Stop Blasting and Start Connecting

As a marketeer, you probably spend a lot of time developing your promotional emails. You’ve carefully considered every word of the body copy. You’ve crafted a thought-provoking subject line and included a compelling call to action. After all of that work, you naturally want to send it to everyone in your database.


There is a cost to repeatedly sending to all of your email recipients and it’s measured in declining open rates. ISPs are now filtering less on email content and more on engagement metrics, which means recipients who stop opening emails influence your deliverability and increase the chance for email to land in a secondary email folder. These folders have different names; Gmail calls it “Promotions”. In Office 365, it’s “Clutter”. To you, these folders might as well be called “Spam” since they remove your email from the recipient’s primary inbox – even for those that have opted-in to your email.

How are ISPs determining deliverability? For those that use engagement data, here are the key positive metrics:

  • Message clicked through
  • Message opened
  • Message replied to
  • Message marked as “not spam”
  • Message moved to other folders or tagged
  • Message images enabled
  • Message forwarded
  • Sender/domain added to address book

And the dreaded negative metrics:

  • Unsubscribed
  • Messages marked as “spam” or a reported as a phishing attempt
  • Message deleted without opening

Not all of the above metrics are available to marketers but even tracking a few will help to estimate engagement.

Getting a Handle on Engagement

Most marketing automation systems and some email services report the following metrics: click through, open, unsubscribe and spam. Start by tracking overall engagement and scoring individual email recipients. This can be refined by including return visits to your website as well as off-website lead activities such as exhibition visits. Additional deliverability insights are available from third party email optimization vendors such as Mail Monitor and Return Path.

Easy Ways to Increase Engagement

Once you’ve established your current level of engagement, there are some easy ways to improve it independent of changing content.

  • Optimize for mobile.

55% of all emails are now read on mobile devices, so your click-through rates will suffer if you are not phone-friendly.

  • Send your broad email blasts in three batches based on decreasing engagement levels.

For ISPs that filter email based on previous engagement rates, sending to your most engaged recipients this may improve the deliverability of less engaged recipients. This is especially important if you’re sending from a new IP address (such as when you use a new marketing automation provider).

  • Develop email nurture campaigns

By sending follow-on emails on the same subject to only those recipients that have opened your previous emails will quickly enrich your list. Try this with product and event-focused emails.

Driving Engagement with Subscriptions

One of the most effective ways to maintain a high engagement level is to develop and maintain a well-curated email subscription list. . With our clients, creating a permission-based list using an email opt-in checkbox as part of the collateral download process has been highly effective. If your current subscription list has dormant members, try a re-permission campaign to ask recipient to opt-in to future emails. A re-permission campaign is also a great opportunity to ask subscribers for their desired email frequency.

Make sure your great email content gets the audience it deserves. Understand your current level of engagement and increase it through responsive email design, list segmentation and permission-based subscriptions.

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