Tag Archives: email

How Hard Is It To Get Cold Email Replies? Chasing the odds and cracking the code…

I tend to get overly excited when I ever I get a positive response from a prospect to a cold email.

I feel as if I cracked some code to gain that momentary share of attention bandwidth and now I’m “in”. From the likely dozens to hundreds of emails that individual received, they chose to take the time to respond to mine…

I realize sometimes its PSL (pure sh*t luck) or simple name recognition but I’d like to attribute some of my success to being thoughtful and deliberate in the approach. Keeping the email simple, relevant and familiar seems to be the key to getting that initial engagement.

In thinking about the metrics behind “cracking the cold email code”; I started wondering what are the odds of my email being seen, let alone opened, let alone responded to no matter how creative and thoughtful I was.

I decided I’d start with the general question of “how many b2b emails are sent on a daily basis”. Most of the data that I was able to personally find that felt “real” (e.g. backed by research) was dated…it seems like 2011 was the last year I could find consistent or comparable figures from multiple sources on email trends. I could find anecdotal stuff from one vendor or data from a survey etc; but trying to validate those figures from multiple sources proved challenging. Either I’m looking in the wrong places (likely), or these research firms simply chase the shiniest trend or the press just isn’t covering this as much so the content isn’t as well indexed. The good research on email was generally pre-mobile and pre-social; so maybe these firms just shifted their attention and focus.

Does that mean email is dead or dying?

Not a chance; but like all things digital it’s obviously evolving. Even with the explosion of social sites, webapps and mobile – all these things require an email address for the most part as a form of digital currency proof of identity / user name.

I did find one source of email trend data that at least had a history of providing information consistently. The Radicati Group out of Palo Alto, California describes themselves as the “Leading analyst firm covering Email, Social Media, Instant Messaging, Security, Wireless, Archiving, eDiscovery, DLP, Unified Communications and more” I’ve never heard of them previously (which means absolutely nothing in terms of their credibility) but there is a nice library of market research information available on their website; most of which is pay to access. I did read the executive briefing they made publicly available on the Email Market for 2013-2017 (link below) and wanted to pass along some interesting figures they share:

  • Counting both business and consumer users (unique individuals?); there are over 2.4 billion email users worldwide. There are about 7 billion people in the world; so that number feels “right”. They forecast that number will grow just 3% a year through 2017. I’m guessing internet accessibility in 3rd world countries supresses that growth.
  • Counting both business and consumer accounts (unique addresses?), there are 3.9 billion accounts; growing to 4.9 billion by 2017 (growth rate 2x number of users); why the difference? Most people use more than one email address…reasonable.
  • Worldwide email traffic (business and consumer) is estimated at 182 BILLION EMAILS PER DAY; expected to grow to 207 BILLION EMAILS PER DAY in 2017. This is only a 3% increase YOY…but that is a serious huge number… Doing the math; that says the average user gets about 75 emails per day (182 billion emails divided by 2.4 billion users) – that math checks out. Separating the business and consumer is where it gets interesting…
  • Business alone counts for over 100 Billion of that 182; and they expect business emails to go up 7% per year while consumer emails to decline by 3% per year. I buy those numbers, we’re emailing friends and family less frequently due to social and texting – but the business world is still heavily reliant on “traditional” email for both internal and external dialog. I would even buy a much steeper decline on consumer / personal than they illustrate and sharper increase on business.

So…let’s go back to my original question that prompted this and figure these odds out; let’s say 65% of email users have a business email account. I’m taking some liberties there and probably too generous, but unemployment rate plus service / retail jobs that don’t have business email addresses…that means 1.55 billion business email users (65% of 2.4B) and with 100 billion business emails per day; that equates to about 64 business emails per day per professional (lower than I would have guessed).

Now we have to start thinking internal business emails vs. external business emails and associated open rates of each etc.. This made my head hurt…but playing with numbers from my gut; I said 40% of these emails were external (e.g. knuckleheads like me) and we probably are in the industry average 25% open rate and 5% click thru rate (I’m equating a click-thru with a reply).

So this leads to roughly 26 external business emails per day; about 6-7 of those are opened per day, and 1.3 click-thru’s or replies…so with my 1 reply received; I guess I was the lucky winner that day and cracked the code to get the attention this individual had for that 1 of 1.3 external email correspondences he /she had that day with external emails…



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How Accurate Are Your E-Mail Delivery Rates?

Most email service providers will report messages that have been passed on to the Internet, and not “bounced”, as ‘delivered’; and subsequently reporting those metrics back to you in the form of a delivery rate. These delivery rates are often pretty high, and if your subsequent click thru rate is low…it must be the copy – not the quality of the list…right? 

