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Power Up Your Email: How Email Marketing Strategy Impacts Deliverability


This article is part of our Power Up Your Email series — which shines a spotlight on the email marketing strategies and insights top brands are using to engage more customers, increase conversions, and drive growth and revenue.

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The right email message could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship with your customer. But if you can’t even get past the digital clutter and get your foot in the door — “foot” being a well-crafted email from your brand and “door” being your customer’s inbox — that relationship will never have a chance. In other words, if you struggle with email deliverability, you’ll struggle with customer engagement.

Email deliverability is critical to increasing customer growth and revenue for your business. So, naturally, if your emails aren’t being delivered to customers, it can be frustrating. When you try to examine why they aren’t being delivered, a common assumption might be: the problem must be technical. Yet more often than not, your deliverability issues are not due to technical failure or your platform’s inbox placement rate — it might very well be a strategy issue. 

One of the focal points of our Power Up Your Email series is how your content and strategy impact whether or not customers see your emails. Let’s take a look at how deliverability and strategy are so intertwined, and what you can do to ensure your email marketing strategy leads you to better deliverability. 

Ditch the Batch-and-Blast Approach

Not so long ago, when print media reigned king, one of the best ways to reach and engage customers with promotional content was via direct mail. However, in today’s era of digital-first marketing, email has become the most critical and preferred channel for customer engagement. 

The problem is, many teams have taken what they learned from direct mail and tried to apply it to email marketing (namely, the idea of batch-and-blast — take one message, deliver it to the widest, largest audience possible, and make it a numbers game). Perhaps this works with direct mail — after all, if a customer receives an unwanted, irrelevant communication from your brand in their mailbox, they’ll just throw that one away, and you can try again later with the next message. But it’s different with email.

Sure, a customer can delete unwanted, irrelevant emails from their inbox. But unlike your physical mailbox that offers zero filtering aside from the flimsy flap covering the opening, your email service provider has sophisticated filtering in place to protect users from undesired email content. ESPs can tell the difference between a trusted sender that provides value to the recipient versus a sender who is not, based on overall engagement and the open/click rates of those emails.

To be fair, batch-and-blast has a certain place in your marketing strategy, and can be effective in the right circumstances, but should be used sparingly (rather than the driving force behind your entire email marketing strategy). Batch-and-blast emails generally lack personalization or relevancy and, thus, are more likely to be ignored, deleted, or met with an unsubscribe. Filters take note of this, and too many of those kinds of emails too often can degrade your deliverability and reputation as a sender.

Email filtering has become smarter, and the way it’s become smart is to identify the difference between someone who is a valuable, trusted sender versus someone who is not, is the overall engagement of the marketing program. It’s how many people open and click those emails. So although bulk sending can work … doing that too often, doing that too frequently, can be very, very damaging to a marketer’s sending program. It will degrade their overall reputation. It will degrade their deliverability. And it will be very, very likely to impact their revenue and their conversions.”

Steve Henderson Emarsys

Steve Henderson

Head of Deliverability, Emarsys

Conversely, highly-relevant, personalized email drive engagement from your customers. The more customers are opening, clicking, and engaging with your email content, the better your deliverability will be. The great thing is, this isn’t even some kind of marketing trick or workaround, it’s just common sense. Customers love personalized content, and so long as you consistently provide 1:1 experiences, they’ll be excited to see your brand appear in their inbox. 

Side note: None of what I said should be construed as an admonishment of direct mail marketing. Far from it. Many brand marketers today achieve amazing results with direct mail by pulling back on a batch-and-blast approach, and instead, leaning into personalized direct mail content. So long as you can unify your customer, product, and sales data to create a single customer view, you can execute 1:1 direct mail campaigns — e.g., loyalty vouchers, product recommendations, and special offers — that are highly engaging and uniquely tailored to the individual recipient.

Different Audiences Require Different Content

So, we know that batch-and-blast email, although effective in the right dose, has consequences when overused. That’s because mass messages often contain a single generic CTA that is relevant to only a minority of the recipients.

