Hints for Making Your E-Mail Marketing More Effective


Tim J. Smith, PhD
Founder and CEO, Wiglaf Pricing

Published April 15, 2005

There is no question that e-mail, when used properly, can revolutionize your business-to-business sales and marketing effort. No longer must you fight voice mail loops and struggle to talk to people who hide behind their voice mail. No longer must you use expensive and time-consuming “snail mail” and wait for endless deliveries and responses. Only FAX communications, which is far limited in its versatility, can compete with e-mail for immediacy and impact.

E-mail breaks through the clutter, has immediacy, works 24-7 and can provide a response in seconds. Unfortunately, many business-to-business marketers have not begun to use e-mail to its fullest potential.

The editors of THE WIGLAF JOURNAL maintain a file on ways to make e-mail more efficient and effective. Here is some new information we have gathered over the last two months:

B2B Strategies and Best Practices

In a ClickZ (April 6, 2005) (www.clickz.com) article by Karen Gedney, the business-to-business strategies used by Jeannley Mullen, e-mail marketing director of OgilvyOne Worldwide are revealed.

Mullen reports that nearly 70 percent of Ogilvy’s current e-mail projects are from B2B clients and views e-mail from three unique perspectives:

  • Strategic, top-down approach where e-mail is used as part of the overall marketing plan for achieving corporate objectives.
  • Tactical, bottom-up approach where testing is conducted on critical e-mail messages t determine the best subject lines, use of personalization, times of day to broadcast and other factors based on audience.
  • Technology-based approach where the focus is on technology and where lead generation is the primary B2B marketing objective. It requires different technology to bring the prospect through an often-long cycle of qualifying and nurturing. Knowledge of the client’s back-end systems to determine how leads will be handled is crucial to Ogilvy.

Some hints for breaking through: (1) If you are trying to reach IT people, try e-mailing in the 8 – 11 p.m. and 5 – 7 a.m. time slots. These professionals tend to come in early and work late; (2) if you’re trying to reach top executives, try e-mailing on Saturdays and Sundays because these people tend to check their own messages on the weekends where during the week you might have to get through administrative assistants and other gatekeepers. Mullen doesn’t recommend this strategy for the first message, however.

How Often Should Your E-Mail

Jeanne Jennings in the March 14, 2004 Clickz, writes: “There is no quick answer to the frequency question. It depends on the goals for your e-mail and the type of content you send.” Here are some rough guidelines:

  • Mail at least once a month. Mail less often and you risk losing top-of-mind awareness. Months, is a bare minimum to guard against being forgotten.
  • Let content be your guide. Frequency is somewhat of a function of what you’re providing for the readers. “Analyze how often the information changes and how quickly readers must receive it to act on it,” writes Jennings.
  • Take the lead from you readers. Some organizations offer daily e-mails; other far less frequently. Let the readers have the choice. Always tell them how often you intend to mail when they sign-up so they can determine if that frequency works well for them.
  • Work within your resources. Quality is better than quantity. A well-done monthly e-mail is far superior to a shoddy daily or weekly e-mail. Jennings recommends starting with a monthly frequency and then moving to bi-weekly then weekly.
  • Watch for trends. Declining response, open and click-through rates can be signs of list fatigues, according to Jennings. Many people prefer for trash their e-mail without reading it rather than to unsubscribe. If you see a problem, cut back on frequency and upgrade content.

Testing Rented Lists

Testing, re-testing and rolling out are the prudent practices for expanding your e-mail program, according to Paul Soltoff (ClickZ-April 4, 2005). Assuming one has a winning creative approach, here is how Soltoff recommends developing a winning list:

  • Step 1: Track all Lists. Elementary as it sounds, make sure you can track and source-code all leads and responses resulting from every list you test. The tracking code for each list MUST become a permanent part of the customer record.
  • Step 2: Compute Your Key Metric. Determine your key metric – it may be response rate, acquisition costs, net present value or others, For each new list, compute how this metric compares with previously established benchmarks. Be watchful and compare short-tem initial responses with longer-term retention rates.
  • Step 3: Take Advantage of Modeling Services. According to Soltoff: “Many list brokers offer scoring and modeling services you may be able to apply to your lists. A rented e-mail list could be matched against a known data base to identify common data, such as household income, or vehicle home ownership. Combined with you actual results, these models can point you to the right lists to test. Certain list owners directly provide response modeling services on their files.”
  • Step 4: Step up winners, retest marginal, analyze losers. For lists that are clear winners, use a step-up process – go from 50,000 to 250,000. If results hold, move to 500,000. If results are marginal, re-test as long as list acquisition costs are below $49 per thousand. For lists that are clear losers, find out why. Determine if it was a technological glitch or something to do with the price or message.

“By testing, tweaking and retesting, you may turn winners into screaming winners and marginal lists into winners as well,” writes Soltoff.

Content Testing

David Daniels, another ClickZ contributor (February 28, 2005) offers insight into testing the creative content of e-mailings:

  • Test only one variable at a time. Try to determine exactly which element is impacting performance.
  • Maintain a control group. To understand how the segments tested behave, maintain a control group that doesn’t receive any testing treatments.
  • Ensure tests occur on the same day. This will minimize fluctuations in day-of-week patterns
  • Ensure test cells are statically accurate. Make sure each test cell returns 100 qualified responses. This may require cells of or 10,000 to 15,000 names.
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About The Author

Tim J. Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Wiglaf Pricing, an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and Economics at DePaul University, and the author of Pricing Done Right (Wiley 2016) and Pricing Strategy (Cengage 2012). At Wiglaf Pricing, Tim leads client engagements. Smith’s popular business book, Pricing Done Right: The Pricing Framework Proven Successful by the World’s Most Profitable Companies, was noted by Dennis Stone, CEO of Overhead Door Corp, as "Essential reading… While many books cover the concepts of pricing, Pricing Done Right goes the additional step of applying the concepts in the real world." Tim’s textbook, Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures, has been described by independent reviewers as “the most comprehensive pricing strategy book” on the market. As well as serving as the Academic Advisor to the Professional Pricing Society’s Certified Pricing Professional program, Tim is a member of the American Marketing Association and American Physical Society. He holds a BS in Physics and Chemistry from Southern Methodist University, a BA in Mathematics from Southern Methodist University, a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Chicago, and an MBA with high honors in Strategy and Marketing from the University of Chicago GSB.