The Science of Email Marketing

Group of scientistsWhile I don’t deny that marketing has an element of art to it, I’ve come to believe it is more a science than an art. I’ve also come to believe if more marketers practiced marketing as a science they (and their companies and bosses) would come out farther ahead.


Because it’s not like the old days when the only thing you could measure was direct mail (which is one of its enduring charms.) With the advent of the Internet, everything is measurable..and where there is data, there is the foundation for science.

I find data very interesting. And so yesterday, in my search for more information on email marketing, I attended Hubspot’s webinar on The Science of Email Marketing. And I loved it. In fact, there was so much great information I had to write a quick post to share with you some of the insights I gained and recommend that you go listen to it yourself.

Insight #1
We sell to people, not companies. Since people are people, that means B2B and B2C really aren’t all that different.

I’ve actually thought this for a while, and it was sweet to see some data that shows this is true. Now of course, B2B and B2C aren’t identical. No two audiences are, even within B2B or B2C. But they aren’t as radically different as many marketers and companies believe.


Because people are people and they do what they do whether they are at work or at home. Here’s a few data points that support this:

  • 88% of respondents said they don’t keep separate business and personal inboxes (They do, however, keep “real” inboxes and “throwaway” inboxes. You have to earn trust to get into the former.)
  • Exclusivity works, even in B2B. People love feeling they are special and that they’re ahead of the rest of us by being on an exclusive list or getting exclusive deals.
  • Clickthrough rates skyrocket on the weekends. Even in B2B. (Apparently I’m not the only one with a compulsive email checking habit.)

Insight #2
Email is like homework.

This insight is huge for a couple of reasons. First, homework is something that gets ritualized into our lives. In my case, it was come home from school, have some downtime, early dinner and then homework. For some of my friends it was the opposite. Homework was done right after school before they were allowed to do anything else. In other words, homework was approached pretty much the same way day in and day out. Most people are the same way with their email. Understand those habits and you can work with them instead of against them.

For example the data showed people read email the most in the morning. They read all day, of course, but email interaction drops off as the day wears on. So why not work with that habit and send your email early in the morning so it’s waiting for them when they go to handle their morning email ritual?

You get the idea. Data such as open rates, clickthrough rates, and unsubscribe rates don’t translate into dollars very easily, but they’ll give you miles of information about your readers’ email habits. Learn them and you can dramatically improve your email marketing program.

The second reason the homework insight is huge is because most of the time homework gets done.

Think that’s not true of email?

Before yesterday’s webinar I would have agreed with you. In fact, I was actually a bit flabbergasted by the results since I’m a scan and delete email reader. But the data shows that over 50% of people read most of their email. An astonishing 20% read it all.

Given those facts, I’m pretty sure email isn’t dead. It’s just we don’t create, send or track it as well as we could.

Insight #3
If you’re not testing, you’re missing out on big opportunities with your email marketing program.

Email is a measurable marketing tool. You can measure delivery rate, open rate, clickthrough rates, clickthroughs to specific landing pages (you do use landing pages, right?), leads delivered via the landing page and percent of those leads that close.

And that’s just for starters.

You can also measure which subject lines work best, which newsletter formats get the most clickthroughs, which article headlines work best, which offers pull the most interest, which landing pages pull the best results, etc.

If you aren’t testing and measuring the results, then the truth is you don’t know what’s happening with your email program. And you’re probably using anecdotal evidence as a basis for running it.

Here’s a good piece of anecdotal evidence I’ve heard many times before.

Don’t mail your list too frequently, because it will fatigue the list and your clickthrough rates will drop and your unsubscribe rates will climb. Sounds good, right?

The data from this webinar show this to be a poor assumption. In fact, unsubscribe rates are highest when you send emails infrequently. Clickthrough rates and unsubscribe rates are minimally impacted by sending more frequently.

But that’s not true for my audience, you say.

Perhaps. The data from this webinar came from three sources, one of which was 9.5 billion emails sent through MailChimp. But it’s possible your audience is the exception to what is an admittedly general rule.

But the only way you’ll actually know is if you test.

So those are the top three things I took away from the webinar, though there was a lot of very good information presented that I didn’t get into here. If you liked this post, I encourage you to go out and listen to The Science of Email Marketing for yourself. You can also search twitter for #emailsci and see the tweets that went out as the data was being presented.

Hubspot also put together a blog post, answering the top email marketing questions they got before, during and after the webinar.

I’d love to hear more about what you think about this topic? What were your biggest insights from the webinar? Do you measure your email marketing program? How?

1 Comment

  1. manufacturers and suppliers

    Impressive to see the resources in the b2b marketing industry very helpful for manufacturers and customers. A lot of great ideas floating around out there. We are also a b2b company and have a very nice blog i.e

    Team Bizz Duniya

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