Is it Time to Assess Your Email Marketing Strategy?

Is it Time to Assess Your Email Marketing Strategy?

By John McTigueMar 3 /2017

Is it time to rethink your email strategy?It’s safe to say that most marketers still rely heavily on email marketing to reach and engage our prospects and customers. According to Campaign Monitor, email marketing delivers a whopping 3,800 percent ROI and $38 for every $1 spent. The question is, are you seeing that kind of return on your investment in email as a marketing channel? If the answer is “yes,” please move on to the next blog post in your feed. I have nothing to offer you but congratulations. If you’re a little more mortal, like most of us, you might want to take a hard look at your email marketing strategy and make some adjustments.

The Devil’s in the Details

While it’s certainly useful to measure bulk performance KPIs, like average email open, click and conversion rates, you may be missing some important insights that can only be gained by looking at individual emails and clusters of email types.


Take a look at the chart above showing email performance over the past 30 days. Average open and click rates are 15.5 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively. Not bad, but not great. More interesting is the performance of different types of email as a function of click-through-rate (Y axis) versus open rate (X axis). Emails color-coded green perform significantly better than those with very low open rates (blue and red) or click rates (yellow). Let’s identify the different email types.

Green Emails

These are mostly transactional emails. You downloaded an eBook—here’s your confirmation email with a link to download. Or maybe you signed up for a webinar—here’s your login information and a link to add it to your calendar. Also included here are drip campaign emails you may or may not have opted into. As you might expect, the drips you were told about when you converted on the first offer in a campaign get the highest response because you’re expecting them and are glad to get them.

Strategy improvement: You can still boost these results, especially those green emails with relatively low open and click rates. Try new subject lines that exactly match recipient expectations. Remind them right away what the email is about and why they should click. Keep it simple and don’t go heavy on the branding or secondary offers. These can serve to distract recipients and cause them to bounce.

Yellow Emails

These emails have below-average click rates and a wide range of open rates. Many of them are your campaign emails with a variety of offers. They are the email equivalent of landing pages, and most of them lead to landing pages upon click-through. The problem is, no one is clicking. Why? Well, either the offer isn’t strong enough or relevant enough to stimulate a response.

Strategy improvement: There could be several problems that should be addressed.

  • The offer isn’t compelling or relevant. Try accurately segmenting your database by buyer persona, demographics, industry or other important criteria for your business. Then craft offers that are targeted for individual segments and address their specific highest priority pain points. If you don’t know how to do that, maybe you should back up and go through a persona development process. Now, create targeted campaigns where the initial offer and all lead nurturing emails are aligned on the target persona’s needs.
  • The subject lines aren’t working. Each subject line should match the content of the email and include a value proposition for the recipient. There are lots of ways to do this well. Here’s a great list of ideas from Unfunnel.
  • The call-to-action isn’t clear. Maybe the email is too long and it takes too long to get to a call-to-action link, or maybe the CTA is obscured by a bunch of other links, or perhaps the CTA isn’t action-oriented, like “click here to get your report.” Try simplifying your emails, clarifying the offer and benefits and focusing on a single, clear CTA. Test different copy and CTAs (buttons vs. text links, button shapes and colors, etc.).
  • The format is too branded or “salesy.” We all get too many marketing emails, and we’ve learned how to recognize them. Emails with a lot of formatting, photos and branding are often the first to be rejected. Try tests with simple text-only emails versus formatted emails to see if a simple approach gets better results.
  • People grow weary of your newsletters and other “syndicated” emails.  Do you send monthly or even weekly emails summarizing all the great things going on at your company or listing all the great recent blog posts you’re published? Do people open and read them? If not, consider at least changing the frequency of these emails, or maybe dropping them altogether. You want to stay “top of mind” with your contacts, but frequent emails may be having the opposite effect.

Blue and Red Emails

These emails just aren’t working, period. Back to the drawing board. These emails have all the challenges of yellow emails, but no one is even opening them. These emails suffer from all of the challenges noted for yellow emails but are just poorly strategized in the first place. So what types of emails would likely work better?

  • Transactional or Triggered Emails. Transactional emails have eight times more opens and clicks than any other type of email, and can generate six times more revenue, according to Experian. Using marketing automation, set up instant emails that get sent to a contact when they behave in a certain way; for example, sending them product support information when they visit your pricing page. This puts relevant information in front of a potential buyer at the moment they are seeking it.
  • Mobile-First Emails. According to Campaign Monitor, about 53 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices, 23 percent of readers who open an email on a mobile device open it again later and mobile is the most popular environment for a subscriber’s first interaction with an email. Design and test your emails to make sure they are mobile responsive and keep them simple! Make sure your CTAs are easy to see and compelling to click.
  • Personalized Emails. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened and personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14 percent and conversions by 10 percent, according to Campaign Monitor and Aberdeen Group. Think about your own email habits. Do you open emails from brands or people? More likely, people you know who have something interesting to say. Make your emails from a person and to a person. After segmenting and targeting your campaigns, add relevant data to your subject lines and messages and adjust them for different stages of the buyer journey.

Don’t Rely on Email Alone

The most effective campaigns are coordinated between multiple channels. Try setting up retargeting campaigns 100 percent aligned with your email marketing messages. Instead of sending out five to six drip emails following an initial offer, try placing Facebook ads with custom audiences to reinforce the impact of the initial offer and follow-up with relevant content. In any case, measure results at the campaign level for all channels involved and evaluate the most effective blend.

Are you frustrated by relatively poor ROI from email marketing compared to industry reports? We all recognize the importance of email marketing as a marketing communications channel, but how can we improve results? By taking a look at individual emails and campaigns, you can draw inferences for their open, click and conversion rates, then fine-tune your strategy to meet campaign goals and drive improved overall response.

Email Marketing Strategies in Content & Design for 2017

The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn and Twitter.