What’s going on with email marketing?

Email is a challenging area for B2B media and events businesses right now. Several companies have recently told us they are struggling to maintain strong levels of engagement and good enough results from their email campaigns – especially where email marketing had been a strong channel for them until relatively recently.

When investigating this email marketing challenge for a range of clients, we are finding that declining email performance is due to a similar set of issues, all of which have similar solutions, regardless of the market or product in focus.

In this post, we share MPG’s five key recommendations for fixing an email marketing performance problem:

#1: Messaging strategy development

  • There are 4 things to get right with your database to achieve strong engagement and conversions:
    (1) relevance
    (2) currency
    (3) size/number of contacts you can email
    (4) how your contacts are tagged, or organised.
    Simply put, you need a database of enough of the right kinds of contacts (those who will find your value proposition relevant and valuable), that are up to date and correct, in order to achieve engagement and conversions at the required level.
  • To understand how much room there is for growth in your database, you must understand your total addressable market (TAM).
  • Lead generation tactics such as downloadable content pieces, powered by inbound marketing, are a very important way to constantly and reliably grow your database with relevant, interested, and engaged contacts, all year-round.
  • Additionally, dedicated, targeted database research is a very effective way of filling key gaps with relevant (high quality) contacts. Get in touch with MPG to find out how we can help you invest well in this kind of research – to achieve a strong return on investment, short term and longer term.

Find out more about MPG’s Database Development & Optimisation services

#2: Segment and target

Segmentation and targeting well have always proved – in MPG’s projects – to almost instantly improve email performance. The main purpose of segmentation and targeting is to make sure the content of the email as relevant as possible to the person receiving it.

Firmographic, behaviour-based, and demographic segmentation are the three methods we recommend – often to be used concurrently. The exact segmentation method chosen should always be based on the desired outcome of improving relevance to the audience. More relevance = more engagement, which usually = more conversions, which usually = more revenue.

To enable segmentation, ensure your lead generation (data capture) and data research efforts include the categorisation needed to organise your contacts well to enable segmentation and targeting.

Emails targeted as specific segments should be used to present the most valuable and compelling benefits and features from the perspective of the email recipient. As with all marketing, measure to understand results and improve as you go along.

#3: Get and use a messaging strategy

To make sure your email copy is highly relevant, and to ensure the relevant messaging is consistent and reinforced at every stage of the customer journey, you need a dedicated messaging strategy.

As part of this, it is important to consider which stage your customer is currently navigating in their journey in purchasing from you. Using progressively more product-focused, persuasive language as customers become more engaged will support your conversions.

#4: Make your website work well

As the end destination of all your emails, your website is a key component in the success of email marketing as a channel.

Your website is where customers should end up when they click on an email, so it is essential the journey from email to landing page is logical and seamless. For example, if an email recipient clicks on a Download Brochure CTA, they should be directed straight to a page where this is possible – not a website homepage where they then need to hunt for the thing they’re looking for. 

As the purpose of email marketing is to drive traffic to your website, it is essential your website is easy to navigate and presents the most relevant information to the email recipient. 

Your website is also essential for strong lead generation, so having your website properly optimised will both increase your pool of contacts for future email campaigns, and improve the lead conversion you get from existing contacts.

Find out about MPG’s Optimised Website Services

#5: Get a good mix of content-led, product-led, and offer-led emails

Having a variety of content-led, product-led, and offer-led emails ensures dynamic and engaging messaging and CTAs, which in turn improves email performance. 

Avoid fatigue and messaging stagnation by using a good mix of email content. For event marketing in particular, plan well ahead with a marketing timeline where emails tell a story well based on how your product is developing. For subscriptions and membership marketing, map dynamic and relevant content in to an automated workflow. This will keep your content fresh and engaging for your audience.

And of course, before drafting an email, you should have a good idea of what your objective(s) are, e.g. pushing downloads of a new brochure, or registering interest. This will ensure focus on a core message, and make measurement of success more valid and viable.


