Is E-Mail Marketing Still Breathing or Do We Need the Crash Cart?

Blog129_EmailDeadEverywhere today you hear how effective social media is at acquiring new clients/customers. But according to research done by HubSpot, 75.8 percent of marketers say they are using more email than they were three years ago.

In fact, study after study shows that when email strategies include integrating social media into the sends, it leads to better results. Sixty-five percent of the top 20 percent of B2B marketers in social media lead generation integrate email with social media, compared to the industry average of 51 percent (Aberdeen Research).

I have been, and still am, a big fan of email marketing, having used it effectively for years. But I have to admit, it doesn’t seem to have the hit rate it once had.

Like anything else competitive, you just have to find a competitive edge and work harder than the competition to stay ahead. As an interested student of the subject, I reached out to find best practices for improving email marketing.

A recent study by predictive analytics firm Castor discovered that customer acquisition via email has quadrupled over the last four years and now accounts for almost seven percent of customer acquisitions. Organic search is the most powerful acquisition channel, accounting for 16 percent of customers acquired while Facebook and Twitter lag far behind.

Blog129_EmailDead2Will They Open??

We spend a lot of time drafting and crafting enticing email copy with powerful messages, in hopes that prospects will open and improve our click-through rate. But before we hit the send button, we have to consider whether our prospects will get the opportunity to read our email.

No matter how powerful your offering, or how creative your message, a host of things you may not even know can prevent your email from ever reaching your prospect’s inbox.

With increasingly more sophisticated spam filters, stringent laws, and busy B2B buying influences, it’s to your benefit to know everything that can affect your email’s deliverability.

This month, Hubspot produced a blog, A Marketer’s Guide to Email Deliverability: How to Avoid Email Spam Filters that gives us 29 ways to avoid sending spam emails and improving your deliverability. This guide should be your starting point. Make sure your email will at least reach the screens of your prospects. I found valuable information in the 29 ways.

Also, it is important to know what words to avoid in your messaging. Here is a list from HubSpot of the ultimate list of email spam triggers.

IBM found that 17 percent of all emails never see the inside of a recipient’s inbox. From defunct emails to spam traps, the reasons behind the lack of deliverability vary. Achieving a high deliverability rate relies heavily on three main factors:

  • Keep your email lists clean

  • Ensure you’ve properly warmed up your IP when launching a new email service provider

  • Follow best inbound marketing practices for email

What’s Your Reputation?

Return Path reports that 83 percent of the time an email address is not delivered to an inbox, the sender’s reputation, defined by the Sender Score, is to blame.

A free service of Return Path, the Sender Score algorithm rates the reputation of every outgoing mail server IP address on a scale from 0-100. Gathering data from more than 60 million mailboxes at big ISPs like BellSouth and Comcast, Return Path records if people frequently unsubscribe or report spam from certain email senders, and then assigns you a Sender Score based on that monitoring.

This score is a crucial number to stay on top of because mail servers will often check your Sender Score when deciding what to do with your emails. Do you know what your score is?

The lower your Sender Score, the harder time you’ll have getting into someone’s inbox. Scores are calculated on a rolling, 30-day average and represent the rank of an IP address against other IP addresses, like a percentile ranking. The closer your score is to zero, the worse it is.

Optimize Conversations by Segmenting

Next, we need to see how we can optimize email conversations to convert them into clients/customers. As we discuss in my eBook, How to Land High-Value Executive Appointments, you first need to target the right audience for your solution.

To get an edge on the prospect’s top of mind concern, you must understand precisely to whom you’re selling. You can rarely satisfy everyone in a market. Not everyone in the target segment likes the same thing or has the same issues.

In a B2B sale, different buyers within the prospect’s organization hold different interests and concerns. That’s why we target markets by dividing the market into segments.

Blog129_EmailDead3We identify and profile distinct groups of buyers who might prefer or require various products, services or solution mixes by examining demographic, psychographic, and behavioral differences among buyers.

You’re attempting here to do an early sketch of the buyer’s journey.

Importantly, we also need to identify who we need to secure time with to create a new opportunity. Who is the best match for our solution? You need to put a lot of thought into this step.

In a B2B complex sale, you can segment the audience by shared characteristics in several ways such as by industry, geography, or title. By example, CFOs in Fortune 500 companies are likely to face similar issues as one another. Or hospital administrators in not-for-profit hospitals. For-profit hospital administrators will run up against slightly different needs, as they answer to shareholders.

Make it Relevant

According to a MarketingSherpa study, four out of ten subscribers reported that they’ve marked emails as spam simply because the communication was irrelevant.

On the flip side, MarketingSherpa also reports emails tailored to specific audiences through segmentation get 50 percent more clicks than their counterparts. Use the data about your audience to segment your emails based on your targeted market’s behavior and interests.

The best segmentation tactics deliver true data about your audience, rather than assumptions based on role or geography. To segment based on interest, take a look at the content that members of your audience viewed on your website or at materials downloaded.

As an example, one of my clients enjoyed 2,700 downloads of a white paper on a specific topic.  He broke down the list and found 40 percent were qualified leads, however, in different markets; some were professional firms, others were larger employers, and the balance was mid-market companies.

By breaking down this list, he could segment the downloads into a more targeted email or lead nurturing campaigns about that topic with the benefit of specificity and fit.

Email marketing done right is one of the best tools for opening new opportunities. Like all marketing tactics, email works well went you use it in concert with your total strategy.

Six Steps to Improve ROI on Email

Here are six things that will help you improve your ROI on email marketing:

  1. Offer an incentive to get people to respond. Offering free content, better than what people pay for, is a great incentive. Industry studies, special reports, eBooks, white papers, invites to special events, and videos are all valuable to your target audience.

  1. Focus on what is important to your target market. As we discussed above, doing your homework and segmenting your market is so important. Many emails from sales and marketing fail to get opened because they don’t carry the right message. You need a strong headline, and your message needs to be straightforward and to the point.

  1. Research the best time to send emails. There are many studies that give us good input on the right day and time to send emails for the optimal open rate. Some say Tuesdays, some Saturdays.

  1. Send out valuable content. If the content is good and valuable, recipients will forward your content to others. In the client white paper mentioned above, we found prospects were forwarding the content to others within their organization and people outside where they felt they would have an interest. One prospect even posted the white paper within a LinkedIn discussion group that resulted in over 1,000 additional downloads.

  1. Don’t oversell or be afraid to sell. Don’t flip flop by offering free content and then try to sell them other content. Or don’t try to sell those who download too fast. You need to educate buyers all the way through their decision-making process and know when to create actions that will get them committed. It’s a fine line, and the best way to know when is to map out your target markets’ buying journey and know where they are in their decision-making process.

  2. Continue to grow your prospect list. We live in an unprecedented time where the Internet and social media have created tremendous opportunities to grow an email list of engaged fans and future customer/clients. Take full advantage of social media, video, guest posting, and joint ventures to grow your email list.

Grow that list, and nurture it.


For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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