Email Marketing’s 80/20 Rule August 08, 2018, | Posted by erin

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There is a truism in many fields that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes; the phrasing shifts depending on the industry in question, but it remains true in email marketing just as it is everywhere else, but with some caveats. Site Impact’s experts have long known that there are lots of ways that this particular aphorism applies to the industry as a whole, and to specific areas of email marketing in particular. Today we’re taking a moment to look at how it plays out.

Testing and QA

When it comes to testing and quality assurance, there are a number of factors that come into play, and it can seem hard to know which specific factors being tested are most likely to affect the outcome of a campaign, or which items in an email drive the most conversions. But it holds true that when it comes to these two related areas, 80% of the success comes from roughly 20% of the factors--consistently. The aspects that bring the most results contributing to success in an email campaign are fairly simple: effectiveness of links (broken links will doom a campaign), effectiveness of rendering, and compatibility with platform are all major drivers.

This isn’t to say that placement of the CTA, or choice of colors in the creative, won’t make a difference in the success of a given campaign; countless studies have shown that these factors can indeed increase or decrease clicks and conversions. But testing and QA should focus on that 20% of factors that are functional concerns first, and the 80% of things that won’t make as much of a difference later on.



The rule applies here, too, though conventional wisdom didn’t always agree. Historically, email marketers have bragged hard about the size of their lists, pushing to get more and more subscribers added. But email marketing has become as much about quality as quantity, and it’s clear looking at any campaign that 80% of the results you can get will come from about 20% of your list. Knowing this allows you to take the right action: while you should certainly keep looking for new subscribers, to expand your customer base, recognizing that the most engaged people will drive the most success in your campaigns allows you to prioritize their input (either direct or in the form of their reactions)when planning and developing your campaigns.


The emails themselves

It’s easy to recognize that not every email campaign is going to get the same level of response. Not every single campaign is going to be a major revenue driver. And as email marketing has blossomed as an industry, the number of different types of email that brands and marketers can and do send out has grown with it. Even small companies may send out around 100 different types of email yearly--from newsletters to product announcements, promotions to cart abandon emails. But just like the previous categories mentioned, if you drill down and look at the numbers, it’s easy to see that 80% of performance will be driven by 20% of the emails sent out. It’s just a matter of statistics. This should not, however, dissuade you from sending out many different kinds of emails to stay engaged with your subscribers; instead, you should use it to inform the focal areas of your strategy. Knowing which email types are driving the most performance will help you plan where to devote the most time and energy in planning future campaigns.


The takeaway for all this is not that marketers or brands should cut back on their efforts, but instead--as the saying goes--avoid “majoring in the minors.” When you can identify the 20% of your efforts that are driving 80% of the effects in your revenue and performance, you can focus on that 20% more consciously, and increase the performance of your campaigns much more efficiently. Contact Site Impact to see how we can help you identify your own 80/20 phenomena to enable you to work smarter, rather than harder.