Dave Chaffey Shares Smart Insights on Email Marketing


Dave Chaffey is an acclaimed marketing author, speaker and teacher. His blog, Smart Insights delivers on the promise of its name with daily marketing insight. He enjoys sharing tips, tools and techniques on all things digital, but especially SEO, PPC, Social Media, Email Marketing, Site Design & Analytics! I’m thrilled he took the time to share his wisdom on email marketing with the GetResponse community!

Follow Dave on Twitter for his latest insights or if you prefer, connect by Linked In or Facebook. Dave is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Emarketing Excellence and Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice.

So without further delay, let’s get to the interview!


Which elements are key to the measurement of the effectiveness of email and how can they be used?

A favourite topic of mine!

I often ask this question is workshops or at conferences. Naturally everyone replies opens/clicks/delivery and the more savvy outcomes and ROI. The problem is that most email services are best at showing effectiveness in terms of what happens in the inbox and not beyond.

More effort is needed to see effectiveness “beyond the click”; but that’s perfectly possible with most ESPs, especially now we have integration of Google Analytics campaign tracking in many. Well at least auto-tagging of links.

Next step show me the site interactions of respondents within my email service – the Google Analytics API is used A LOT by search vendors, but not so much by ESPs – but do correct me if I’m wrong.

It’s best to think about effectiveness two ways – customer effectiveness as shown by customer engagement and commercial effectiveness as shown by $,£, €.

By engagement I don’t mean email clickthroughs or bounce rates on the site, I’m talking true long-term customer engagement.


Repeated interactions that strengthen the emotional, psychological or physical investment a customer has in a brand(Source: Richard Sedley)


Which of these factors do Email platforms measure, hmm, well it suggests the need of other forms of qualitative research for a start to understand your email effectiveness. But I think it’s the long-term aspects of the relationship that need to be looked at for email effectiveness, so you have to measure engagement as suggested by opens/clicks/CTOR/revenue:

At position in lifecycle


  1. By segment
  2. By offer / email type
  3. Aggregated over a longer time period


In other words – go beyond those averages Opens and CTRs to see what offers work for different segments.

On commercial effectiveness, integration with analytics can help here. A key measure for me in Google Analytics is Revenue per visit or Goal value per visit if it’s a non-transactional site in which case you have to put some form of measure into your analytics. Compare different campaigns using value generated per 100 or 1000 emails and then we’re really talking effectiveness.

Of course, by default this is a last click model and email is great at prompting sales that are fulfilled later, so to truly prove ROI email marketers need to get into attribution modeling to see how email provided “assists” which gave sales later in the path to purchase using another channel.


With the multitude of new marketing channels and social media, which is the way to go for the online marketer today? Should a company be on every single social channel or do their homework and target specific ones?

Do you remember the Conversation Prism which Brian Solis created to try to explain social media. It certainly shows a “multitude”. I thought this was way too complex and misleading in that most of these social channels are irrelevant for most most marketers in most companies.

However, I love frameworks which help educate and prompt thoughts or action so kudos to Brian for creating it. So, I decided to create a simpler version to help folks think through the options. Cue the Social Media Marketing Radar


Social media infographic


Even when I simplified it, it’s complex. However, you can prioritize with it – there will always be some channels that are more relevant for your audience – mark those nearer the center of the radar.

So with the big 4 social media channels you’ve got to be active on all of those regardless whether you’re B2B or B2C, but don’t split your resources equally – put the effort into the ones that matter – for Smart Insights we think that’s Twitter and Facebook. But you need to be flexible, we’re putting more effort into Google+ at the moment.

To see which are the right ones to prioritize do an audit of 10 or 100 profiles from each network and see the relevance of the connections in terms of likelihood to buy and value in amplification to share the brand more widely. With SmartInsights.com we find many of our paid members don’t use social networks preferring our email updates – they’re too busy to tweet!


What’s the one bit advice you offer clients most often to improve their email marketing ROI?

Tricky! I’m just allowed one piece of advice? So what do we want: the biggest uplift with the smallest effort or the biggest long-term uplift for more effort?

