets sent to the junk folder or not delivered at all.

4. Complaint rate

Even with a fully opted-in list and a very clean database complaints happen, recipients may hit the spam button when fatigued with your message (instead of unsubscribing) or might accidentally hit it.   Regardless of the way it happens, the email provider will still count this as a complaint.

It’s generally accepted that anything greater than 1-3 complaints per thousand (0.1%-0.3%) emails sent is enough to revoke whitelisting status on an IP address. Complaint rates beyond these are likely to result in negative hits to your sender reputation and deliverability.

As a rule of thumb, your complaints should never exceed your unsubscribes for a campaign, if it does, it should provoke research into the campaign and what might have caused the problem. Typically high complaint rates can be attributed to changes in your email programs, such as:

  • Changes in send times/dates
  • Frequency of messages
  • Content that a subscriber feels is not relevant
  • Using your list to promote third-party services/products or content your subscribers feel is questionable.

5. Email configuration

If you're wondering why your email deliverability and sender score have been negatively impacted, you need our primer guide!

The technical configuration of your IP addresses and various domain and sender records are crucial to establishing your sender reputation. The infrastructure component of your sender reputation is measured by two key items: reverse DNS and host type. These items in conjunction with confirmed identity via SPF (Sender Policy Framework), SID (Sender ID), and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) ensure your email is properly configured to show your identity as a sender. 

Here is a baseline of the items to pay attention to when configuring your IP addresses for deliverability:

  • IP addresses should be static to build up your domain and IP address reputations consistently.
  • Senders who send more than 50,000 emails a week should maintain dedicated IP addresses (i.e. not utilize shared IP addresses pooled between multiple senders using a given Marketing Automation Platform or Email Automation Platform).
  • It is best practice to set up separate domains and subdomains for your marketing, transactional and corporate emails. Along these lines, it is highly recommended that the From address and domain actually match. Some ISPs are very picky about mis-matches in domain and from address.
  • Authenticate your IP/Domain with SPF, DKIM, DomainKeys and SenderID. Without these in place you are likely to end up in the junk folder (or not delivered at all).

In addition to the technical setup, consistency in your identity, from address, reply-to address and records (listed above) are critical to identifying yourself as a legitimate email sender and not a spammer.

6. Transmission rate, volume, and frequency

The rate at which you send emails out is important to ISPs. Spammers often send email without regard to volume, speed of send, or list cleanliness. To combat this, your ISP may sometimes perform a “volume block” (blocking transmission of massive amounts from one sender to many of their account holders) if they feel the volume of emails coming to them in the timeframe is excessive or potentially spammy.

It’s recommended that larger batches of emails be released in groups instead of a single “blast” – a good rule of thumb is to not force more than 40k emails per hour in any given send.

Frequency of sends is important in that you should keep a consistent frequency. If you have dips and spikes in your sending that are without pattern it is likely that you will appear to be a spammer to more stringent filters.

7. Content

Everything from the HTML coding and design of your email to the actual copy of the offer contribute to the content and are evaluated by filtering mechanisms (previously discussed under Blacklists and Filters and in Appendix: Spam Filters).   Everything from broken or mis-coded HTML to lack of a text-only version of your email, lack of alt-text for images or code embedded scripts in your HTML can cause a filter to block your messages.

Typically when discussing content, marketers associate using words like “FREE” or “ADVERTISING” to instantly doom their message to the spam filter. Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple as filters are much more nuanced and use a variety of methods to determine if a message is spam or legitimate.

The best possible results for avoiding content-based filtering is to test using a tool such as the deliverability tools in your marketing automation platform or a highly-regarded third-party source.

Related: What content should you use? Lean on your customer journey!

8. Gain Recipient Permission and Respect Their Preferences

Your audience falls into three buckets: new recipients, active recipients and inactive recipients, for each of these buckets you should have slightly different approaches.

New Recipients

  • Only send to those who have explicitly requested email from you.
  • Target “neutral” contacts (i.e., those who have neither opted in nor opted out) with the goal of gaining permission.

