Prevailing Wisdom


Email Marketing is Dead - Long live email marketing

by Bill Arnold

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain

We have all heard the same thoughts and sentiments about email marketing.  In the age of increasing sophistication of SPAM filters using machine learning and artificial intelligence, does your email even have a chance of finding its way to your targeted persona’s inbox? If it does get past the SPAM filters, your email must resonate with a growingly jaded public.

Is the email dead? 

Bad ones are absolutely dead, but everyone still values an email that arrives at the just the right time and seems to speak to you by helping solve a problem, answers a pressing question, or is simply a cute cuddly puppy that puts a smile on your face.

What we are talking about are highly segmented emails that are optimized to be sent based on your behaviors or actions and address a pain point, interest, or concern (PIC).  It should be no surprise as this is what inbound marketing is all about. To accomplish this, you need to understand the art and science behind successful emails.

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Welcome to part 1 of our email marketing blog series. In this blog, we will discuss email marketing in general and offer some tips and best practices that apply to ALL emails. In subsequent blogs, will discuss the five types of email.

 Prevailing Wisdom (ours) has grouped emails in to five general categories:

  • Educational
  • Promotional
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Newsletters
  • Transactional

The Possibilities

Despite the growth of texting, messaging and bots, emails have never been such a big part of the fabric of the world.

There are now well over 6.32 billion email accounts, and that number is expected to climb to reach 7.71 billion by 2021 – (Radicati Group 2017).  So, the world really runs on emails, not coffee.

But, how do you get through the noise when there are over 269 billion emails sent everyday (Radicati Group 2017), with over 3 billion legitimate emails sent EVERY HOUR?

Of course, a vast majority of those emails are communications between family and friends. But the commercial email is still relevant.  For B2B communication, emails are still the most preferred method of initiating and transacting business. But, even in the B2C world, emails are still the favored method of hearing from businesses.

  • 72% of consumers said that emails are their favorite form of communication from companies they do business with. (MarketingSherpa 2015)
  • 70% of consumers stated that emails are their preferred choice for receiving commercial messages – (DDMA - 2017)
  • 66% of consumers have made an online purchase as a direct result of an email – (Direct Marketing Association -2013)

To put it in proper prospective, for the last 10 years, email marketing had the highest return on investment of ANY marketing channel. For every dollar spent, email marketing generated a return of $38.

Long Live Email Marketing

The following tips, strategies, and obvious comments apply across all five email categories:

Tips – Strategies – Obvious Comments

 Obvious Comment #1 – DO NOT SEND SPAM

Besides the fact that sending an unsubscribed email is illegal, it simply doesn’t work. All you are going to do is, at best, have the recipient ignore you and, at worst, get blacklisted by email providers. This means NEVER, EVER buy or rent a list and use it as your own. I don’t care how much the vendor promised you that they have double, triple, or however many opt-ins. The quick wins you think you are going to get will be quickly off-set by the number marking the email as SPAM.  Even if they just ignore the email, if enough fail to open it, Google machine learning will declare that email as SPAM, and it will never be seen.

          Tip #1 – Scrub your email list

When is the last time your email list had a good bath?  You could be sending out emails that are harming the changes of others seeing it. Emails are not forever. You can expect 25% to 30% of your organization's contact data to go bad each year.  (Towerdata)

If it has been awhile since you weeded out people who have changed jobs, email providers, or simply quit using that email, now is the time.

         Strategy #1 – Co-branded emails

While buying or renting is always wrong, co-branded emails can be a game changer. Find a well-respected publication that shares your targeted personas, and see if they offer a co-branded email program.

The program works like this:

Publications send out emails on a regular basis to subscribers who expect and want to receive them due to their shared interest and content. These publications will send out, to a highly segmented portion of their list, a promotional or information email that you have developed. You can specify the segmentation properties to ensure that the email is being sent to only the most promising recipients.  What you will not receive is the name or email of the recipient. They belong to the publication.

The reason that co-branded emails are so effective is that subscribers trust the sender and the information they provide. Since the email is coming from them, it will have a high open rate and a measure of trust they have for the publication will be transferred to you (influencer marketing). If the recipient clicks thru and fills out a form on your landing page, the name, email, and lead now belong to you.

Many publications will provide guarantees in the form of open rates and/or click-thru-rates. If the agreed upon numbers are not reached in the first mailing, they will send that same email to another list or let you make a different offer to the first list.

Obvious Comment #2 – SEGMENT – SEGMENT - SEGMENT

How important is list segmentation? Seventy-seven percent of the ROI obtained from email marketing happened when the email was sent to a segmented, targeted list (DMA - 2015).

HubSpot has also weighed in on the importance of segmenting your email contacts. They performed a study that found that just segmenting the list by personas increased click thru rates by 16%. (HubSpot)

Having your mailing list properly segmented is the science behind a successful email campaign. 

     Tip #2 – Marketing Automation (HubSpot) for Segmentation

If you have not segmented contacts for while (or ever), it will seem to be an unwieldly task trying to categorize all the contacts in every relevant way possible. This is where a good marketing automation platform is worth its weight in gold (hint – HubSpot). By using the lead scoring capabilities and marketing workflows, you can set rules based on behavior, activity, engagement, and persona that will segment your list.

The workflows can be set to retroactively look at all the past contacts and assign them to a list based on the rules you create.

     Strategy #2 – Segment by Relevance

There is always a point of diminishing returns. To get the most bang for your time, effort, and talent, consider which shared characteristics are most likely to make a difference in what would interest an email recipient. Once you begin the segmentation process, continue to refine as long as it will make a difference in the content you are sending or when you will send it. Start with the following segmentations: buyer persona, buyer’s Journey stage, behavior on website, past purchases, industry, and geography.  From there, move on to more demographic based or specific characteristics:  gender, job function, age, etc.

Obvious Comment #3 – PERSONALIZE

We all want to feel special. Marketers are always trying to make their products relevant. Want to know the best way to accomplish this? Make the buyer feel relevant. If a buyer feels you understand them and have taken the time to acknowledge them, they will be more likely to open your email. To some degree, the law of reciprocity is at play here. You have taken the time to specifically acknowledge the email recipient, and they feel obligated to check it out.

Here are some statistics that show the power of personalization:

  • Personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%. – Aberdeen 
  • Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates. – Experian

 With today’s technology (e.g. hint again HubSpot), you can take an email template and have it tailored and personalized for the recipient

      Tip #3 – Marketing Automation (HubSpot) for Personalization

It is impractical to manually personalize each and every email. This is the purpose of a good marketing automation software.  Just personalizing the subject line of an email increases the open rate by 26%. (Campaign Monitor). 

Adding their name to personalize the main body intro will increase your click-thru-rate up to 7% (HubSpot).


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     Strategy #3 – Personalized Landing Pages

 You did a great job! Your email was relevant and personalized, and the recipient clicked thru to the landing page. Now, they realize they were tricked. The landing page isn’t about them at all. It is a one size fits all page that is generic. 

Provide that personalized experience through the entire process. Pair the personalized email with a personalized landing page. This will give the email recipient a unified experience that will make them feel special and more likely to convert.

In the next few days, we will bring you part 2 of our email marketing blog series. 

Until then, contact us if you have questions about email marketing.

Or ask us how we increased sales for a company by 34% just by optimizing their email marketing program.

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