Making it Work: Email Marketing

Now that I am immersed in the world of email marketing I look at the topic with a fresh set of eyes. It’s fascinating to think about what makes “it” (it being email marketing) work and what doesn’t.

You have one ultimate goal when doing email marketing and that is to get people to read your emails. eMarketer published an interesting article in early July on email marketing open and click-thru rates. The article got me thinking and I wanted to share some of these ideas here.

eMarketer reports that emails sent to small and medium sized lists perform better than those sent to lists with more than 1,000 people. I’m thinking this is, in part, because you can have a better understanding of what people on a smaller list will want to read about. The smaller, more homogenous lists will have a clearer set of topics of common interest.

The Up Side
The article also provides insightful data on open rates by vertical industry. Guess what industry has the highest open rates? Religious and spiritual organizations. Having recently worked in the financial services market, I am somewhat surprised to also see Banking/finance at the top of the “open rate” list. Maybe the religious folk are praying for financial recovery…. who knows?

Also performing well on the vertical industry open rate list are restaurants and the travel industry. The travel industry doesn’t surprise me based on how many emails I get from United, Delta and others. Restaurants do give me a slight pause. In my neighborhood I can’t say restaurants seem like big users of email marketing (although they should be.)

The Flip Side
By comparison I also had great intrigue in those vertical industries who have abysmal open rates. I am surprised (and a bit dismayed) that consultants like the Wilson Marketing Group have very low open rates, especially those that have small (fewer than 100 people) on their list. Yikes! How can that be when we have such great expertise to share?

As a take-away, it’s worth thinking about these email marketing topics. Be sure to consider the size of your email list. How well do you know them and what they want to read? The more you know them, the better you’ll do at creating content to keep them opening future emails. Also, realize that open rates vary by vertical industry. As you’re designing your campaign think about which vertical industries the people on your list belong to and how likely they will be to open your email.

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2 Responses to “Making it Work: Email Marketing”

  1. Mike Ogden Says:

    Relevancy comes to mind. Smaller list means tighter focus on audience. Industry focus opens the door to not just customers but what competition is doing. Good blog post!

    Some things I’m wondering. Subject headers. Since the small business is sending out a regular e-newsletter, should it have the familiarity of a recurring name or lead with a benefit? Also, which day/time are best for sending? And if sending to corporate audience like a small biz client of mine does, how do you get past firewalls?

    Did I just give you some topic ideas for future posts?!

  2. shelleywilson Says:


    Welcome, and yes you did give me some good ideas for future posts. Quick answer to one of your questions. The industry best practice for day/time in the US is Tues, Wed or Thurs between 10am and 2pm. However, I suggest any email marketer study open rates and other statistics as they develop their strategy. If they happen to primarily email to a lot of people with hotmail, aol, etc. accounts then these might be personal accounts that get read only at night, so a night-time send would make more sense. Interestingly, in the UK much email gets opened at night because people would *never* check personal email at work. Bottom line, the better you know your audience, the better you can determine the right day/time to send for you email marketing campaign.

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