Sr. Marketing Manager

Email Marketing Execution: Don’t Just Get In Any Inbox, Get In The Right Inbox

The May episode of The Why Behind The Buy, a podcast for marketers focused on finding and targeting their ideal customers at scale, went live on May 28th. You can find the episode, here. During the recording, I had the chance to talk email best practices with Jeff Bickel, SVP of Customer Success at Claritas and Mark King and Bob Smolik of Conversion Alliance and Tribune Publishing, respectively. We covered topics from ways to properly monitor and fine tune email campaigns to see higher conversion rates, how Covid-19 is affecting the way retailers are going to market, striking a balance of knowing the right amount of campaigns to reach an audience, and so much more. But, while you’ll hear all about those topics and more when you listen to the episode, 30 minutes just wasn’t enough to discuss everything. Because of this, we took some of the conversation offline and put it in this blog, so you can get the full story on Email Marketing Execution: Don’t Just Get In Any Inbox, Get In The Right Inbox.

The Difference Between CRM and Acquisition Emails

One size does not fit all with email campaigns, but unfortunately a lot of marketers base the success or failure of a campaign off CRM standards, which are almost the opposite of acquisition standards. When you email current customers (CRM), they are familiar with your brand, familiar with your product and are much more likely to open an email from you due to that knowledge and trust they have in your brand. While customers usually click more frequently to open your emails, they’re less likely to engage beyond the open. On average, CRM open rates tend to be around the 15% mark, but their click rates drop to the 2-5% range. Contrary to consumer behavior with advertiser interactions in CRM messaging, consumers tend to react with much different metrics in acquisition email. They may or may not know the brand and may already have a relationship or some engagement with the brand, but their likelihood to open an email from them is much lower – in the 2.5-5% range. Once they do open however, they’re much more likely to click through to a landing page for more information, with those metrics ranging between 15-30%. This means you can’t apply the same metrics of success to these types of campaigns because they perform differently.

How to Stand Out

We advocate for using an email delivery provider to help with execution, and one of the key attributes Jeff Bickel recommends companies look for to stand out in the crowded landscape is a provider that actively manages campaigns. At Claritas, we do this on an everyday basis and our metrics are strong because of it. We’re always looking for ways to increase deliverability to ensure we’re not just getting to any inbox, but the right inbox.

Mark from Conversion Alliance wants marketers to not focus on the wrong KPI. Instead of putting too much pressure on yourself to hit a specific open rate, instead look at how many converted to a sale. Profile your audiences so your targeting is more accurate, and you spend your budget more wisely. You may end up spending more money per lead because you’re not blasting to an entire ZIP Code of prospects, but instead a segment of that geography, but you’ll ultimately see a higher response rate that leads to more revenue. His other recommendation is to avoid getting in the way of your own success. One of the key things that makes a powerful analysis is to let your email delivery provider have access to your customer data, so they can help you target the right person with the right message and make sure email is the right channel to engage them through.

When you restrict access to your customer data, it forces your delivery provider to execute at a broad base level, which ignores everything we know about how to make marketing work. One of the biggest mistakes he sees marketers make is not paying attention to the “test and learn” loop. You have to analyze performance, which means you need to release data. Have your provider look at it, link that back to where you are and make that next link to where you want to go.

Bob Smolik has seen similar mistakes made, but says he often comes across marketers who work backwards, and not successfully. They’ll build their message first then come to their provider to execute against a target group who they think is their ideal audience. To find true success, marketers need a partnership where you identify who the audience is by using data, then build a message that will resonate with them. That’s when you will have the most relevant creative with the highest rate of success. Don’t worry if your leadership or agency has already decided what the message is going to be though, there can still be core components that don’t have to change, but you need to be conscious of who the target audience is for each individual piece and tailor the messaging based on that. His other recommendation is to work on optimizing campaigns but recognize the line of too little versus working in a silo. Don’t wait until the end of a campaign run to receive and analyze reports. Instead, consider building in benchmarks and pivot throughout the life of a campaign and integrate all components together to see how different channel tactics interplay with each other.

Tips to Hook Customers and Keep Prospects Engaged

How do you keep a customer on the hook and a prospect engaged? Mark recommends investing in the idea that testing and learning provides ROI driven outcomes. Invest in creative development, have professionals design art and produce content. Don’t rely on “we’ve always done it this way” as the way to move forward. We’re in a new environment which means you need to experiment and try and test new tactics. Maybe it’s engaging a panel to find out what is most compelling to those individuals in the panel. From there, test digitally, then repeat the cycle to figure out how to shape a message in the right way to create the kind of engagement you want.

What if you have an aspirational audience that differs from your current customers? Bob suggests regrouping, gathering data and analyzing it to determine the right acquisition strategy, or bring in a third-party partner to help predict trends and what’s next for your future customer base. You can even look at your customer base to see how its shifted over time and compare that to trends in the marketplace. Adjust for the market but know how people are already reacting and consuming your content, offers and messages. Odds are how your loyal customer base has changed will probably be what’s expected from future customers as well.

A Powerful Stat

There’s a stat on the Conversion Alliance website that says “three out of four agencies admit that they don’t use data to make critical marketing decisions.” When asked why that is, Mark had this to say, “at a first glance you would think, of course they would. And the larger the organization, the greater your expectation that of course they would. But what is the reality in an organization? It’s that everybody’s engaged in a full-time job already. So when we speak to organizations, large and small, the reality is they just don’t have resources. And that’s why engaging a third party makes sense because we can do the analysis, bring value to the organization and then we step out so they can consume the data internally.”

Where do you go once you’ve mastered the best practices for successful email campaign? Jeff makes it clear that seeing success with your campaigns doesn’t mean there are no areas for improvement. Even when you have the open rates you want or the click throughs you want, etc., start looking measurement and attribution. Look at individual groups of consumers and think in a more granular sense about segmenting down that message, so that on your next touch point you’re speaking to them in different ways. This might mean reinforcing what you’re currently doing among those that are great customers, making small tweaks with those average customer audiences and going a totally different direction with those who are not responsive – whether that’s a different channel, different message or otherwise. Measurement is key. Understand your data and use it to improve.

We hope May’s episode of The Why Behind The Buy has helped you understand the best way to successfully execute email campaigns and measure results along the way. If you want to meet better prospects, market more precisely and improve your ROI, visit our website at

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