The best email pitch, backed by numbers

When it comes to email pitches, we’ve all learned that there is no silver bullet. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things you can do to improve your results.
In 2016, over 8.5 million emails were sent using Prezly. That’s about 23.000 per day. Surely, there are be some things we can learn from a dataset of this size.
Ever wondered about how personalization might affect the impact of your email pitch? What about how often you contact someone, how long your email is, or whether or not you include images?
Good news! We’ve looked into all of that to help you get better results from your email pitches. First, we’ll get right to the best practices. But don’t worry, if you want to get down to the nitty gritty, we’ll explain our analyses in more detail later on.

The ideal email pitch…

… is personalized

Personalizing your pitch by addressing your contacts with their first name is a quick win. We found it could lead up to a 50% increase in click rates.
But be careful: if your pitch isn’t targeted and tailored to the right audience, using someone’s first name isn’t going to make a difference.

…is sent to people that regularly hear from you

In case you were starting to get anxious about the number of emails you’ve been sending out, don’t fret. Our data revealed that people receiving more emails had around a 30% higher open rate and a 40% higher click rate than people receiving less emails.

…is short and to the point

Keeping your emails short and sweet is the most commonly given advice, and we’ve found nothing to contradict that. In fact, we’ve found that emails with less than 100 words perform up to three times better than emails with more than 300 words.

…doesn’t use images

Say what? It’s true. Or it’s what our data tells us, at least. Trust us, we were as surprised as you must be when we found out. Turns out that emails using no images at all have about a 40% higher click-through rate than emails using images.
We also found that if you do want to use images, it’s better to include a couple at once. Emails with more images performed slightly better than those with less images.

Nitty gritty: data and analyses

Before we get started…

In research papers, it’s common and good practice to describe the data that you’re working with. Don’t worry, we’ll run through this rather quickly.

Data

There’s really only one thing you need to know: Prezly emails come in three flavors.
A summary email lacks any personal touch whatsoever. The only thing that lands in people’s mailboxes is a visual snapshot of a press release.
A summary email with an introduction has a little more personalization: it generally adds a bit of context around the story that’s being shared.
The final option is a visual summary email with a personalized introduction: these are emails in which the first names of the recipients are inserted.

What will we be investigating?

It’s these three types of emails we’ll be comparing based on their click-through rate. We’ll look at
  • effects of personalization in email campaigns
  • effects of how often a recipient is contacted
  • effects of the number of words used in email campaigns
  • whether or not having images embedded makes a difference

To personalize or not to personalize

No difference?

The first thing we did was simply compare the click rates of the three email types. To no avail: there seemed to be close to no difference. And to our surprise, a generic introduction even seemed to have slightly better results than a personalized one.
We assumed a personalized email would have the greatest impact because engagement tends to be greater when the message is personally relevant to the recipient. So why was this not the case?
Suddenly, it hit us: including someone’s first name in an email isn’t the only factor that makes it more relevant. What if the message itself was simply not relevant to the recipient? Look at it this way: if you send commercial emails about cat food to someone that doesn’t even have a cat, you can include that person’s first name all you want; they’re just not interested in your cat food.
So we decided to throw another variable into the mix: targetedness. And that’s where things started to get interesting.

Less targeted email, lower click through

To gauge the degree to which an email campaign was targeted, we used the number of recipients of a given campaign. Our assumption being: the less people in the recipient pool, the more targeted the email campaign, and vice versa.
In the below graph, as you’d expect, you can see that the less targeted an email campaign is, the lower its click-through rate.

A personalized email works best, but only if it’s targeted

So how do our different email types fare now that we’re accounting for the effects of targetedness?
In the graph below you can see that the effects of each email type are now more pronounced, with the most personalized email campaign having the highest click through rate. But this effect only holds true for well-targeted emails. As the number of recipients increases (and targetedness thus decreases), the differences between the email types start to disappear.

Reaching out often?

So we know getting the right info to the right people goes a long way. And it sure helps to use someone’s first name when writing to them.
But what about how often you write someone? Sure, you want to talk to people on a regular basis, but you also don’t want to overdo it.
Looking at the email campaigns sent using Prezly, it seems you won’t really have a lot to worry about. In fact, it even seems that people that are contacted more often, tend to open and click through emails more often as well.

Long and wordy or short and sweet?

It’s a question that is asked oftentimes: what works best, a longer email or a message that’s quick and to the point? There are some exceptions, but the advice most commonly given is to keep your emails short.
And when analyzing our data, we found no evidence to contradict that advice. In the graph below you can see that emails with less than 100 words get triple the amount of clicks compared to emails that exceed 300 words.

Visuals

Time to put the final pillar of emails to the test: images. Should you use them in your pitches? Our findings are a little mixed and surprising on this one.
When looking at the data, it seems that emails that use no images at all score the highest click-through rate. For emails that did have images, those that had more than five included scored better than the the emails that included only one to five images.
Idries Al-Bender
AUTHOR
Idries Al-Bender

Idries works at Prezly, helping clients get their story told.