Advanced Email Strategies to Boost Response Rates

John Harrison from Yesmail led this discussion. Among the measures the experienced email marketers in this group look at are Open rate, click-through, opt-in rates, channels they came through, time spent of site, net gain or loss of subscribers, what do the campaigns do to opt-out rate of a contact stream.

Conversion metrics typically used include new registrations, downloading a PDF, or whatever the objective of the campaign was. It all depends on the goal. Another organization has used inferred means, such as purchases over time. People who have more interaction with their email have been shown to have higher value.

Some have used email to test messaging for direct mail marketing. Intuit, for example, matches customer registrations (about 70 percent of purchasers register) against their email and direct mail history, to see whether people have gone online to purchase or purchased in a store.

Generic rental lists of email addresses typically have bad response rates. If companies have advertised with a magazine, however, renting that subscription list may be better. It’s important to scrub against your house list to be sure you’re not spamming. The key is to create a value proposition that causes them to register to become part of your house list. If it costs $200 per customer to acquire a customer through other marketing channels (e.g. TV or direct mail), a list rental may be cost-effective. It will never match the performance of your house list.

Email Strategies – John listed several subject areas to consider. We didn’t get to all of them, but if people have ideas to add in the comments, I know others would be glad to hear them.

Contact/Frequency — Ranges may be 3-5 times per month at max. Companies centralize management of the list to prevent various marketing groups from contacting the same people. For people who have requested a specific category of updates, they can get more than the basic rule would allow. Others are once per 30 days unless they have opted in.



Subject Lines — From address and Subject Line are overlooked elements, and should be user-friendly and tied to your brand. Purpose of the From address is brand and recognition. If you do that right you can have more flexibility with the subject line. The only purpose of the subject line is to get someone to open the message.

Creative — Gerber, for instance, does a series of Baby Center emails based on pregnancy phase, sending emails during each week letting expectant moms know what to expect. Petsmart created a Pet-of-the-Month contest to integrate into its email messages.



Emerging Media — Widgets branded for Desktop, RSS, SMS, Mobile delivery, social networks. Adoption of RSS is slow, limited mainly to geeks. Email is a glue that holds other channels together. It’s one thing that everyone “gets.” Even the social network sites have email notification options. That’s one reason they work well, because those who aren’t constantly living in Facebook get alerts through email or by text message.

Time to market/getting an email out the door — Political campaigns are great at timeliness, whereas some businesses can take weeks to take advantage of a timely opportunity.

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

0 thoughts on “Advanced Email Strategies to Boost Response Rates”

  1. Hi Lee,

    Thanks for summarizing the discussion! The Frost & Sullivan event was a lot of fun — great group of companies and shared learning by all.

    In respect to the areas we didn’t touch on… a few quick thoughts:

    * In addition to utilizing any available customer data to help further segment and target unique offers and content to your subscribers, don’t forget about the easiest targeting accessible, which is email response data. Many marketers have built very successful targeting and overall program contact strategies using email response data. For example, an understanding of which subscribers are “Active” within email vs. those that are “Inactive”. Activity can be defined based on those that purchased via email, clicked on an email, or opened an email over x period of time. A simple matrix using this data can be a significant influencer on subject lines, content, and overall contact strategy.

    * To continue on the thought above, if email response data is an actionable data element, then marketers can personalize content based on where a user is in their evolution of interacting with the companies email program. For example, as a retailer, why not test a better promotion for those that have never opened or clicked on a message vs. those that have already purchased via an email promotion.

    * The single best means of driving additional conversion is actively utilizing a multi-message strategy for critical conversion campaigns. Simple examples are abundant in the space including “Follow-up Reminders” related to promotional offers expiring (i.e. Free Shipping Ends in 24 Hours”). Other great conversion tactics include being creative with the the promotion itself. For example, many marketers have tested more timely promotions (i.e. The 24 Hour Sale — The First 100 People that Respond — etc) — these time driven calls to action can have a much more significant impact on conversion.

    * The most important strategy in respect to “welcoming” a new subscriber is two-fold: 1) Welcome the subscriber with a series of messages designed to ‘on-ramp’ the customer into your program, and 2) Tailor the series of messages to speak to the type of new subscriber – for example, welcome your existing customers that are new to email differently than your new customers/prospects that are new to email. You have a different relationship with them and you should act as such!

    Overall, the show was a lot of fun and I’m happy to hear that you had a good time.

    If anyone has any questions on the thoughts above, feel free to reach out to me directly.

    John Harrison
    SVP Product Strategy & Client Services

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