Breaking through to inactive e-mail recipients

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Like persistent suitors, at some point e-mail marketers have to decide whether to keep trying to get someone’s attention or divert their energy to courting individuals who already know and like them.

One of the biggest challenges for marketing managers is to get those who never open their messages—an average of 80% of a marketer’s list, according to Russell McDonald, CEO of iPost, an e-mail service provider—to change their behavior. Marketers might think it’s more prudent to focus only on recipients who actually open what’s sent to them, but doing so can mean giving up an enormous opportunity.

“There’s only so much stuff that 20% of the list can buy from your company,” Russell said. “You could easily increase your spending on the effort by a little and boost your return by 100% if you focus on that other segment.”

McDonald offers these tips for converting those inactive e-mail recipients into people who interact with your company.

1) Make sure your e-mails are getting through. Watch your domain delivery statistics closely and look for low response rates, which can mean your e-mail is being diverted to a junk box, McDonald said.

“It’s worth spending a bit of time to ask an e-mail service provider’s delivery assurance officer to find out if your e-mails are going through,” McDonald said. “When the ESP learns it’s permission-based, that should be enough to ensure delivery to the in-box. Often, just a phone call from the delivery assurance officer to the network administrator of a business domain will take care of the problem.”

Also, find out if your mail is being labeled as spam by checking if your IP address is on spam lists, such as If you discover you’re on a list, it’s important to get removed because those lists are shared with lots of policing organizations, McDonald said.

2) Try discounts to entice uninterested recipients. For the e-mails that are getting through but remain ignored, McDonald suggests managers entice first-time customers with a loss leader. “Give them a big discount on something to get them to interact with your brand,” he said. Studies show that a recent buyer is more likely to do business with your company again, he said.

3) Make your message interesting and entertaining. Recipients are hard at work when they get your e-mails and like it when a message gives them a smile and brief respite from the workday. “They will be more likely to read your messages in the future, and they are more likely to forward your note to friends,” McDonald said.

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