Email Marketing Guide: Lessons Learned From 1 Million Emails

Email marketing can be unpredictable. With no tried and true formula for success, email marketing strategies that work for one company might flop for the next. So how can we learn from our peers and competitors when it comes to the email marketing experience? Well, the findings of others serve as the perfect launch pad for testing.

In this post, we’re rounding up our top findings and everything we’ve learned along the way in the wild world of email marketing.

Don’t make assumptions.

If there’s anything to take away from this post it’s to never make assumptions. When it comes to crafting email marketing campaigns we can have a gut feeling, a hunch, an educated guess — but nothing holds merit until it’s been tested. Email marketing is all about continually improving your message, how? With bonafide AB tests — where two (or more) variants are tested against each other, sent out to recipients at random to determine the most successful subject line, messaging, send time, you name it. Luckily, the most popular ESPs (email service providers) like Constant Contact or MailChimp have AB testing baked right into the platform.

Use a large enough sample size.

To get an accurate result in an AB test, you need a big enough pool. We recommend a ballpark of at least 1,000 email contacts, allowing you to test each variant against 500 people. Not sure how big your sample size should officially be? You can always use a calculator to dissuade any uncertainty before sending emails and gathering data.

Think outside the box.

With the average person receiving over 120 emails a day, it pays to stand out. We found that witty approaches to subject lines work wonders. Our unorthodox subject line — “Does your engagement suck?” — performed a whopping 10% higher than its competing (slightly less salacious) variant. To pull off this colloquial, catchy, and off the cuff subject line, you need empathetic email copy‚ something along the lines of “don’t sweat it, you’ve got options” or “it’s not your fault.” After catching their attention, follow up with great email messaging that positions you as an ally, an expert in the field, and a resource.

Segment from the get-go.

You’ve likely heard it before — when you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. For this reason, segmentation is key. If you can’t email everyone on your list individually, segmentation is the next best step. At the end of the day, email is a tool for communication, sending out a mass email to your list is not effective for striking up meaningful conversations. Plus, segmentation can help you personalize your email messages.

Personalized emails really work.

Personalized emails perform better. We found that including the readers first name in the subject line increased the open rate by 9%. Including your recipient’s job title, company name, alma mater, and pretty much any additional information you can collect will make your message more human. It reminds the reader there’s someone on the other side of their inbox.

Nail the opt-in.

At the end of the day, we’re all recipients of email. We know first-hand how frustrating spam can be, which is why you need a true opt-in. A healthy list is not only the right thing to do, it’s better for engagement, deliverability, and your sanity. If your reader isn’t expecting your email in the first place, there’s a low chance they’ll open and a high chance they’ll flag you as good old spam. Nervous about deliverability? Take time in your email to remind your readers why you’re reaching out to them, how you have their email in the first place, and always give them a chance to unsubscribe and opt-out.

Be honest, friendly, and genuine.

In the B2B space, there’s no time to beat around the bush, your emails need to quickly offer your reader something refreshing — value. Identify what it is you’re offering in your email and why your recipient should care. Sometimes the hardest part is communicating what you bring to the table. When it comes to reviewing copy, remove any repetitive sentences or ones that don’t offer value. Keep it short, simple, and sweet.

Don’t forget to test the email send time.

Your email send time matters. We found the highest open rate across all emails on Tuesday between 7:00 am and 8:00 am, and the highest response rate Fridays between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm. Emails sent at off-numbered times (like 7:21 am or 7:48) outperformed emails sent or scheduled at the five, ten, and fifteen-minute mark (like 7:30 or 7:45). Sending on off-numbered times makes your message feel less automated and robotic (even if it is scheduled) and you stand out from every other sender delivering messages at that 15-minute increment.

Other proven successful send times include 10:00 am when folks are catching up on late morning emails, 8:00 pm when people are checking their inboxes before bed, and 2:00 pm when people are likely back from lunch trolling their inboxes for a distraction.

Test, review results, repeat.

Once your test comes to a close and you’ve identified your winning variable, your work isn’t quite done. Email marketing is a continuous game of optimization. With an endless combination of messaging, subject lines, recipients, and send times — the testing possibilities are endless. That being said, not every test will be successful. A low performing email is a great way to figure out what doesn’t work.

Now go forth and optimize.

At the end of the day, email is a vehicle for conversations. We’re all here trying to send the right email, to the right people, at the right time. Finding what works best for you and your audience requires consistent testing (and a sprinkle, ok a heaping spoonful, of optimism). What works for one company, might not work for you but we can all learn a little something from the experience. Our competitor’s findings serve as the perfect starting point for our own testing endeavors. So go forth, get testing, and start sparking conversations that build real relationships.

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