Improve Email Deliverability With Relevancy, Segmentation And Testing

You will hear the word “relevancy” used frequently in the email world as it relates to email deliverability. Relevancy is key to delivering email 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 email 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”.

Email marketing is effective when customers respond. Customers respond when they receive targeted messages from companies they care about. They like when they’re emailed about things they’ve already shown an interest in.

Achieving Relevancy?

So, what is the key to relevancy in email? 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 that companies with segmented campaigns produced 50% more opens and 30% 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 email new recipients. For example, using a pre-checked checkbox will decrease the relevancy of your email, because many people who don’t want your email will end up unknowingly “signing up.” You want recipients on your list that have specifically requested your email – and are excited about getting it.

– Remove any subscribers in your lists that have not opened a message from you in over 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 emails, 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 5 categories:

1. Inactive – No opens or clicks in the last 6 months – 1 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 3-6 months – You may want to decrease the frequency of emailing these recipients or use a strong special offer.

3. Active – Have opened or clicked a message in the last 3 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 email – where your emails 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” and/or “Industry News” and/or “Tips”.

– Look at open and click information to see what kinds of email content is generating the best response, and use this to learn how to create more relevant content going forward. sbcglobal net

– 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 email 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 which will still be seen even if images are turned off. Wet the reader’s appetite so that they turn on images and read the rest of your email.

– Make sure your emails look right on mobile devices. A 2011 Neilson survey found that 45% of the time spent on a smart phone was used to check emails.

3. Choosing the Right Time to Send the Message

– Day of the week: emails sent Tuesday-Thursday have been shown to receive the highest open and click-through rate, as the mindset towards emails tends to drift Friday through Monday, with emails getting “lost” or ignored.

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

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

– Drip Marketing Emails – These are similar to triggered emails 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 emails.

– 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 emails. 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 emails, have rules in place so that you are not sending too many emails 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 5 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 that 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.)