The answer is going to very much depend on the maturity of client. In fact, that could be the advice – benchmark your maturity – we’ve created a number of health checks to help with that. If you’re not so refined then maybe changes to templates or sorting out deliverability issues will give you the biggest uplift.

But that’s a bit of a “cop-out” answer so let’s say “Increase Relevance”. Interestingly this isn’t about varying creative or subject lines to boost CTRs – this is just “meek tweaking”. Relevance means going back to the good old marketing principles of understanding the customer needs and delivering value.

Across all digital channels probably the thing I say the most often is nail your Online value proposition or OVP for all your different customer personas. Your OVP is fundamentally what decides whether a customer buys or not from a brand or recommends the brand to a friend.

From an email POV, the OVP is all about relevance – does the email have the right offer/product/service for me at the right time – so context is really important. Which means that the answer to your question is to target better to improve relevance plus use event-triggered emails to deliver the right message at the right time. I’ve talked about Right Touching, not the best expression, but it shows the complexity of what we need to achieve as email marketers.

Right Touching is:

A Multi-channel Communications Strategy

Customised for Individual Prospects and Customers forming segments

Across a defined customer lifecycle


Delivers the Right Message

Featuring the Right Value Proposition (product, service or experience)

With the Right Tone

At the Right Time

With the Right Frequency and Interval

Using the Right Media / Communications channels

To achieve…

Right balance of value between both parties


Aside from the technical considerations, how do marketers have to change their approach to accommodate the popularity of smartphones?

Mobile email marketing and that includes tablets too, is becoming really important to get right, so good question Jim, since it’s not just about the progressive enhancement and technical considerations which everyone gets excited about. We’ve just published an article by Kath Pay where she asserts that “20-60% of your database will be reading your marketing emails on their mobile device” – that’s significant.

To change the approach, think about context and value. First research how subscribers are using their smartphones. Unsurprisingly, the data shows that the peaks in daily usage are early and late. So you can maybe get more cut-through by targeting those times when others aren’t.

Although smartphones are now perfectly capable of reading an email, the user often won’t have the time or connection to click through and read an article on the main site and transact, so it’s really about making an impact. Take the example of a commuter on a train browsing a retail enewsletter. Are they really going to click multiple links and read about a product on the website or transact and buy the product. Sure, some will, but most won’t. So it’s best to just go for the first part of AIDA, that’s Awareness, Interest and Desire. If AID are strong enough, the user will take action later.

This implies not just reformatting your emails for the mobile device but rethinking the message hierarchy for all your emails. For example a simple hero offer with relatively few offers. Think of your mobile Email like a retailer thinks of a mobile site – most won’t just reformat, they will reduce the content so there is just one major offer.

I’ll finish with a simple practical tip to look more closely at your subject line – I’ve always said the first 3 words of the subject line are most important as we scan down our inboxes. In mobile, there’s often not more showing in the inbox so you have to intrigue or show value at the start of the subject line.


What are the most important elements to test in email marketing?

Well, we have our pre-broadcast testing and optimisation or hygiene testing to try to get the email into the inbox as you intended it or optimisation to get the most bang for buck. I’ll talk about optimisation since it’s more interesting, pre-broadcast is just a checklist, indeed we have a checklist for Smart Insights members.

To think of what you could test I’d recommend my tried and tested “CRITICAL mnemonic” I used to structure the intro of my email marketing book.


