Bullets then Cannonballs


Another two weeks passed for my internship. The last two weeks was spent on marketing. Pure marketing. One of our experiments hit a jackpot and I’m here to share what works.

Email Marketing that Works

Email marketing used to be just sending a lot of emails and hoping that it gets to the right person and the person reads it and clicks on the link to find out more. Even then, you need to work on ways to convert these people on the website or in the email itself.

Amongst all the campaigns we have sent, most campaigns don’t work! They have very poor open rates and non-existent click-through rates. So we broke down the components of a good email campaign and tried various experiments before we ‘fired the cannonball’.

A good campaign consist of the following:

  1. A good email list
  2. A good subject
  3. A good content
  4. A good call-to-action
  5. A good tracking system

I’ll just cover the first three key ingredients that we ran experiments on.

The List

As a new startup, building a list is going to be extremely tough. Thank goodness the company is a B2B company and that contact information for businesses is not covered under data protection obligation. That means I could use custom built scrapers to extract business contact information. The drawback is, of course, the list is unsanitised and contains lots of non-existent emails and generic emails.

We tried various sources of information and found out that it is best to not combine these email list from various sources and later use them to our advantage. We did a various experiment and found out that by segregating the list and market to them by the source of information, it is more likely that they open the email. We will touch on this later again.

The Subject

We all know that a good email subject is able to increase your open rates dramatically. But what makes a good subject? We did various experiments and found two important ingredients that work for us:

  1. Sounds like a casual email
  2. Personalised content
  3. Urgency

It turns out that an informal email subject does seem to do well. One of our email campaigns had the subject “Eh, how to get them to come back?” and had one of the highest open rates despite being sent to one of the worst performing lists.

Also, we have also found out that by adding something they recognise as their own will boost the open rate by up to 20%. One of our campaigns includes certain information that we gathered from the source and we included the information into the subject header. Upon sending the campaign named “Quick Review on Your [REMOVED] for [PRODUCT]” we received several enquiries in format of phone calls, emails and contact page entries. This campaign had over 40% open rate and 3% click through rate.

Lastly, we decided to capitalise on the previous success and send the campaign out once again. This time sending only to those that has not clicked through. This time, the campaign with the subject “Last Chance to Review Your [REMOVED] Performance!!! (We are DELETING it soon)” had a crazier response. The open rate and click through remained at previous high numbers but the number of call-to-actions went through the roof. Appointments were fully booked for two full weeks for all our sales rep and we are still experiencing traffic sources from the campaign.

The Content

Previous campaigns were pretty informative. We let business owners know things that are ‘interesting‘. The kind of browsing 9gag kind of interesting. Campaigns like “Increasing customer retention by 5% increases profit by up to 95%”  has close to 0 conversion rate. It seemed like the recipients are more ‘entertained’ than anything else. Mind you, we had pretty infographics in those campaigns.

So we tried campaigns that invoke questions. We sent out campaigns with the content that is along the line of “Your loyal customers contributes to the bulk of your revenue. Do you know who are they?“. Turn out, these campaigns perform worse. It seemed like business owners don’t even care about these emails! They aren’t even entertaining to start with.

Once again we tried another campaign that ‘provokes‘ emotion. Things that make our recipients go “wtf, how do you know?“. We gathered some data from available sources, generated reports on their business earnings in a specific channel and presented them beautifully on our website. Sure, we get emails saying “Your calculations are wrong”, but one thing we know for sure is that we have captured their attentions.

Moving Forward

Now that we have found a certain flavour of campaigns that works for us, we are capitalising on previous success to ‘fire the cannon balls’ and also to replicate the success for other types of information sources.

If you have any success stories to share about your experience on email marketing or would like to know more about the tools I used, ie content scraper, email sender or custom web page used in the creating personalised reports, feel free to contact me.