Email Marketing: To Open or Not To Open …

For many of us, choosing the from name is a simple task. We send it from the person to whom we want the recipient to respond or connect, but hold on … did you test that?

For many of us, choosing the from name is a simple task. We send it from the person to whom we want the recipient to respond or connect, but hold on … did you test that?

One of our clients sends more than a million emails daily to their subscribers. They have built their list using a variety of resources, one of which was to purchase three million self-identified target recipients, but they also used co-registration with a daily newsletter offer to acquire another million names over a span of a few months. The co-registration names were a double-opt in so ideally should have produced stellar results and highly qualified names, but that didn’t actually turn out to be the case.

After sending to the purchased list, we tossed it completely due to the very high number of spam traps we managed to trigger in our first two sends. With those names eliminated, we focused on the co-registration list, which we segmented into large groups to receive the daily message they had been offered. This was done through more than a dozen different ESPs.

As we saw it, job one was to validate the email addresses were deliverable, not spam traps, and were—at best—being opened. As we suspected, a number of them were spam traps, so we dialed it back and a great deal of time to a deep-cleanse effort of sending in very small batches (about 200 per day per ESP) in order to more easily stop the cycle if we irritated more spam sensors. (It takes a long, damn time to send to millions of recipients at the rate of 200 per day.)

Using this process, once we reached 250,000 verified emails, we sent to those in larger groups through our three best-performing ESPs—those with whom we historically saw the best deliverability rates. We continued these two steps with the balance of the names and applied the deep-cleanse process for new names still coming in through the co-registration sites (about 500 names per day).

The combination of the deep cleanse and slow send improved our results drastically. All emails were deliverable, unsubscribes were low, but open rates were still lagging. Since this was a daily message to which the users had specifically subscribed, we were pretty sure there was room for improvement even though the list was growing faster than the combined attrition rate (unsubscribes + undeliverable + spam complaints), and traffic to this site was flourishing.

While our client does not sell anything on their site, they do sell ad space in the daily email, monthly newsletter and on their website. The number of views for these ads is critical to our client’s revenue. Emails going unopened, being marked as spam, or gaining an unsubscribe are not generating revenue in a click or impressions ad placement.

Regardless of which email application the subscriber uses, there are two things they see: from and subject line. Some email applications will also show the preheader text, a preview, or other snippets to give the recipient more clues about the content. We chose to tackle first the sender information, and then work on the subject line. After all, there’s only so many ways we could say, “Here’s the daily email to which you have subscribed.”

The target audience for this daily email is largely male—not all male, mind you, but nearing the 85 percent mark. I suspected males would rather receive emails from women, so we started there. We also used tried other sender names and email addresses:

  • Company name
  • Site owner’s name (she has some visibility in this space, so we tried to parlay that recognition into opens)
  • General email address
  • Mature-sounding woman’s name
  • Young-sounding, woman’s name
  • Sexy woman’s name
  • Mature-sounding male name (in line with the target audience age group)
  • Young-sounding male name

We didn’t just change the from name, we created a matching from address for continuity and credibility (rather than use a system address such as For instance, if Brittni Jones was the from name, the address was

What we found, and what I’m sure you already know, is sender matters—in a big, important way; at least for this client.

I was right on one front: This primarily male constituency did open far more emails from Brittni than Edith, but they also liked getting emails from Trevor, a very close second. They didn’t read nearly as many emails from Bob, though Bob was more popular than using the company name. The actual statistics for this campaign are not important; your company would experience completely different results. The takeaway here is about testing and being relevant—even at the sender name and address level.

If your opens are suffering, think first about whether or not John Smith is convincing enough to get me to open, then remember: test, track, tweak. Repeat.

Author: Cyndie Shaffstall

Email marketing is the most effective way to increase sales, improve service, and keep your customers engaged. Email campaigns are best bolstered through an integrated strategy that crosses channels and meets your constituents where they congregate and in the media they prefer. “The Integrated Email” provides best practices and ideas for developing strategies and deploying email campaigns and initiatives while keeping an eye on revenue attributable to marketing.

Cyndie Shaffstall, founder, Spider Trainers, is a successful entrepreneur and prolific author, with many books, dozens of eBooks, and hundreds of articles to her credit. She is the former founder of ThePowerXChange, editor and publisher of X-Ray Magazine, and the current founder and managing member of Spider Trainers, a managed automated email services provider for companies around the world. Connect with Cyndie on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, or join her LinkedIn Group, the Marketing Resource Library for daily links to marketing-critical resources.

2 thoughts on “Email Marketing: To Open or Not To Open …”

  1. Great information, Cyndie. A good reminder that even personalization of names need to be tested. Interesting how first name impacted open. Did you keep the last name consistent (e.g. Smith) in all cases?

    I’ve also heard that women, in general, also prefer receiving email from a woman. Do you have any evidence that is likely the case?

  2. Cyndie

    First – thanks for sharing. Interesting outcome comparing the impact of send-from. Can you share the actual open and click rates?

    On a darker note – readers should be pretty shocked that a self proclaimed ‘Email Marketing Expert’ would write up a case study on ‘How to Win at SPAMMING’.

    You’re exposing the dark underbelly of why Email Marketing had earned a bad rap

    Let me explain. As an ESP that sees attempts at spamming like this every day, here’s how the vendors and recipient’s that your experiment used [abused?] see this:

    -You bought a few million names [and co-regs – which based on your description were not opt-in emails],
    – Then spammed the cr*p out of them across a dozen unsuspecting ESPs
    – You used a few dozen ESPs, just in case we got caught and some of them terminated your experiment early.
    – In the process, you completely trashed the ESP’s sending reputations and cost each ESP a few thousand in operating costs and lost business.

    Sadly – you didn’t stop there:

    – Then you took the remaining scrubbed list and SPAMMED these people DAILY (ouch) claiming they are now somehow subscribers who specifically requested your content
    – You even bent the truth (ok – we flat out lied) by claiming is was "…a daily message to which the users had specifically subscribed,…" Huh?! Just because someone doesn’t opt out of your spam doesn’t mean they subscribed.

    I suspect that the longer term brand damage your client did to this audience was a net negative.

    Please share with us – which ESPs were willing to let you spam several million contacts along the way without terminating your account?

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