A sales-focused “buy this amazing new item” kind of message, regardless of the creative high-octane hype you inject into it, will likely only inspire action in those who happen to be at the buying stage of their lifecycle. For everyone else, it’ll be ignored or deleted. Next thing you know, conversation rates fall, your copywriter unravels as they begin questioning their email writing capabilities, and bunches of would-be consumers mark your brand as “spam,” tarnishing your sender reputation. 

Deliverability will undoubtedly be impacted if your content is unengaging and irrelevant to most of your audience. A batch-and-blast email strategy handcuffs you to one-size-fits-all campaigns, where the content will only hit home for a select few of the many recipients, while the others learn to ignore your content.

This is why having an email strategy that focuses on delivering highly relevant, personalized email to everyone on your list, based on where they are at in their customer lifecycle, is crucial for protecting your sender reputation and improving deliverability.

To engage your entire list of customers and be warmly received in their inboxes, you need at least two types of content, sales and interest-related. 

Sales-focused email content

Without question, you need strong sales-focused content. That’s why you’re in business, to sell your products or services. The key is to ensure you put it in front of the right people at the right time. 

Identify your audience segments that are in the buying stage of their lifecycle with your brand, and use personalized content (e.g., tailored product recommendations, “you might also like” suggestions, timely discounts or promotions, etc.) to inspire a purchase. For your customers that are ready to buy, the right sales-focused message can give customers that final nudge they need to go ahead and buy. 

Interest-related email content 

Although you want your customers to buy something, what do you do if they aren’t actually in the buying stage of the lifecycle — ignore them? Give them the silent treatment? Or try and coerce them into buying with sales-focused content? 

No, of course not. Not only is that a bad customer experience, it’s ineffective at driving a purchase. If you want to build customer loyalty, you have to offer value to your customers, even if they aren’t ready to make a purchase. Build a connection and add value by delivering content based on interests. This could include content about product care (e.g., “how to keep your leather shoes clean” if you’re a shoe company), industry-relevant topics (i.e., fitness tips if you’re a nutritional supplement company), or lifestyle content your customers might be interested in (e.g., “top XX cities to retire in” if you’re a travel brand). 

The common theme here: you’re not asking your customer for anything. You’re simply giving them content they might enjoy. 

“An email sender today actually might think that they’ve got a highly technical set of rules to understand, but they actually don’t. What they normally just need to understand is, what do their customers want? … And this is why there is a very, very close synergy and correlation between an effective marketing strategy and good deliverability. And the reverse is true as well. There’s a high correlation of synergy between the marketing program that does not deliver on the wishes and the interests and the expectations of the recipients, and that correlation maps to poor deliverability, poor inbox placement.”

Steve Henderson Emarsys

Steve Henderson

Head of Deliverability, Emarsys

Final Thoughts

When it comes to email marketing, it’s not about volume and volume alone. Lots of emails are good… as long as they contain the right message, for the right customer at the right time. But if you’re having deliverability issues and you can’t even get your email into your customer’s inbox, your message won’t matter. No one will see it. 

Ensure you have the right marketing strategy in place to keep open rate, click-throughs, and overall engagement high. 

  • Prioritize personalized, 1:1 emails over generic batch-and-blast emails. 
  • Provide content that is relevant to the customer based on where they’re at in their lifecycle. 
  • Leverage a customer engagement platform that empowers you to create data-driven segments with ease

These are strategic decisions, and your strategy is led by your marketing team. However, the execution of that strategy requires the right email marketing technology

At Emarsys, we’re all about empowering email marketers with the right technology. In fact, we were recently recognized as a Strong Performer in The Forrester Wave™: Email Marketing Service Providers, Q1 2022. The report acknowledge that “Emarsys’s top-notch campaign management delivers against its promise to empower email marketers” and mentioned our “authentic focus on making technology work for marketers.” We believe this recognition is confirmation of our ability to help email marketers drive growth and revenue for their brand. 

Going forward, if deliverability is a concern for your brand, and if driving growth and revenue through email is one of your goals, make sure you prioritize personalized emails that will inspire and delight customers.

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Special thanks to our friends at Emarsys for their insights on this topic.
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