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Are you really performing engagement-based email marketing?

Amongst other more modern marketing channels such as social media or push notifications, “traditional” email marketing still reigns as one of the most successful channels.  

This might seem odd considering how long this tactic has been used, but considering the statistics, it’s safe to say it’s not obsolete. According to HubSpot, the average open rate of welcome emails is 50% and transactional emails have an open rate between 80%-85%

Email marketing is still relevant today for many businesses because of how Marketers have adapted to changing trends and tactics. However, if you don't find your results in line with industry standards, you might be wondering how to step your email efforts up a notch - that's where engagement-based email marketing comes in.  

You might already be tracking some engagement metrics or have a general idea of your customer engagement by channel, but many Marketers fall short of achieving true engagement. That's why this article will go through what email marketing engagement is really about, the benefits and common errors in this type of strategy, and the core components of an engagement-based email marketing approach.  


What is engagement-based email marketing?  

Traditionally, email marketing relied on a one-size-fits-all approach, where mass email campaigns were sent to a broad audience without much consideration for personalization or segmentation.  

But in an increasingly digitized world, where customers have multiple touchpoints with brands and heightened expectations regarding interactions, businesses have realized the need for a fundamental shift. Towards what? A more customer-oriented focus based on building relationships.  

According to HubSpot, email engagement is “the measurement of interactions your emails receive”. Engagement-based email marketing is when we take these interactions into consideration, analyze them to understand what works, and develop specific engagement-based strategies to improve our email marketing efforts.  


Top benefits of email marketing based on engagement include:  

  • Increased conversion rates: Higher open and click rates come from greater personalization and segmentation. Monitoring these indicators and KPIs helps optimize conversion.  
  • More leads passed to sales: What you are generating with engaged email marketing are better quality leads, which move faster down the funnel and convert to sales qualified leads (SQLs).  

  • Enhanced customer retention and loyalty: By replacing repetitive content with valuable personalization, customers will feel seen and understood by brands. This improves brand loyalty and converts contacts into brand ambassadors.  

  • Cost-effectiveness: Proper segmentation means being able to identify database contacts that aren't valuable, either marking them for removal and lowering your CRM fee or re-engaging them with targeted campaigns.  

  • Improved understanding of your database: Your data and metrics should work for you! That's the best way to truly optimize for engagement and make future Marketing decisions.  

But implementing this type of strategy is often not as easy as it sounds. In fact, a lot of Marketers have encountered problems along their way to switch to an engagement-based approach. 


6 common challenges in your email marketing strategy  

Email marketing has many challenges that Marketers need to overcome. This is especially true when searching for ways to measure and achieve engagement, as much of it revolves around data, patterns, and customization. Let's dive deeper into each point:  

  1. Complex database analysis: Analyzing data is a time-consuming task that requires deep expertise. Furthermore, an incomplete database analysis can lead to inaccurate conclusions, which may lead to consecutive actions down the wrong path. Leaning on new analytics and reporting technologies or AI tools here can be a way to resolve issues.  

  2. Low data quality: If the data we're collecting doesn’t appropriately reflect our audience, our marketing efforts will suffer. We need a detailed and accurate profile of our contacts, their behaviors and activities. Maintaining our database up-to-date (in real-time if possible) and clean is essential.  

  3. Email list segmentation: Another big setback in email marketing is list building's manual, time-consuming nature. Here, new AI tools are your best asset. For example, Thalox is an AI-powered audience segmentation tool that makes predictions on contacts’ future engagement level based on past history, automatically churning out segmented lists. Segmentation is key to tailoring campaigns and increasing conversion rates.  

  4. Lack of personalization: Among the worst things you can do is send generic, mass emails to your audience. The key to engagement-based emailing is personalized content focused on nurturing customer relationships. This will better capture your audience’s attention and result in higher engagement. You should understand where they are in their customer journey and speak only to that—not precipitating commercial emails.  

  5. Email fatigue: This concept refers to the feeling subscribers get when they are overwhelmed with a high volume of emails, resulting in disengagement, unsubscribing or even sending to spam. That's why a clear and consistent email schedule is essential to establish and maintain. Adjusting email volume based on engagement—or disengagement—is key to keeping customers happy.  

  6. Spam: There are a number of reasons your email could automatically be sorted into the spam folder: list buying, email format and weight, misleading or false information, etc. Check out the CAN-SPAM Act to see email best practices. A more disconcerting reason for being flagged as spam is an unhappy or angry customer, so emails need to be regulated in volume and content.  

Once you’ve gone over all of these details, it’s time to create the building blocks for your engagement-based email marketing strategy. First, you need to start off by establishing KPIs and getting a clear idea of the metrics you will measure.  