For this you will want to look at the specific legislation for the Regions/Countries you mail in, this is not always legal (ex: Canada).

Active Recipients

  •  Strengthen the relationship with active opt-in contacts by soliciting feedback on the quality and frequency of your communications, and their communication preferences. Confirm preferences with the recipient and then comply.
  • Send only what the subscriber signed up to receive.

Inactive Recipients

  • Re-engage inactive contacts by confirming subscription status one or two times per year.
  • Nurture inactive contacts and cut inactive contacts after they fail to re-engage after a set timeframe

How do I test and measure email marketing performance?

Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about metrics. When looking at email performance, you need to take into account a number of metrics and measure against your company’s benchmarks AND industry benchmarks.

Here is a table of standard metrics used in email marketing:

TermsDefinition
SentNumber of emails that actually moved through the sending mail server (your ESP). This may or may not be the same as addresses on your sending list; it depends upon how your ESP tracks what’s been sent (whether or not it includes “bad” email addresses in the final count).
DeliveredNumber of emails that were sent and not rejected by a receiving server. It’s important to understand that Delivered does not mean it landed in the recipient’s inbox.
Delivered RateNumber of delivered/ number of sent
OpensNumber of contacts who opened the email at least once
Open Ratethe number of opens / number of leads delivered
Clicksnumber of people (contacts) who click at least one link in the email.
Click RateTotal number of Clicks divided by the total number of emails delivered
Click to open ratetotal number of Clicks (per subscriber) divided by the total number of Opens.
Hard BouncedEmail was rejected because of a permanent condition, such as nonexistent email address.
Soft BouncedEmail was rejected because of a temporary condition, such as a server being down or a full inbox.
PendingEmail is still in the process of being delivered.
Clicked LinkNumber of email recipients who clicked a link in the email.
UnsubscribedNumber of email recipients who unsubscribed from your email.

Please note that the definitions of your metrics can differ from platform to platform, so please review the definition of your metrics in your ESP or Marketing Automation Platform. For example, Eloqua and Marketo have slightly differing ways of calculating metrics and that can also differ slightly from MailChimp or Constant Contact.

For metrics to matter, not only do you need to know how they are defined, you need to know what TO DO with them. A/B testing is a perfect way to take action to improve your email marketing performance, so let’s dive into that subject.

A/B Testing

A/B split testing is the comparison of two components with a single variation in a digital campaign to improve conversion rates. Companies that A/B test every email see email marketing returns that are 37% higher than those of brands that never include A/B tests. (Litmus, 2019)

Most email marketing and marketing automation tools have A/B testing capabilities built into their platforms. What you need to know is how to take action on those results. The following chart is a guideline to help you understand what actions to take based on your email metrics:

Key MetricsUnsubscribe RatesOpen RatesClick Throughs
What influences effectivenessPerceived value, recognitionThis is about trust in the sender, reputation and how interesting/relevant your subject lines areThis is about how effective your messaging, offers and channels are.
What low numbers could meanIf high numbers: Emailing too frequentlySending cold emails to unknown, un-opted in recipientsIf low numbers: From name is not optimizedSubject line is too vague or not actionable NOTE: email opens are tricky to track, due to diverse email clients and technical tracking. It’s not a great metric to base success onIf low numbers: Prospect is not active in that channelBanners were not offer drivenCopy wasn’t compelling enoughToo vagueOffer format is not appropriateEmail/banner/post layout is not optimized

For more information on how you can take action on your metrics and testing, check out our Campaign A/B Testing: A Visual Guide Infographic.

Now You’re Ready!

Audit your existing email marketing programs, whether its in something like Constant Contact or Mailchimp or a more robust marketing automation platform such as Pardot, Marketo, or Eloqua.

Really dig into why each email is currently being sent. What is its purpose, and what should the user do? Then, check your metrics to see if it’s driving the action(s) you’re hoping for.

Have questions? You can always reach out to me directly on LinkedIn, or send us any marketing question you have!

Here’s some more great content you may enjoy:

And if you want to have an expert on call to help with your email marketing, check out our Experts on Demand!

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