Have you ever seen an interesting email in your inbox and thought to yourself, “I’ll read this later?” You leave it unread with every intention of eventually opening it. Then later that evening you catch up on news from friends and start reading the various newsletters that have sprung to the top of your inbox.
Did you ever get to that email?
Despite the fact that you made a mental note that you wanted to read it, chances are you didn’t. You got distracted by all the other emails that landed in your inbox. You were probably also distracted by your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds, as well as your all important group chats on WhatsApp. We’ve all experienced this. But what if that email hit your inbox later that evening exactly when you’re checking it over at the end of the day? Then maybe you would have read it. And perhaps it could have inspired your next big idea, or made you realize that the product in the email could turbocharge your business.
Email Should Be About Unique Reach, Not Just Open Rates
This is exactly what we were thinking about at the beginning of the year. We were setting our marketing goals for our flagship product EasyBib, which included improving key performance metrics such as email opens and click-through rates. When we thought about our ultimate goal — consistent brand reach to as many people possible — we realized there was another KPI we should consider: number of unique people reached.
That’s when it hit us: When we receive email, we open based on interest and timing. So what if we started re-sending emails to those who didn’t open our original one? That person who was distracted by SnapChat when we sent our original post just might see it the second time around. The first time we did this, we immediately increased our overall reach to 54.7 percent more people.
To putthis in perspective, all the hours of investment dedicated to this content piece and email became 54.7 percent more effective. We were able to nurture 54.7 percent more leads. More importantly, we increased our sales potential by 54.7 percent. We did this by investing less than an hour in sending out a second email to those who didn’t open up the first.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Lets look at some hard data: We recently sent out an email and a follow up about an information literacy report. The original was sent to 2,723 people; 579 people opened it — 21.3 percent — and 224 people clicked on the call to action — an 8.2 percent click through rate. A second email was sent to those who didn’t open the first; 309 people opened this one and 114 people clicked on the call to action.
This means that between both emails, we reached 53.2 percent more people and received 51.1 percent more clicks compared to just the first. The number of unique opens between both emails was 32.6 percent. Although the follow up email never performs as strongly as the first — in analyzing a few sample campaigns we’ve seen a 44 percent drop in open rate and a 46 percent drop in click-through rate on the second round — but it’s likely because the follow up group represents more of your inactive readers anyway.
Are There Risks?
One of our biggest concerns is that we’d annoy our email list if they saw the same email twice. We mitigated this by only sending it those those who didn’t open the first email.
Still, there were likely people who saw the original email and deleted it; there was no way for us to know. To address this, we sent a second email a week later with minor changes, such as changing the subject line or the placement and colors of the buttons. If we had more time, we’d create a different message in that email altogether.
We were also very cautious of unsubscribes, especially on the second email. To our pleasant surprise, the unsubscribe rate stayed at our typical rate of .34 percent and no one has complained. This meant that we were likely not annoying our email list at all. As an extra benefit, the second email was another touch point to further qualify our list and get unsubscribes.
However, one major consideration is how this fits within your overall email strategy. You have to balance how many times you reach out to your email list, so try to get sense of if a follow-up email is one too many.
What Are You Waiting For?
All marketers want to improve their ability to reach their email lists. Sending this follow up is a simple, quick and effective way to do that. In fact, our GetCourse team is using this strategy with similar success.
While we were at first apprehensive that we’d be abusing our list and potentially hurting our brand, we found comfort in thinking about our own email habits. What if that email you always wanted to read magically appeared at the top of your inbox?
A version of this post originally appeared in Forbes here.