If you’re sending tips in an email series, make sure you give your leads enough time to digest them. Here’s how to check if you’re overwhelming them, or if the drop-off is because your emails have become boring.

When you use lead-gen tools like landing pages and email autoresponder (or drip) series, your job is to deliver on the expectations you set with that new contact. When done right, you build trust, deliver value, and create massive opportunities to do real business.

So, how do you measure the effectiveness of your email series? It’s more than just looking at the open and click rates provided to you by your email marketing system. In fact, those numbers can be deceiving if you take them at face value, and below I have a real client example to walk through with you.

Note: This article is part of our own series about how to create a lead-gen campaign of your own.Download the Complete Guide to Creating an Opt-In Guide here.

Step 1: Graph your series data

In the chart below you’ll see the ten emails, the day (after signing up) that they were sent, the primary call to action, and open & click rates. I also include CTOR (click to open rate) because I’m a firm believer that if you don’t open, you can’t click, so this is a better indication of the engagement on your email than a click rate itself.


Disclaimer: since this is an ongoing campaign, more people will have received the first emails in the series than the latter emails, simply because they haven’t gotten that far. At the time of this writing, the 14 day long series has been running for two months, and approximately 75% of the people who have signed up have been sent all ten emails, so our numbers won’t be too affected by the ongoing nature of the series. Bottom line, though, don’t consider this a scientific study, just a good example of how to look at your data and tests you should think about conducting yourself. And if you’d like to see who this is for, click here.

Step 2: Look at open rates, where are the soft spots?

At first glance, it looks like Email #6 in the series needs help. The open rates after (and including) #6 never seem to fully recover. Email #8 has the lowest open rate of them all. It’s possible the emails have become boring.

What to change: Clearly, we should change the subject lines of those two emails to see if we can bring the open rates closer to the rest of the series.

What to watch for: If our contacts are indeed getting bored by Email #6, a successful change will have a lasting effect on the rest of the emails in the series.

Step 3: Is it boredom or overwhelm?

Fighting boredom with catchier subject lines in the series is a given, but what you don’t see is the bigger problem in Email #5. We may haveoverwhelmed the contact and never recovered.

Identifying overwhelm requires you to look beyond the open rates themselves and at three things:

  1. The content of each email
  2. The intent of each email
  3. The timing of each email

Emails #3-5 each delivered a powerhouse tip that led to an article on the company’s website. These tips were spaced out by two days instead of one day to give the reader time to open, read, click, and digest the article.

By Email #5 the reader got backed up, as you can see by the open rate dropping from 57-58% to 50%. It never recovered either, even though Email #6 was spaced out by two days to allow the reader time to catch up with these three powerhouse emails.

What to change: Fighting overwhelm can be done one of two ways: the easiest is to simply push Email #5 back another day and see if the open rate rebounds. A more complex but more effective approach would be to remove the automatic timing and wait until the person interacts with the email before sending the next. This is called “triggered email marketing”.

What to watch for: A higher open rate for Email #5, and sustained engagement through the rest of the series. Since we are expecting the same things as changing the subject line of Email #6, these two adjustments should be done independently and also with enough space between them to allow for data to accumulate.

Personally, I would change the timing first, the series as a whole has a very healthy open rate so you’ll get more out of the timing adjustment because it affects more of the series.

The Addendum

This is heavy stuff, and moves from traditional autoresponder marketing to marketing automation. But, it’s very worthwhile because you continually deliver value and build trust with your contacts. Those contacts, over time, either become buyers, brand advocates, strategic partners, or filter themselves out.

As I mentioned above, this article is a companion to one of the emails in our Opt-In Guide follow up series. It happens to be the middle email, and the topic is a bit overwhelming compared to the previous emails that were sent. So yes, I do plan to take my own advice and adjust the timing of my series based on the similarity of my own series and this example.

I left out a lot of other insights that I gained from analyzing this series, and may still write them up (or conduct a before & after study with the client). In the meantime, I would be happy to talk with you about what I learned. Call me at 781-538-5901, or send me an email and let’s set up a time to chat.

Stephan Hovnanian

Stephan Hovnanian runs the show here at Shovi, bringing over 15 years of email and web marketing experience to companies that need more from their digital marketing efforts.

Connect with Stephan here, on Twitter (@stephanhov), LinkedIn, or Google+.


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