There is a lot more to be said about how to make email marketing work well – it is a formidable topic! Considering the above 5 recommendations as a first step will ensure you have are covering all your bases. A comprehensive guide on email content best practices could populate several blogs! For now, here are the key points to keep in mind:

1) Test & learn
When it comes to email, small changes can make a big difference, so it’s important to test and learn from your emails about what drives the best engagement.

Areas for testing include:

  • Subject lines – your subject line will indicate straight away whether your email is relevant and interesting to the recipient. Using an open ended question is a great way to capture people’s attention, and you can then go on to answer the question within the body of the email. The best way to to approach this will depend on the email content and audience. Try different approaches and measure results to identify the optimal one.
  • Sender names – in the same way that you A/B test your subject lines, monitor your open rates to see which “from” name leads to the best results. Depending on the focus of the email, you may find your recipients prefer to open emails from your event director or sales reps/account managers (e.g. for offer led emails, or spex campaigns). We usually find with B2B emails that includethe sender’s full name alongside the company’s name work well, e.g. “Full name @ MPG”
  • Call-to-action variations – test a variety of CTAs to see what makes your audience click e.g. ‘View full agenda’ vs ‘Discover key themes’. See more on CTAs below.
  • Format – experiment with different combinations of plain text/designed, brand sender/personal sender info, and short/long content. Run A/B split tests constantly and track results (focus on click through rate) to identify the content style the audience prefers for the different types of comms.

Don’t forget: when doing email tests, you should always only test one variable at a time.

2) Clear call-to-actions (CTAs)
Limit yourself to two, max. three CTAs in each email, thinking about the action you want your audience to take, and prioritising that. Your CTAs should always contain a verb and it’s a good idea to vary the terms you use. For example, rather than saying ‘Book now’ for every purchase CTA, you could use ‘Secure your place’, or ‘Register today to claim your discount’.

Ensure that the landing pages you are driving traffic to are optimised for a smooth and consistent user journey between channels. Start and finish with the primary action you want the reader to take so that there is an obvious next step when reading (or skimming!) the email.

3) Use personalisation
Short, plain-text emails from a personal sender name tend to work best for ‘personal’ reminders to leads and other warm contacts, e.g ‘I want to make sure you don’t miss the earlybird’ or ‘I’m the Sponsorship Manager at x, I thought you’d find this useful…’ Combine personal sender names with personal subjects lines, e.g. ‘Will I see you there?’

4) Sender email
Email marketing requires trust between the sender and the recipient. Using ‘noreply’ email addresses can erode this trust, and can harm your deliverability if noreply email addresses are automatically filtered to spam folders. Using a reply email that appears to be a personal email will build trust and will provide an open channel of communication between your organisation and your customers. The email can direct people to a shared inbox which can be monitored for genuine responses from your customers.

In this article we have presented a set of strategic and holistic suggestions, alongside practical and actionable tips. This holistic approach is important because all elements of your marketing are interrelated. You cannot view a particular marketing challenge or opportunity in a simplistic, one-dimensional way. All digital marketing channels are dynamic and connected, so a dynamic and connected view and solution is also needed for your email marketing!


Do you need to improve the performance of your email marketing?

Team MPG includes email marketing experts who can help you create, refine, and execute on an Email Marketing Strategy. Or we can create an Email Marketing Playbook for your team, with a set of guidelines, examples, and templates that will drive stronger engagement, and growth-driving results.
Please get in touch to find out more. 


The work MPG has done with my team has been really valuable. Their strong strategic and operational marketing expertise, and the way they have shared it with us, has been highly relevant for our business – helping us address multiple challenges and opportunities we face.

David Laird, President & CEO, Strategy Institute

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B2B marketing is broken. To grow, we need to fix it.

Have you built some great new products over the past 18 months? Are you monetising them as fast as you would like to? If not, what are the blockers? I expect one of them may be marketing.

Like a lot of things in this world right now, marketing in many organisations is broken – or at least, it’s not fit for purpose, and marketers know it. Harvard Business Review conducted a survey in late 2020 where only 20% of marketing managers said they were satisfied with the effectiveness of their departments.

