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4 Lessons Learned from a 6-Week Email Marketing Case Study

Email marketing.

Some folks will tell you it’s dead.  Others steer clear of it because they fear that it’s annoying to potential customers.

To the first point I say, it ain’t dead.  Sure, open rates hover around 15-30% depending on your industry, but according to research from Chadwick Martin and Bailey (September 2010), close to half (49%) of consumers share content online at least once a week, with the vast majority sharing through e-mail (86%). Facebook comes in second with 49% of adults sharing content on that platform.

To the second point:  well, “annoying” is subjective.  In other words – what’s annoying to you may be kind of awesome to me.  Right?


So in an attempt to not be so anecdotal about it, I set out on a six-week test of email marketing to see what would happen. Within that six-week test, we also ran an A/B split test of a headline.

Nothing really blew my mind, but the test did give me some nice data to show the boss.  And that’s always a good thing.  Especially, in light of some folks not really understanding this content marketing thing.

The easiest way to combat that misunderstanding is to test and just hand ‘em the data.

Here are the details from my six-week email marketing campaign.  Note the goals are fairly broad.  That’s because I did not have a benchmark to work from.  In the future, we’ll have more specific goals, such as generating six enrollments.

6-Week Email Marketing Campaign Overview

Re-engage “cold leads”  by re-sparking their interest in our program using new content we had developed and give them the information they need to make a buying decision.  Ultimately, we wanted to generate enrollments in our program.

To provide some context, we defined cold leads as prospects who had:

  • Reached out to us before
  • Received our monthly “update” or nothing at all
  • Not enrolled in our program
  • Not opted out of our list


  • Primary – number of re-converted leads, enrollments.
  • Secondary – average open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribes.

Send one email a week for six weeks – alternating between non-gated (no form) content and gated content with a heavy call to action (e.g., click here to download eBook).


  • 5% conversion on gated content, equaling  around 40 leads reconverted
  • Seven enrollments (representing around $100,000 ROI)
  • Open rates were consistent with industry benchmarks which are in the 15-20% range for the Education sector (MailChimp)
  • Zero unsubscribes
  • Click-through rate:  3.5%

Take aways:

Email frequency increase does not necessarily decrease open rates.
In other words, our list did not get tired of emails sent to them.  Open rates in weeks five and six were comparable to week one as well as our general open rates.

More direct headlines win.
In a simple A/B headline test, the more direct “tell not sell” headline performed close to 20% better than the sales­y one. In this example, “Schedule your campus tour” performed better than “Take a test drive of our campus.

Customers open emails with success stories.
Our most opened and highest clicked through emails were a couple of video customer success stories. If you haven’t already, you may want to start including these in your content plan.  Keep it simple and publish them on your blog or website. Rather than a link to a YouTube video, put a link in the email to the page on your site where the video is hosted.  That’ll give you some click-through data as well as bringing the prospect back to your site.

In six weeks, we generated over $100,000 dollars in return merely by sending content-packed emails to our list of “cold leads.”  The content for this particular campaign was in the form of blog articles, two ebook offers,video success stories and invitations to events. The more you have, the fresher your approach.

Final Words

Email marketing is important.  If you are collecting information from folks and that info includes an email address – use it.  Armed with nothing more than a little time and content, you can still turn un-engaged old leads into real dollars for the company.