Executive summary

This study is based on data collected in our survey Email Marketing Success Tester, which was originally designed to serve two purposes. On one hand, it tested the email marketing level and know-how of email marketers from all over the world, to provide them with some insights on what could still be improved. But to take the educational impact even further, we've decided to take the information you provided, and process it into a study of email marketing trends and industry typical practices.

The report sets out to answer the following questions:

  • Which email marketing strategies are the most and the least popular among marketers?
  • How do business units of different sizes implement email marketing strategies?
  • What are the major differences in utilization of email marketing strategies by specific industry sectors?

The data that we used was collected over a period of two weeks: from November 14-28, 2011 from approximately 600 respondents classified in 4 groups based on the business unit size and in 13 groups based on industry type.

General overview

On average, the number of "yes" answers to questions referring to the use of various email marketing tactics was above 50%. This means that at least half of the respondents know and apply them in their email marketing.
However, the differences in results for particular questions demonstrate that some practices are quite popular and others - often overlooked.

The majority of respondents are diligent about legal compliance and subscription-based lead generation:

  • 79% use sign-up forms to grow lists
  • 71% provide unsubscribe links in their newsletters
  • 72% use a confirmed opt-in subscription model
  • 66% inform subscribers what the newsletters will include

Quite a large group indicates that they have high deliverability (62%), low complaint ratio (69%) and effective delivery to major client inboxes (68%).

As far as newsletter optimization routines are concerned - there are no major surprises: most respondents realize the importance of regular mailings (70%), personalization (58%), compelling subject line (68%), and stats analysis (61%). But that's it. The more advanced techniques are often neglected: not many marketers split test, segment their list, or use follow-up cycles.

The only thing that took us aback is the weak implementation of social media integrations, especially given the buzz it creates in the context of email marketing. As it turns out, only 50% of the researched marketers use any type of email-to-social collaboration. This means that, even if their brand is present on various social networks, cross-channel marketing is practically non-existent - a shame, given the benefits it can offer.

Results by marketing strategy

List-building strategies and sign-up form optimization

All groups declare strong support for organic list growth and use of web-based sign-up forms to generate leads (average 75%). But at the same time, email marketers seem to underestimate the power of lead-generation campaign strategies.

Most respondents underrate web form optimization: only slightly more than half incentivize subscriptions (54%), provide visible, easily accessible web forms on main pages (57%), or include a web form on their blog (52%). Only 40% include a web form on every page, 41% on their Facebook fan pages, and 44% collect leads at tradeshows or in stores.

List-building strategies and sign-up form optimization

Segmentation and list hygiene

Only 42% of all groups make use of advanced segmentation strategies which, sadly, means that the era of a blast email definitely isn't over yet. It seem that the benefits of having high-quality, engaged contacts are still overlooked, as most respondents neither remove inactive contacts (38%), nor try to re-engage them (36%). What's even worse - they don't fully realize the dangers of having lists corrupted with bad addresses, as only 53% use email marketing systems that automatically handle bounces and complaints.

Segmentation and list hygiene

Newsletter optimization

The averages are not spectacular. Email marketers in all sectors neglect details such as pre-headers (45%), don't encourage social sharing (47%) and don't nurture leads with follow-up campaigns (56%). The low figure for split testing (39%) is quite disappointing, as it's an economical and time-saving method for optimizing newsletters, available as a core feature in most email marketing software.

Newsletter optimizatio

Deliverability

Respondents in all groups indicate an average deliverability rate of approximately 97% and experience no major problems with delivery to most client inboxes. The comparatively high score for this section might be the result of high legal compliance: 72% of respondents indicate that they use a confirmed opt-in email model, and 71% provide unsubscribe links in their emails. This is great, compared to the ratio of those who don't use automated bounce handling procedures (53%).

Deliverability

Results by business size

Total scores grow with the business unit size: for micro-businesses (1-10 employees) the general email marketing performance is around 53%. Small businesses seem to do better: in 11-250 sector the average results fluctuate around 64%. Medium-size companies (251-500 employees) reach the level of 73% and for large businesses (500+) the average score was 74%.

Results by business size

The discrepancies in results might point to differences in approach and marketing potential of the particular groups. Know-how, budget capacity, and implementation of marketing strategies are definitely better for large companies. They have the means to invest in staff and their know-how, invest in campaigns, and to develop email marketing as a separate department. Small companies need to fuel many channels simultaneously and can't afford to pay attention only to one particular medium. They often don't outsource email marketing, and their office staff members normally multi-task, which might result in prioritizing other responsibilities. Natural limitations also imply fewer development opportunities: fewer investments in new marketing strategies, technologies and staff education, thus less expertise. At the same time, the marketing impact and reach of such companies does not require more immediate investments; thus initiatives are always postponed due to other priorities.