This is a very negative viewpoint, and we try to avoid too much negativity in the content we create for our community. After all, we’re all about working on marketing projects where there is positive investment in marketing to drive revenue and unlock growth. We don’t usually spend a lot of time dwelling on ‘the brokenness of marketing’.

But, in too many organisations, the lack of marketing capability is currently a pressing issue. It is crucial to acknowledge and tackle ‘the marketing problem’ in order to fix it. Simply put, marketing needs fixing if you want your business to survive, let alone grow.

In a pertinent article from HBR, one of the ‘new truths’ about marketing after the pandemic is that marketing is at the center of the growth agenda for the full C-Suite. To quote a key part of this article:

during the pandemic, marketing has been elevated within the C-suite as a driver of digital transformation, a key leader of the customer journey, and the voice of the consumer — all of which are of paramount importance to other functional leaders. Without understanding the zeitgeist of the marketplace, in good times and bad, the C-suite cannot adjust to the threats and opportunities at hand and successfully navigate the future.


Strong marketing starts with strong marketers

To attract and retain good marketers, you’re going to have to think hard about the function that marketing serves in your business. 

If you want the best marketers in your team – whether they are in-house, freelance, or if you’re partnering with an agency/consultancy like MPG, you need to give them the opportunity to make a real impact on your revenue and growth. 

The question we always ask ourselves when deciding to work with a potential new client is: do the senior executives in this business see marketing as a key driver of revenue and growth? Or, do they simply see their marketing team as the people who ‘update the website and send out emails’?

The best marketers know that marketing is a revenue and growth driver, and want to be strategic in their approach. 

In May 2021, Mark Ritson wrote an excellent article for Marketing Week about how marketing tactics without marketing strategy is dumbing down the discipline. Not only is this damaging to marketers’ careers, but it is a serious threat to businesses in general, as strong marketing is essential for survival and growth, now more than ever. 


Fixing marketing starts with a strategic approach

A good marketer will become demotivated very quickly if forced to spend all their time delivering tactical marketing activity without a proper marketing strategy in place, with no sight of marketing strategy development being supported by the business. 

There is nothing more soul destroying for a good marketer than having to send out email campaign after email campaign, knowing they’re are not reaching the right people, with the right message, at the right time; knowing that content marketing and inbound channels are being neglected; knowing this is resulting in disengaged audiences; knowing that not only are they being ineffective, but that they are also being hugely inefficient due to a lack of investment in marketing automation, data and analytics. 

A good marketer will want to fix marketing, and fixing marketing needs to start with strategy. As Mark Ritson says in his aforementioned article, “we need an urgent re-centering of marketing back towards strategic fundamentals.”

But, a marketer (even a good one!) cannot fix marketing without executive support. Fixing marketing starts at the very top of the organisation, with initially acknowledging that a more strategic approach to marketing is needed to monetise products and ensure strong, sustainable revenue growth. Having a great sales team is always a key revenue driver (of course!), but investing in sales alone (or mostly) is very short sighted. Strong, robustly delivered, and consistently strategy-led marketing is essential for success. 


What does ‘strategic marketing’ look like?

There are eight areas of marketing that are typically neglected by a highly tactical organisation. They don’t get attention, they don’t get investment, and very often, they’re not even understood. 

These areas form the basis of strategic, growth-focused marketing. As you read about these eight things, be sure to make an honest assessment of whether these get enough attention, or are even properly understood, by the senior executives in your business.

To be a strategic, growing business you need to: 

1. Understand your total addressable market (TAM)

Know how much of your TAM you currently serve; how you want to grow your presence in your TAM (especially in your ‘core’ TAM); and what headroom remains for future growth.

Here is a helpful resource from HubSpot on what TAM is and how to calculate it.

2. Set SMARTER marketing objectives

Pin down what success looks like. Make this specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound, evaluate, and re-evaluate.

See SmartInsights’ Dave Chaffey’s article about how to set marketing objectives.

3. Have a differentiated, clear and compelling position in your TAM

Understand your full competitive landscape, and define what makes your value proposition unique in a valuable way to your core TAM.