What are the email metrics for engagement you should be measuring? 

There are so many email marketing metrics you could be looking at, but here we want to focus on the ones that speak to engagement.  


  • Open rate: This is the percentage of your total audience who opens your email. Open rate is a big one, but not the most important for engagement. However, getting people to look at your email sets the stage for their subsequent actions and engagement. Here, subject line and A/B testing will help improve open rates.  

  • Click-through rate: CTR is the percentage of contacts who click on a link in your email. This is the most important engagement metric because it shows if your content or offer resonates with your target. If they're inspired enough to click on a link, they are showing their engagement. Improve CTR with captivating CTAs, interactive content, content offers, and share functionalities. Content optimization and A/B testing is key here, to see which designs and texts resonate most.  

  • Conversion rate: This is when a contact takes a desired action on a landing or webpage, such as filling out a form. While this isn't directly an email metric, it's helpful to measure which contacts from your email campaigns moved further down the funnel. It's the second most important engagement metric.  

  • Bounce rate: This is the number of recipients who didn't receive your email, usually due to invalid addresses or deliverability issues. Here, you can remove the invalid emails from your database, saving you money and further improving your results.  

  • Spam rate: This is the number of times your email was marked as spam, and it can speak to the quality of your database and the correctness of your targeting. Better segmentation and database cleaning can help here.  

  • Unsubscribe rate: This is the number of times people unsubscribed from your email. Like spam rate, it can offer insights into the correctness of your targeting, content type and volume, etc. More tailored content and segmentation are ways to improve this.  

With these metrics in hand, you'll be able to assess your current percentages, establish KPIs, and set benchmarks for achieving success. Let's dive into how to do it: 


Key components of an engagement-based email marketing strategy 

  • Audience segmentation: As mentioned previously, personalized emails are a main part of engagement-based marketing, and this isn’t possible without audience segmentation. Segmentation is the first step of any email marketing campaign. By dividing your contacts into relevant groups based on their demographics, language, Buyer Persona, etc., you can get a better picture of the type of content each group prefers.

  • The Thalox tool offers segmentation based on past email engagement, and divides your contacts into three groups: high engagers, dormant potential, and inactive or indecisive. Discover how thalox works! 
  • Personalization: Step two was briefly mentioned above, but it revolves around tailoring each email and campaign to the exact target it's for. No more mass emails, no more generic campaigns. Use personalization tokens, smart content, customized offers and landing pages... Every text, design, and button in the email should resonate with the person who receives it. It will make your customers feel seen and heard, and increase all your metrics, from CTR to conversion. 

  • A/B testing & optimization: This step is all about finding out what works best for your audience. It involves creating different versions of the same email and measuring the impact of each. From there, you can draw conclusions and optimize all subsequent efforts based on the winning versions. This is a continuous effort, not a one-off.  

  • Email nurturing campaigns: Nurturing involves leading your contacts down the marketing funnel, from gathering information to making a decision. According to ProProfs, 95% of buyers choose companies that guide them through all stages of their buyer journey. So, if you send your target an email and then don't follow up with relevant content, they don't know what they're supposed to do next. Developing a series of nurturing emails for each stage in the funnel makes sure they have a steady stream of information at their fingertips to be able to make an informed decision.  

  • Experiment: Readers get bored if campaigns are always the same, so don’t be afraid to try different campaign types, offers, landing pages, visual styles, etc. The only consideration here is to keep a consistent rhythm, branding, and perform A/B testing so you know which ideas worked and which didn't.  

  • Email Tools: When designing your engagement-based strategy, keep in mind that there are a lot of tools that are there to help! HubSpot AI has an email text generator that can change its tone of voice and give your subject line ideas. HubSpot also offers workflows to automate email nurturing flows. As explained before, Thalox is an AI tool that integrates with HubSpot and assesses email engagement. HubSpot dashboards can also be built easily to report on engagement metrics. In short, HubSpot is your greatest email tool.  
  • Reporting – Once your marketing campaigns are built and ready, it's crucial to be able to measure their performance. Reflect back on your KPIs and your chosen engagement metrics and build your reports to track them. You should aim for a visual representation of your campaign's performance, easily understood at a glance. This will enable you to have a clear picture of the results and make data-driven decisions.  

Email marketing is a field that is constantly evolving and adding new techniques and tools to its repertoire. But don't forget that the main benefit of email marketing is its one-on-one connection with your contacts, giving it huge potential in your marketing strategy for nurturing customer relationships and fomenting engagement. With the tips and tricks recounted above, you'll have all the information you need to start optimizing your email campaigns for real engagement. 


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