Think about it, when was the last time you saw any email service provider report saying delivery rates were less than somewhere in the range of 95-99%? What this figure typically means is out of every 100 emails sent on your behalf, only 1 to 5 of those come back as a bad email address or undeliverable (also known as a bounce). Once an email is sent, and it doesn’t register as a bounce, that has to mean it has been successfully delivered to a recipient’s inbox, right?


According to the Email Deliverability Benchmark Report released by “Return Path” back in July, deliverability failures continue to plague marketers but not necessarily revealed in deliverability reports. According to Return Path, what these reports don’t take into consideration is that some ISPs may go on to block the message or that the recipient may have spam filters in place.  These exceptions leaves marketers with the impression that they are getting delivery rates of over 90% whereas around 80% was more likely. The reports goes on to say that for the first half of 2009 (January thru June); the average inbox placement rate for permission, commercial email in the US and Canada was 79.3%. Of the nearly 21% of email that is not delivered to the inbox, only 3.3% is sent to a “Junk” or “Bulk” email folder, while nearly 18% is simply not delivered at all – but not indicated as a bounce. Business email addresses protected by systems like Postini, Symantec or MessageLabs are even tougher where on average, only 72.4% of commercial email is delivered to the inbox through these enterprise systems. These systems are more likely to deliver messages to a junk folder as compared to consumer ISPs that are more likely to block email altogether. In the United States, of the top ISPs, the toughest inboxes to reach are those at MSN, Hotmail and Gmail. Marketers fare slightly better at Cox, USA.net and Time Warner Cable/Road Runner.

So what’s a smart marketer to do?

1. Don’t believe the bounce myth, that whatever gets sent and doesn’t bounce must have been received.  The metric that simply uses emails sent vs. emails bounced is a bounce rate…instead ask for a deliverability rate. If they don’t know the difference…shop elsewhere. You should also inquire about the availability of other metrics like open rates or click-thru rates…if the so-called “deliverability rate” is high, but open rate low (say <10%)…you should question the accuracy of the “deliverability rate”.

2. Verify the accuracy and activity of the subscription base: Focus on those e-newsletters or list-builds that are acquired through proven online publishers who themselves have a vested interest in aggregating accurate and responsive online addresses and audience for their own business purposes and promotion vs. perhaps a 3rd party provider who is aggregating addresses from a  mix of sources. Messages that your target audience doesn’t have access to will not generate a response.

3. Proven circulations are the way-to-go: E-newsletter publishers, especially those publications with a lengthy, proven track record, are likely to have a proven success rate and active readership. As a result, not only is the message more likely to be seen – the publishers should be able to give you a reasonable expectation range for subsequent activity for your campaign. 

4. Take some responsibility for the issue: According to Direct Path most of the major drivers of poor deliverability rates are the direct result of marketing practices, not technical ones. These include complaints, which spike when email is unexpected or undervalued by the recipient and spam traps, which are most often found on old lists or have been built with poorly sourced data. 

 Link to the report (registration might be required): http://www.returnpath.net/downloads/resources/NOAM_deliverability_study.pdf

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Email Grammar Lesson – e.g. versus i.e.

Although I’m not known for my grasp of the English language – I do feel that if I’m presenting myself as a marketer and choosing to frequently use email as a communication tool I should at least have a grasp of proper grammar. One thing I always get confused about is as to when I should use the abbreviation “e.g.” as opposed to “i.e.” in professional correspondence / emails.

 I’ve noticed that I prefer to use “e.g.” and others might more often prefer to use “i.e.” in very similar use cases – I asked someone who actually corrected my e.g. to an i.e. and they said “well i.e. stands for “in example”….which I knew was wrong…so I finally got to the bottom of it for my own education and have elected to share for no other reason than I have wasted so much time on it that I’m trying to recoup some return on my investment through the betterment of others…

1. e.g.

e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for example.” You are supposed to use e.g. to introduce one or more possibilities among many.

I like outdoor sports, e.g., football, soccer.
(football and soccer are just one of many types of outdoor sports)

He wastes his money on junk, e.g. cars that don’t run.
(cars that don’t run are junk)

I’ll listen to any kind of music, e.g., country-western, rap, etc.
(Country-western and rap are just two of the many types of music that I’ll listen to)

An easy way to remember what e.g. means is to think of it as standing for “example given.”  

2. i.e.

i.e. stands for id est which means “that is.” Use i.e. when what you are introducing is equivalent to or an explanation of what comes before it in the sentence.

I like outdoor sports; i.e., the ones that are played outside on a grassy field.

He wastes his money on junk; i.e., stuff that he will never get around to fixing.

I’ll listen to anything; i.e., I like any kind of music.

Basically, i.e. means “in other words.” It’s used to reword or provide an alternate explanation.

The Bottom Line

e.g. and i.e. are both Latin abbreviations. Both introduce additional information, but e.g. offers an example while i.e. explains or rewords. If you can replace the abbreviation with “for example,” use e.g. If you can replace it with “in other words” or “that is,” use i.e.

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