Forbes recently published a great piece about the practical process to follow for effective brand positioning.

4. Divide your TAM into meaningful market segments

Prioritise these segments for targeted messaging, and have the marketing tech, digital and data infrastructure in place to track and analyse engagement and conversions for key segments.

5. Create and deploy targeted, relevant messaging

Know what jobs your customers need to get done, what their personal work goals are, and what is holding them back from getting these jobs done and achieving these goals. Create well crafted, benefit-led marketing messaging that specifically addresses these pain points, and deploy this consistently throughout all your marketing channels and campaigns.

See MPG’s step-by-step guide to building a winning messaging strategy.

6. Optimise ALL your channels

Deploy a multi-channel approach to generate brand awareness, brand understanding, engagement, and conversions.

Invest in every part of the funnel in the right way, making sure every social post, every email and every landing page is a compelling touchpoint that your customers just can’t ignore, guiding them on a journey they find informative and interesting.

7. Measure it to manage it

Define metrics that will help you track your progress against your marketing objectives. Set up your martech and digital marketing to measure how every part of your marketing is working.

Constantly use these metrics to make evidence-based, data led decisions about where to invest for growth.

See MPG’s blog: How to get more intelligence into your marketing for a stronger ROI.


Get marketing engineers to build a sustainable marketing function for sustainable growth

In so many areas of business right now, ‘sustainability’ seems to equate with ‘hybrid’. Marketing is no different. 

These days, I find myself saying (many times) to senior executives:
Marketing is now big, and deep, and wide. You need a hybrid marketing function that includes marketing generalists and marketing specialists. You therefore need a combination of internal and external resources (also a hybrid approach), or at least a dedicated team of marketing operations and digital specialists within your business to support your generalist marketers.  

Generalist marketers are essential for strategy development and overall management of marketing activity. 

But, there are definite marketing specialisms that require dedicated expertise and resources to enable marketing activity that engages and converts. These specialisms cover data, martech, analytics and digital channel optimisation – usually in 3 or 4 different expert individuals. These are your ‘marketing scientists’ if you like, the highly logical, analytical and technical gurus – the ‘engineers’ in your marketing team. Without these engineers your marketing will break, and no one will be able to fix it.

See MPG Insights article about creating a robust, sustainable marketing function: a strategic, hybrid approach.


Marketing strategy + marketing engineers = long term revenue and growth

To wrap up, here is my plea…

Take the right steps in your business, right now. Invest deliberately and effectively in marketing for the long term. Marketing, utilised properly, is an investment with measurable ROI. 

Get skilled, strategically minded marketers on board, no matter if they’re inhouse or external. Or, at least hire someone with the potential to become a great marketer, and invest in their training and development. Avoid, at all costs, hiring a lacklustre marketer with a very tactical mindset, just because you’re desperate. You will be taking your business backwards, and you will regret it. 

Motivate your marketers by making marketing important in your business. 

If you don’t invest in marketing strategy and a scientific approach to your marketing over the long term, you will stay in the frustrating hamster wheel. 

Marketing, done well, unlocks growth. Please believe in it, and support it.


Working closely with our internal team, MPG developed a strong marketing strategy focused on achieving revenue growth for a key product in our portfolio – including recommendations for a virtual offering. We were impressed by the science and rigour they put into the process. I would recommend MPG as a good strategic marketing partner for a B2B brand.

Anna Knight, VP Licensing, Informa Markets

MPG have been a valuable marketing strategy partner to Kademy’s leadership team. They have helped us decide how best to invest in marketing based on the stage we’re at with our business, and have also given us very practical advice on various marketing initiatives around ABM, content marketing, social media, PPC and website optimisation. Having MPG’s marketing expertise plugged i to our business gives me confidence we’re moving our marketing function forward in the right way.

Alex Hentschel, Managing Director & Co-Founder, Kademy


Do you need help honing your marketing strategy?

MPG’s team of experienced and skilled marketing strategists can provide your business with specialist advice on how to boost your marketing ROI. Get in touch to find out how we can help you get ahead.

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