List building and sign-up form optimization

List building and sign-up form optimization
1- 10 Employees
Micro-business units don't seem to be particularly focused on contact acquisition strategies. The only effort they make is to follow industry best practices: they use sign-up forms (79%) rather than purchase list, and they do use confirmed opt-ins for sign ups (72%). To increase their audiences they could definitely try offline strategies (e.g. in stores) and incentivizing (only 54% do). They could also benefit from using social media to collect contacts (34%), as it's the most economical and effective list-building tool.
11- 250 Employees
Due to its size, this group has the power and means to promote itself at offline events (60%) and to grow lists via social media (82% - top result for all groups) as they can see the immediate effects of this strategy in extended marketing reach. However, when it comes to details: incentivizing (53%) and facilitating subscriptions (web form on every page - 37% and above the fold 58%) there's still room for improvement.
251-500 Employees
Only marketers from this sector usually provide web forms on every page (72%). This group stands out in contacts acquisition via blog (68%), but overlooks the possibilities Facebook can offer (52%). They realize the importance of incentives and freebies (78%), but miss seeing the potential of offline events to grow lists (60%). If the overlooked strategies are improved, this sector can become a leader in the implementation of list-growth strategies and significantly increase their marketing impact.
500+ Employees
This sector managed to optimize the majority of lead generation techniques, as its resources and budget normally enable large-scale projects. Their results for social media integration are lower than in smaller sectors (57%), which might indicate that this channel is much underestimated by large companies.

Segmentation and list hygiene

Segmentation and list hygiene
1- 10 Employees
It seems that advanced strategies such as segmentation and re-engagement procedures are quite problematic for this sector (all ratios below 50%). This is probably due to shortages in resources, time and budget. However, we'd strongly recommend implementing whatever tactics are available to improve list quality (re-engage or remove inactives and automatically handle bounces), as this will have immediate impact on performance results (higher engagement metrics and deliverability).
11- 250 Employees
The average results here are much higher in comparison to smaller companies.
However, they're still quite low (only slightly above 60% for bounce handling procedures) and highlight the need for better implementation of segmentation and engagement strategies, as those are factors crucial for future success.
251-500 Employees
The top results for segmentation (72%) and re-engagement campaigns (56%) indicate the marketing potential and proficiency of this sector's marketers. This is also the group that realizes the benefits of automated bounce-handling systems (72%). Improving the weaker sides - re-engagement (37%) and removal of inactives (47%) - would greatly influence engagement and deliverability metrics.
500+ Employees
Results in this sector indicate that they realize the advantages of high-quality lists. However, they seem to underestimate the power of targeted emails, as their segmentation ratio is only 65%. With their marketing impact - it should have been higher.

Newsletter optimization

Newsletter optimization
I- 10 Employees
The average for all questions is only 50%. This is a very unsatisfactory result, as small newsletter bloopers can severely damage brand image and result in high unsubscribe and complaint ratios. The low score for split testing (30%) is a bit alarming, as it's the easiest way to eliminate potential no-goes and maximize engagement.
II- 250 Employees
The results of this sector indicate better know-how and more attention to detail. Social share icons can significantly increase email CTR, so their 66% score (25% higher than in micro-businesses) is especially promising. The same applies to personalization (72%). Again - split testing is quite an effective way to avoid mistakes, so we strongly encourage them to take it further than 57%.
251-500 Employees
This group's results for newsletter optimization strategies are quite impressive. They seem to realize the difference it makes and have the know-how and resources to pay attention to detail. Top results for split testing (78%) and comparatively high scores for stats analysis (66%) indicate that they have the ability to make deductions and adjust campaigns based on their own results.
500+ Employees
Large companies have the means, budgets and expert support to pay enough attention to all aspects of successful email creatives. So their top results for newsletter optimization (76%) are no surprise. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, it's also the sector that underestimates social media power. With at least one social share button active they could double their CTR.

Deliverability

Deliverability
I- 10 Employees
60% of the researched marketers reach a 95% deliverability rate. This is not a bad result, given the natural limitations in this sector's performance. They also manage to keep their complaint rate under 0.2 (71%), which means they follow anti-spam policies quite closely and avoid unnecessary reputation damage.
II- 250 Employees
Marketers in this sector manage to keep their unsubscribe procedures clear and effective (79%) and don't damage their reputation due to spam flagging. A high percentage of respondents (72%) indicated that their deliverability is above 95%, that they do regular mailings (87%) and experience low complaints ratio (69%), which indicates that they should seamlessly deliver to all clients - that's why the result below 70% is not satisfactory.
251-500 Employees
90% of marketers in this group indicated that they conduct regular mailings (the highest result). This seems not enough to achieve high deliverability results (only 68%) and minimize complaints ratio (only 64% keep it below 0.2%). Perhaps it's the effect of weak unsubscribe policies - only 74% provide an unsubscribe link in their newsletters.
500+ Employees
In this sector, average results for deliverability questions are above 80%, which again demonstrates their marketing potential. Nevertheless, they didn't excel in all questions, coming second best for regularity (83%) and unsubscribe link (78%), and these are the areas that still need improvement.