  • Conversation – Email works best for marketing today when it can prompt a dialogue and encourage social sharing – so test how you use this.
  • Relevance (including targeting) – Does the offer and creative of the e-mail meet the needs of the recipients? Is a single message sent to all prospects or customers on the list or are e-mails with tailored creative, incentive and copy sent to the different segments on the list?
  • Incentive (or offer) – The WIFM factor or ‘Whats in it for me’ for the recipient. What benefits does the recipient gain from clicking on the hyperlink(s) in the e-mail?
  • Timing – Timing refers to when the e-mail is received; the time of day, day of the week, point in the month and even the year; how does it relate to events or other campaign elements. It also refers to frequency
  • Integration – Are the e-mail campaigns part of your integrated marketing communications? Questions to ask include: are the creative and copy consistent with my brand? Do the message reinforce other communications? Does the timing of the e-mail campaign fit with offline communications?
  • Creative and Copy – This is part of the creative and refers to the structure, style and explanation of the offer together with the number of location of hyperlinks and other calls-to-action in the e-mail.
    Attributes (of the e-mail) – The message headers such as the Subject line, From address and format (HTML or text) have all been written about at length
  • Landing page (or microsite)– In reality many email marketers don’t have control over this – but they should fight for control, but at least looking what the bounce rate is as a starting point to see whether it’s acceptable. I saw a tweet this morning that showed that an Adwords landing page with 12,000 visitors a month had an 87% bounce rate – that’s certainly NOT acceptable.Where to start – well as we said before creative and copy are easiest and good for quick wins, but Relevance and Offer are going to give you the biggest benefits.


Is the future of email marketing all about automated, triggered campaigns? Is the weekly newsletter on its way out?

Are you winding me up? The Enewsletter is most certainly not dead for most demographics. Some have said social media will kill the email, so I think it’s best to consider this by looking at the benefits enewsletters give compared to social media updates which in some sense are like a solus event triggered email – short, focused, although obviously a lot more frequent.

I’d have to admit that my daughters don’t subscribe to any enewsletters but are totally immersed in social media marketing. So probably the only way to get through to them with a relevant offer will be through an event-triggered email related to a recent action such as a search on site or browsing a category (if you have your platforms joined up). But for many sectors the enewsletter offers many benefits both to subscriber and the brand:


  • Enewsletters arrives at a consistent time (or rather they should) – it becomes part of the routine of the customer whether B2B or B2C – this helps keep response higher than social media which has such a short half-life of a few hours and is often just around a single subject
  • They inform, summarise – The content of most enewsletters is essentially the hero offer or editorial and then a list, but people like lists – they summarise, prioritise and are scannable. Marketers can help subscribers by alerting, aggregating or distilling the best offers or content that are out there – both on your own site and other sites – there’s a novel thought!
  • They entertain – Magazines still seem to be around, people pay for them even and buy physical copies. People like the gossip, they like a laugh or they like serious, informed discussion is they’re in a high-brow mood. Newsletters can offer this as well, although as I’m often saying you have to get the “sell-inform-entertain” balance right and many don’t either over or underselling
  • They give a great deal – We all like a great deal, in fact where we’re online we expect a good deal and we know where we can find it – in enewsletter
  • They’re persistent – Despite the overcrowded inbox it’s nowhere near as overcrowded as the social inbox, so people do return to an enewsletter at some point in a week, with most over 24 hours admittedly. I don’t think people return to social status updates at all.
  • Social network fatigue will set in– I can’t prove this, but we’re seeing some indication of people tuning out or simply not having enough time to be active in the network – many never were.All that said we know opens and clicks are falling over the months and years and that’s inevitable given attention for time from social media. But looking forward I can see at least 3 to 5 years life in enewsletters for most brands, who knows after then, perhaps we’ll have social media fatigue and enewsletters will be more popular than ever!


It’s fun to look at the EFT ratios of brands, EFT stands for Email: Facebook: Twitter Ratio and, as an example, Kath pay and I have used ASOS – surely a brand that works incredibly well for social.

In 2009 ASOS EFT was 100 Email : 8 Facebook : 1 Twitter
This was calculated from a total of two million email registered users (1.2 million of them being active customers), 161,000 Facebook fans and 91,000 Twitter followers.

In 2011 EFT Ratio had risen to 100 to 21 to 3
These use the recently published figures of 6.3 million registered email users (3.7m of these being active customers defined as shoppers who have purchased within the last 12 months), 1.3 million Facebook fans and 222,000 Twitter followers, I found that the EFT Ratio had risen to 100 to 21 to 3. Nice growth in social ASOS!!

But there are still 5 times as many on the email list compared to Facebook (yes I know that won’t translate into clicks) still it shows that email still matters.