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How to Improve Performance of Your Email Marketing

March 25, 2015


I've yet to work for a company where email wasn't one of the primary marketing channels. In some cases, it’s been responsible for upwards of 50% of all marketing qualified leads (MQLs). While it’s important to have a healthy marketing mix, most marketers know that when used effectively, email can be a powerful lead gen tool.


In this post, I’ll share some tips I've learned along the way that have helped me improve email performance.


Database Segmentation

Marketo’s Benchmark on Email Marketing found segmentation to be the highest ROI tactic used by email marketers. This is by far, number 1 on my list and here’s why: your database is likely made up of all different titles, company sizes, industries and geographies. You can’t expect good email marketing results if you take a “one size fits all” approach.

There’s a number of good ways to segment a database: geography, job role, industry, company size, and content interest are just a few examples. How you ultimately segment will depend on the lead traits that are most valuable to your organization. The number of complete records your database actually has will also come into play (low hanging fruits). After that, each segment will then have their own sub segments. 


Job role segmentation is one of the easiest places to start. The tone you use with an executive will be very different from the tone you’ll use with a line of business manager. Mostly because they have different needs, pains and responsibilities within the enterprise. The asset you're offering may actually be the same, but the way you "sell" it will be very different.

Email Frequency

Mailing frequency is an often-debated email marketing topic. Some marketers feel very strongly about letting the database “breathe” and emailing as infrequently as they can get away with. Others see no harm in emailing 2+ times per week.

In B2B marketing, I’ve noticed the optimal email frequency is once every other week. Many marketers think that if unsubscribe rates are not going up, then all is good in the world. In fact, unsubscribe rates tend to stay pretty flat no matter what, so it’s really not a good indicator of list fatigue. A better indicator would be actual response rates going up or down.

It’s easy to fall in the “the more emails you send, the more responses you’ll get” trap. Many marketers don’t realize that they’re either accelerating the unsubscribe process or sending leads straight to the delete button.

Bottom line - don’t rush to get emails out. Put some thought into the content offer, the email message and landing pages so you’re actually providing valuable content to your leads.


Scheduling your send batches and best times to send emails

An often overlooked element is the scheduling of email batches. Do you know the optimal time for sending emails to your database? What time of day or day of week are your leads most likely to engage with your email? If you don’t have the answer, then this would be a great A/B test.


Don’t disregard time zones. 9am in Boston is 6am in San Francisco. If you have marketing automation, create a program that inserts a time zone value into a lead field. This can easily be done based on lead state. Here are the time zones I use and how I group them:

  • AT/ET

  • CT/MT/North America


  • Remember to include “time zone is empty” for leads in the database that don’t have a state

If you have a small inside sales group, you may want to spread out your email batch sends evenly throughout the day or even the week. This is counter to the example above but may make sense in some organizations who have 5 minute call back SLAs. In this case, I’m OK sacrificing some response numbers if it means higher connects.

Sales Involvement

Sales involvement pre and post campaign is critical. As marketers, we have a sense of ownership of leads. However, the sales team is your consumer and keeping the lines of communication open is a must. Set up a weekly or bi-weekly meetings to talk about upcoming campaigns and to reflect on how the previous campaign performed. How was the quality of the leads? How about the quality of the conversations? Why did leads download the content? What types of content would sales find beneficial? What trends and keywords are you hearing from prospects on the phone? Most importantly, how are the leads advancing through the funnel? Why and why not? Take that feedback and continue to improve the content your marketing team is releasing.


A/B testing

While sales should Always Be Closing, marketers should Always Be Testing. Not testing simply means you’re losing out on some great opportunities to increase your email response rate. Attempt to test and learn something at least once a month and keep it simple. Here are some ideas:

  • Subject line

  • Button colors

  • HTML vs. plain text

  • Landing page layout

  • Form fields

  • Day and time of an email send

Make sure to track each and every test and keep a log so you can always refer back to it.


Analyze and Optimize

It should go without saying that email analytics is extremely important when it comes to optimization. If you can’t measure it, you don’t know it’s working. Email analytics should go beyond just opens and clicks. Here are some really important, overlooked email metrics:

  • Email deliverability – You want to make sure you have at least 90% deliverability. Less than that indicates your database is stale and some clean up may be needed.

  • Landing page conversion – This will vary depending on your list type (e.g. optin vs. non-optin). For a cold list it’s important to have at least 50% landing page conversion. For an opt-in list, anything under 70% is usually considered low.

  • Marketing Qualified Leads – You may have a great landing page conversion, but if those conversions are not generating MQLs, then you may want to reconsider your offer.

  • Unsubscribes – At a minimum, unsubscribe rates should stay stable. Ideally, they should go down. If not, lower your email send frequency.

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