Email Marketing

Improve E-mail Deliverability With Relevancy, Segmentation and Testing

e-mail-marketingYou will hear the word “relevancy” used frequently in the e-mail world as it relates to e-mail deliverability.

Relevancy is key to delivering e-mail to the inbox. But what really is relevancy and how do you achieve this holy grail?

What is Relevancy?

Merriam-Webster defines “relevant” as “having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand.” In short, a relevant e-mail is one that matters to the recipient – it bears to the matters that are important to them.

How Do You Achieve Relevancy?

You can achieve relevancy by sending an email that:
• Is wanted and expected.
• Is sent exactly at the right time.
• Is sent only as often as it will be opened and read frequently.
• Includes a subject and content specific to that recipient.

Boiling all that down, let’s reduce it to this: Relevancy means sending the right person the right message at the right time.

E-mail marketing is effective when customers respond. Customers respond when they receive targeted messages from companies they care about. They like when they’re e-mailed about things they’ve already shown an interest in.

Achieving Relevancy?

So, what is the key to relevancy in e-mail? The answer is to think like your customer. Find out what they are interested in and why. Then you can use what you know about your subscribers so you can send them exactly what they want, when they want it. A key to increasing relevancy is through segmentation – Marketing Sherpa also found companies with segmented campaigns produced 50 percent more opens and 30 percent more clicks.


Knowing that relevancy and segmentation are so important, how do we segment to increase relevancy and engagement rates? By following the guide outlined below for “Right Person, Right Message, and Right Time.”

How to Send the Right Person the Right Message at the Right Time

1. Choosing the Right People

• Start with a great sign-up page to get the clear permission to e-mail new recipients. For example, using a pre-checked checkbox will decrease the relevancy of your e-mail, because many people who don’t want your e-mail will unknowingly sign up. You want recipients on your list that have specifically requested your e-mail and are excited about getting it.

• Remove any subscribers in your lists who have not opened a message from you in more than a year. The chance of any one of these subscribers actually buying something from you is about as likely as seeing Elvis walking down the street. It’s not going to happen. Get rid of them. If you are paying a CPM rate to your ESP to send your e-mails, this dead weight is costing you a bundle. Even if you are paying a flat rate, you are losing money as a result of poor inbox delivery due to the negative mailing reputation this causes at the ISPs.

Next, break down the remaining subscribers into five categories:

1. Inactive – No opens or clicks in the last six months to one year: Use win-back (reactivation) campaigns to wake up lapsed subscribers or direct them to other channels to receive your messages. Remove lapsed addresses that don’t respond to win-back campaigns.

2. Fading – No opens or clicks for three to six months. You may want to decrease the frequency of e-mailing these recipients or use a strong special offer.

3. Active
– Have opened or clicked a message in the last three months but have not purchased in the last 60 days.

4. VIP – Have purchased in the last 60 days. Treat your very best customers as VIPs with exclusive offers and content.

5. New subscribers
– Consider an auto-responder sequence to deliver a sequence of your best performing messages to new subscribers before adding them to the active group. Or you may add these subscribers into your active or VIP group.

Track the click and open rates for each of the above categories, and use that data to improve your messages, or potentially determine any categories that are not profitable to e-mail – where your e-mails are no longer relevant to that category of subscribers.

2. Sending the Right Message

• Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about what would be important to them.

• Use a preference page to allow your recipients to tell you exactly what categories they are interested in when they sign-up. For example: special offers, industry news or Tips.

• Look at open and click information to see what kinds of e-mail content is generating the best response, and use this to learn how to create more relevant content going forward.

• Your content and design should be short and sweet, and your offer clear and straight-forward. You may have one second of skimming to grab someone’s attention before they delete.

• Use personalization and dynamic content based off of tracked data such as first name, location data, past purchases, past e-mail campaigns they have shown interest in, and any other relevant data that can be used to increase relevancy – but don’t overdo it. You want to create trust, not creep them out. Understand your audience.

• Make sure the web landing page is specific to the offer. Don’t make the customer search around to find what you offered them.

• State a relevant offer in pre-header text that will still be seen even if images are turned off. Whet the reader’s appetite so that they turn on images and read the rest of your e-mail.

• Make sure your e-mails look right on mobile devices. A 2011 Neilson survey found 45 percent of the time spent on a Smartphone was used to check e-mails.

3. Choosing the Right Time to Send the Message

Day of the Week – E-mails sent Tuesday through Thursday have been shown to receive the highest open and click-through rate, as the mindset toward e-mails tends to drift Friday through Monday, with e-mails getting lost or ignored.

• Automate your behavioral e-mails. For example, automatically send a birthday greeting e-mail with a coupon on the subscriber’s birthday; send an e-mail a certain period of time after a purchase; or remind a customer when it’s time to renew or repurchase.

• Send e-mail that is triggered by real-time events such as a welcome e-mail immediately after subscribing, a cart abandonment e-mail, or other relevant messages based on the subscriber’s activity on your website.

Drip Marketing E-mails – These are similar to triggered e-mails in that they are prompted by an event, however these are a predefined series of messages. A series of welcome letters could also be drip marketing e-mails.

• Frequency – Don’t numb the reader. Subscribers who have been on your list longer will tend to respond less frequently, especially if they are inundated with too many e-mails. They may even unsubscribe because it all looks the same. Decrease the frequency to these readers or pause for a while, then offer them an incentive as a loyal customer.

• Set frequency limits – Don’t over send. Especially with triggered e-mails, have rules in place so that you are not sending too many e-mails in one day or too close together.

4. Finally, test, test, test … then test again!

A/B testing: Track what worked and what didn’t work particular to each segment.

• Test separately for each of the five categories of subscribers (see above).

• Test for reaction (open rate, click through, and conversion) as well as Inbox delivery, complaint rates and unsubscribe rates.

• Remember, even minor changes can lead to a significant result.

• Always test during a limited timeframe to reduce the chance that your results will be skewed by time-based factors.

• For best results, only test one variable at a time when A/B testing. (If you want to test more than one variable at a time, use multivariate testing instead, which goes beyond the scope of this article.)

• When a new champion is determined, run the same test more than once, perhaps to a bigger group to solidify the findings and to eliminate the “random chance” factor.

• Retest your champions periodically – reactions can change over time.

With attention to relevancy in your messaging and timing, mailing list segmentation and the results of your testing, you will see better delivery of your messages, and greater success with your e-mail campaigns. The above are some of the many helpful tools and tips to consider toward achieving relevancy in e-mail. However, sometimes choosing which steps to take requires an expert guide who is removed enough from your email campaign to see it with different eyes. If you are interested in experienced consulting to help you take your email program to a higher level, make sure you choose a knowledgeable e-mail deliverability consulting company that truly understands your e-mail delivery needs and offers a complete solution to help you achieve the best results possible.

Article by John Bollinger. DRH Internet, experts of e-mail deliverability and e-mail sending software, provide the GreenArrow product suite which includes GreenArrow monitor, an e-mail deliverability monitoring product that helps maximize the insight into transactional and marketing e-mails reaching the inbox. Visit GreenArrow by DRH Internet at: or call them today toll-free at 1-866-374-4678.

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John Bollinger


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