Results by industry

There are two major surprises when you view the GetResponse Email Marketing Success Tester results by industry: the Internet marketing sector (53%) is not the leader for all industries. It actually comes third-lowest, after non-profit (43%) and real estate (51%). And it's left far behind by two other sectors: publishing (63% - the second surprise) and hi tech (61%).

Results by industry
Agencies
With a 60% average, agencies assumed third position across all industries. Their top results - 77% for regular mailings and effective subject line - are not impressive. But it's worth mentioning that they never go under 42% (email marketers who run re-engagement campaigns). It's the field that needs some improvements, together with removal of inactive subscribers (42%) and follow-up cycle implementation (45%).
Arts and Entertainment
The results for this sector are quite mediocre, on average: 58%. They're quite proficient at collecting leads offline (58%), and integrating email with social media: 67% of marketers collect contacts via blog and 54% via Facebook sign-up forms. But that's no surprise, as offline and social are very effective media for this industry. Marketers in this sector need to work on re-engagement campaigns (only 29% use them) and delivery to major inboxes - only 54% report that their emails are delivered in all major email clients.
Communications
The highest results for offline leads generation (65%) don't push this sector very high in the classification, with their average at 53%. They split test quite a lot (59%) and send emails to subscribers on a regular basis (82%). But the weak results for list-building strategies - 18% have web form on every page; 41% have web form on main page and above the fold - substantially weaken their performance.
Education
Marketers from this sector perform quite well in list-building strategies (average for all questions 60%). They also indicate that deliverability is quite high (the average for all questions 70%). But weak segmentation and list hygiene implementation (average 42%) put them in the middle of the list - average total results: 57%.
Financial services
82% of them indicate that they have deliverability above 95%, no major problems with inbox delivery and with results analysis. They could improve list hygiene procedures, as only 26% remove inactives from their lists. The really poor results for social media integration (average 36%) might indicate generally weak utilization of this channel for this industry.
Health and Beauty
The total average 59% gives them the fourth position. This industry's marketers seem quite savvy in newsletter optimization strategies; they personalize and use follow-up cycles (71% for both). They also achieve top results for incentivizing subscriptions (67%) and for specifying the content of the newsletters (81% of marketers tell the subscribers specifically what they will receive). Thus it's quite disappointing that they don't split test (only 38% do) nor analyze email performance (62%) as this could really improve their campaign results.
Health Care
They strongly support sign-up-based list growth - 93%, the best result in the listing. But their deliverability results are quite weak, as only 50% indicate that they have seamless delivery to all major clients. And they could also improve on their newsletter optimization strategies: split testing (43%), pre-headers (57%), social sharing (57%) and personalization (57%).
Internet Marketing
The poor results for this sector come as a shocker, as it's typically considered the domain where marketing (including email marketing) trends, strategies and tendencies are created, developed and instantly implemented. That's why it was expected to surpass all other industries. But the results for newsletter optimization (average below 50%), segmentation and list hygiene (average 35%) and social media integration (average 40%) actually indicate that the companies need to carefully revise their strategies.
Non-profit
This sector scored lowest (43%). It's quite understandable, as they don't typically allocate a huge budget to marketing and promotion. However, they could benefit more from lead-generation strategies (average 41%) and social media integrations (33%) as those are quite inexpensive and profitable tools, offering what's probably one of the most important success factors for this sector-publicity.
Publishing
This industry's number 1 position in the listing is quite remarkable (65%). We can only attribute it to the fact that it's a highly competitive market, and mastering innovative email marketing technologies can be an effective strategy for outdistancing the competition. Most of the marketers in this sector report first-rate results for list growth, deliverability and social media integration. That's why the 18% results for web form on every page and for Facebook sign up are a sort of curiosity.
Real Estate
Only 63% of marketers in this sector use sign-up-based list growth and a confirmed subscription model, which is quite worrisome. In general their contact-acquisition strategies are on quite a low level: total average 50%. The same goes for their segmentation and list hygiene routines (26%). So it's quite surprising that they manage to keep their deliverability results comparatively high - complaint rate below 0.2% for 79% marketers and unsubscribe policies - 74%.
Retail
These very average (55%) results are quite disappointing, as this is the sector that often connects offline with online sales; thus it should implement all possible channels of communication to boost its marketing impact. The lowest segmentation (24%) and re-engagement (12%) results can indicate that the marketers in this sector still don't realize the potential of targeted mailings. Despite this fact they report quite high deliverability (almost 70% average for all questions) and social media integration stats (65% include social share buttons in emails).
Technology
The second-best ranking of high tech (total average 63%) was quite expected, as they are the ones who, due to their industry profile, can quickly gain proficiency in innovative IT technologies. They produced top results for segmentation (57%), inactives removal (61%), follow-up cycles (70%) and for stats analysis (78%).

About GetResponse

GetResponse email marketing platform is designed to increase email marketing ROI through intuitive, innovative and easy-to-use solutions for small businesses and enterprise customers. GetResponse has grown to over 215,000 active users from 183 countries, delivering 10 billion permission-based emails per year. Clients include: GSK, Intercontinental, University of Arkansas, Carrefour.

For more information, please visit: www.getresponse.com