Why Professional Services Marketers should focus on attitudes, effort and technique.

By Freddie Hustler

Be wary about the term “best-practice”. The dictionary defines best practice as “commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective”. But doing what we think works and repeating it again and again, can lead to complacency. Best-practice also suggests that what works for one firm will automatically work for everyone. In a fast-paced environment where marketers are having to cut through inbox clutter and attract the attention of their clients, complacency is dangerous. As a US basketball player once said: “Complacency is the forerunner of mediocrity; you can never work too hard on attitudes, effort and technique”.

Focus on what clients want

The reality is that email marketers should constantly be focusing on what their clients want - and when and how they want it. They should be striving to continuously improve client engagement through email marketing. This can only do this by understanding what makes the difference in email performance, trying out new formats, learning from the findings, implementing and testing again. The secret to good email marketing performance is attitude, effort and technique. It’s how a marketing team uses technology to communicate with clients.

As a marketing technology company that specialises in email marketing for professional services, Concep recently conducted a benchmark study analysing 122 million emails sent by their clients in 2017.  The study included clients from six major sectors: legal and consulting firms; financial services; real estate; architecture, engineering & construction; and “other professional services” such as recruitment, marketing and technology.

The aim of the study was to observe any shifts in trends and compare cross-sector performance. The report compared commonly-used email marketing metrics:

  1. Delivery Rate, which can be an indicator of the quality of the marketing lists being used and that firms have taken on board strategies to improve deliverability.
  2. Open Rate, or View Rate, which reflects how good your list segmentation is. It can also be a sign your subject lines are compelling enough for people to want to open the email.
  3. Click Through Rate shows the percentage of people clicking on links across your chosen recipient list, taking into account deliverability. This is a good metric to judge the overall success of your campaign.
  4. Click to Open Rate shows the percentage of recipients who viewed your email and clicked through to content links, reflecting how engaging your content is to the recipient list.
  5. Opt-Out Rate is an indication of how healthy your lists are and how engaged your audience is. Low opt-out rates combined with high Click to Open rates suggest you are reaching the right people with the right content. However, low opt-out rates with low Open Rates or Click Through Rates could indicate you are not engaging or connecting with your audience.

Overall Trend

The report showed that overall deliverability rates were healthy and on an upward trend. Organisations have clearly invested time in cleaning data and verifying emails using the double-opt ins to verify email addresses. Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) were top of the deliverability scale with a with 97.5% and an upward trend, leaving Real Estate at the bottom end with 95.10%. AEC also took Concep Gold for their level of Open Rates; at 48% they left behind other professional sectors with open rates of 23%. As a specialist sector, it is likely that AEC marketing lists are highly segmented and emails considered relevant to their clients.

The sector with the biggest increase in overall campaign success and best levels of engagement measured was financial services. This should not come as a surprise as many financial organisations have been under intense scrutiny from the financial conduct authority around how they communicate with clients.

Neither is it surprising that client-driven organisations in the consulting sector with their increased investment in content and thought-leadership are achieving higher levels of email marketing engagement – as well as enjoying the lowest opt out rates.

Factors that increase engagement

Concep’s performance benchmarking report also looked at a variety of other factors influencing email marketing success such as the optimum day of the week to send, how mobile-first strategies were paying off, and what tactics our clients were using to encourage higher open rates and engagement.

Past research has always told us that Tuesday is the go-to day of the week to send out email campaigns. Concep’s 2017 statistics show that times are changing. With more people working ‘anyplace, anytime’ and the rise of mobile, work/life boundaries have become increasingly blurred. Today, open rates are similar across every day of the week, including Sunday. In fact, Click to Open rates over the weekend averaged 6% higher than on weekdays. With just 2% of clients sending campaigns over the weekend, organisations could be missing out on opportunities to engage.

Another – seemingly contradictory finding – was that despite the ubiquity of smartphones, the number of emails viewed on a desktop device compared to a mobile device in 2017 rose by 6%.  Perhaps a reminder for professional services marketers not to forget desktop users when they design the email reading experience and to be aware that video content and imagery need to look great on a bigger screen too.

In the age of personalised customer experiences, Concep’s Benchmarking study showed that still too few professional services marketers are personalising subject lines and sender information. In fact, only 1.45% of all campaigns sent in 2017 used a personalised sender profile in their email campaigns. Those who did personalise subject lines – typically with a relevant statistic or the name of recipient’s organisation saw open rates soar to as much as 12%.

Ultimately, there is an endless number of factors that can impact the success of an email campaign. Using A/B testing, putting effort into creating alternative subject lines, template designs or even imagery and using the insights to improve your next campaign is crucial. Without the discipline – or ‘best-practice’ - of continuous improvement, marketers cannot say they really know what their clients want.  Only then can they really start to think about email marketing ROI.

To talk about how to engage your clients by email with GDPR compliant workflows that can be integrated to CRM, request a demo