Daniel Burstein

Email Deliverability: Only 39% of marketers maintain an opt-in only subscriber list

April 9th, 2013

Email marketing is an interesting animal. It has often been compared to direct mail. However, unlike direct mail, sending irrelevant and even annoying messages can really burn your entire email marketing program.

With direct mail, if a recipient didn’t like your message, they can drop it straight in the recycling bin.

However, with email marketing, your email recipients can affect your ability to reach other potential customers by, for example, marking your email as spam. Brutal.

So, to help you improve your company’s email deliverability, we asked marketers about this topic in the MarketingSherpa 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report

Q: Which of the following tactics is your organization using to improve email deliverability rates? Please select all that apply. 


As always, we asked your peers for their take on this data …


When is a subscriber an inactive subscriber?

For people who remove inactive subscribers, typically, how long should they be inactive for?

– Ariel Geifman, Director of Marketing, Mintigo

This is a great question, Ariel. It is the marketing equivalent of “What is the meaning of life?” on some levels.

Because, I’d say – to both questions – the answer varies.

For example, how long is your sales cycle? How frequently do you send email? Can you tell if these folks are engaging with your company in other ways? How segmented are your email sends? Do you send triggered emails?

Whatever the length, it is probably worthwhile to consider a re-engagement campaign before removing these inactive subscribers.

But, answering a question with more questions is a wholly unfulfilling answer, I readily admit. So, to give you some straightforward numbers to chew on, I did a quick dive into the MarketingSherpa Library to see how some companies define inactive subscriber.

Some examples:



Embedded videos

I’d be interested to see open/ROI rates of video marketing efforts versus text and pictures. Do you have any research available on this topic?

– Rikki Green, Tactical Marketing Analyst, Levementum

We do not have any research available yet, and I do not know of any in the industry, Rikki. However, here is a case study about a marketer who increased conversions more than 50% by embedding video in emails – Embedded Video Lifts Conversion Rate 50%: 5 Steps to Test Deliverability & Subject Line.

I’ll give the final word on email deliverability to Kathryn Joy …


Marketers are using an opt-out strategy more than they are using opt-in to build their lists

I was surprised that only 39% report maintaining an opt-in only subscriber list. Apparently, with the easy unsubscribe process being the number one tactic for improving deliverability; marketers are using an opt-out strategy more than they are using opt-in to build their lists. This may work if there is a close relationship with the subscriber via other channels, and if they are proving email value right away.

– Kathryn Joy, Owner, Kathryn Joy Marketing & TC Success


Related Resources:

Marketing Research Chart: Improving email deliverability

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 Wrap-up: Top 5 takeaways for email marketers

Marketing Research Chart: Email marketing ROI

Email Marketing: The 5 goals of a successful program

Daniel Burstein

About Daniel Burstein

Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the editorial direction for MECLABS – digging for actionable information while serving as an advocate for the audience. Daniel is also a speaker and moderator at live events and on webinars. Previously, he was the main writer powering MarketingExperiments publishing engine – from Web clinics to Research Journals to the blog. Prior to joining the team, Daniel was Vice President of MindPulse Communications – a boutique communications consultancy specializing in IT clients such as IBM, VMware, and BEA Systems. Daniel has 18 years of experience in copywriting, editing, internal communications, sales enablement and field marketing communications.

Categories: Email Marketing Tags: , , , , , ,

  1. April 9th, 2013 at 06:24 | #1

    Excellent post. Deliverability is also something I’m concerned about.

  2. April 9th, 2013 at 15:55 | #2

    Deliver-ability is always a concern but a bigger concern is the fact that at anytime, anyone can mark you as SPAM, and we all know that SPAM, no matter how you slice it, is never good. All kidding aside, this can really damage your reputation and hinder your marketing efforts. A double opt-in is the smartest way to proceed.

  3. April 15th, 2013 at 11:12 | #3

    Love this post. If you do nothing else…. DO THIS! If you ever wondered while reading articles “Does this relate to me?” YES!!! THIS DOES!

  4. April 16th, 2013 at 01:09 | #4

    “[an opt-out strategy] may work if there is a close relationship with the subscriber via other channels”

    I like the optimism, but I’m afraid the 62% opt-out vs 39% opt-in just proves that the majority of email marketing is spam and it is still possible for most marketers to get away with it without any major deliverability problems. I would never condone spamming but the fact is that a polite, high quality, well targeted campaign to a non opt-in list can still get sales and won’t trigger too many spam complaints.

  5. May 2nd, 2013 at 12:49 | #5

    Great advice on creating a re-engagement campaign before unsubscribing inactive users. There are lots of ways to rejuvenate interest in your email marketing (including personalization), so before you consider subscribers lost forever, try to shake things up a bit.

  6. November 4th, 2014 at 17:56 | #6

    Content above all else, even opt-in vs opt-out status, will determine success.
    Our focus is B2B deployments to purchased lists and we have clients with 15-20% open rates and similarly impressive CTRs.

    It certainly helps to respect your recipients time, by giving them the chance to opt-out BEFORE sending them promotional emails. Keeping them engaged by making sure your message is relevant and a little personal touch goes a long way.

    Great Article!

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