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Email Marketing - Redefining Success

by  David Dwyer on  08/09/2015

Email marketing success | A then & now perspective on email marketing

I was first exposed to email when I went to University of Paisley in the early '90's.  Having come from Scottish Equitable, who used what by comparison now can only be described as incredibly primitive MEMO mainframe application, along with paper communication, you can imagine that email was something of a culture shock for me.

Email has indeed changed a lot since 1971 when computer engineer Ray Tomlinson sent the first electronic mail message. It wasn't until 1982 that the term 'email' was first used, so in terms of history, email is still a relatively young concept, which seems remarkable given just how much we rely on it.

It didn't take long for marketers to spot the business benefits of email as a marketing tool, and now, email marketing is a critical element of how most companies do business.


The Age of Spray and Pray

In the early days email marketing was seen as a digital replacement for the mass-marketing power of traditional media, such as Television and Newspapers. It was a means of delivering the same message to a large audience. It was the age of 'spray and pray' email marketing. Your message, just like a TV advert, would resonate with some more than others, but that didn't matter, it was just an accepted way of doing business.


From Shotgun to Sniper Rifle

As time and technology moved on, savvy marketers realised they were copying the wrong model. The true power of email marketing was to think of it less like a shotgun and more like a sniper rifle. The old shotgun approach wasn't targeted; more pellets missed, than hit, but adopting a sniper approach, gave businesses the opportunity to target a specific message, to a specific audience. The logic - personalised marketing will always work better than impersonal 'Dear Customer' style marketing ever will.

The sniper approach continues to be refined, thanks, in large part, to the email marketing tools that do much of the heavy lifting. Many of the tools are available on a freemium basis. This is a business model, popularised on the Internet, whereby the basic service is provided for free, while advanced features require payment.  These tools offer the ability to segment your large email database, into smaller more usable subsets. This allows businesses the opportunity to target much more tailored message to a more defined audience. There are still though, that remain unconvinced by the benefits of email marketing, with some, even predicting the 'death of email marketing'.

The truth is, email marketing is alive, and kicking. Used in the right way it, with some careful thought, consideration and strategy, your list can become a significant asset for your business. But, expectations need to be managed and your email marketing success needs to be redefined.


Response Rates Then and Now

Back in the early days of email, when the very concept of email was something of a novelty, the percentage of your emails that were actually opened (open rates) were ridiculously high. In some cases, they were 100%. Now though, with the sheer volume of email communications most of us receive, that number has plummeted and continues to be a challenge for email marketers. According to research conducted in July 2015 by Mailchimp, one of the largest email-marketing providers to SME's, the average open rate is between 21% and 24%.

That is the benchmark and should be considered as your baseline for measuring the success of your email marketing. You can go deeper though as Mailchimp, and many of the other email marketing service providers break this down into industry type. This allows you to benchmark your email marketing success against your peers. If you're in the 'Daily Deals' market, then average open rates are just 14%, while at the other end of the spectrum, if you run a 'Hobby' related business you're up against an average open rate of 29%.

Don't be disheartened if your early forays into email marketing fall below these averages, and similarly, don't wildly celebrate if a campaign you run surpasses the average. We recommend that you take a long-term view of your email marketing efforts and review your open rates as an average of all your campaigns. Doing so will allow you to set your own benchmark.

The good news is that many of the advanced email marketing tools and tactics that were once the preserve of 'big business' have now been opened up to all businesses, and as such, email marketing is an incredibly scalable beast.

A perfect example of this is the concept of A/B or split testing. This is the ability to make minor changes to your email to see what difference it makes to the outcome of the campaign. So for example, what impact does one Subject Line have over another, or what if you use an image of a cat instead of an image of a dog? In the past, this was only available to bigger companies, with bigger teams and bigger budgets. Now, it comes as a standard feature in many of the small business email marketing solutions available.

Ultimately, email marketing can be as simple, or as complicated as you like. The key though, is to manage your own expectations, consider the long-term view and learn as you go.

At Inspire, we've certainly learned a lot through managing email marketing campaigns for our own clients. To find out more about what we've learned, or to arrange a free consultation, contact David on 01738 700 006.


David Dwyer is Managing Director of Inspire Web Development. He has years of experience in a range of web and IT roles plus seven years in sales and marketing in a blue-chip FMCG company. David’s academic and professional qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Business Economics (Personnel & Ergonomics) from the University of Paisley, an MSc in Information Technology (Systems) from Heriot-Watt University and PRINCE2 Practitioner-level certification. He is also an active member of the British Computer Society, Entrepreneurial Exchange and Business for Scotland.


Follow Inspire on Twitter @inspireltd and @developersos

A/B Testing, Customer Lifetime Value, Customer Relationship Management, Email Marketing, Selling, SMEs, The Evolving Web, Web Consultancy
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