Make Emails Reach Beyond Your List

According to Litmus with Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, and Dr. Liva Van Scotter, Editorial Research Manager Marketing Sherpa, email marketing success is not limited by the size of the list. Every subscriber on the list has friends, family and colleagues that can be reached through email forwards.

The new report, exploring factors that influence commercial email forwards based on data from 400,000 email sends to both B2B and B2C audiences with at least 500 opens, the average commercial email generated one forward for every 370 total opens, according to Litmus. The viral emails got 17.6 times more forwards, generating one forward for every 21 opens.

A random sample of emails from each group, examined for what percent used the different tactics ( segmentation, triggered messaging, personalization and a prominent "Share with Your Network" CTA) in their email, yielded the chart showing what percentage of viral and average emails used each of the tactics studied.

Chad White, Research Director, Litmus, categorized these emails into two categories, the top 1% of viral emails (the 99th percentile,) and emails that were shared an average amount of times (the 50th percentile).

Percent of Emails Employing Each Tactic (Rounded)



Average EMails




Triggered messaging






Share w/your network



Source: Litmus, July 2015

Only a minority of forward-worthy emails (15.8% for triggered messaging) used any of the four tactics. According to Litmus, the relatively low usage of these tactics shows that there are a variety of other ways to spur forwarding behavior.

Most commercial emails do not include a prominent "Share with Your Network" CTA placed within the primary content block rather than in the footer of the email. In fact, a minuscule 0.5% of emails that were shared at an average rate included that CTA.

However, 6.4% of the viral group of emails included a "share" CTA. This tactic had the most impact, viral emails were 13 times more likely to have a prominent "share" CTA than average emails.

Chad White, Research Director, Litmus says "…the best way to get subscribers to do something is to simply ask them… if you want them to shop, include a 'Shop Now' button… marketers asked subscribers to 'Share' and so they did… "

While including a prominent "share" CTA was by far the most powerful tactic identified, sending relevant emails also appears to impact the rate at which emails go viral. The other three factors were all relevance-related:

  • Message-based relevance: Viral emails were 4.5 times more likely than average emails to have personalized messaging in meaningful ways, such as providing customized product/service recommendations or dynamic content like photos of the recipients taken at previous events
  • Attribute-based relevance: Viral emails were 4.3 times more likely than average emails to be segmented by geographic, demographic or behavioral attributes, such as geo-segmented "new store opening" announcements and emails sent to attendees of previous events
  • Action-based relevance: Viral emails were 2.9 times more likely than average emails to use triggered messaging based on customer actions; welcome emails, post-purchase emails, post-event emails, application-related emails and the like. This was the most used tactic of both viral (15.8% used this tactic) and average (5.4%) email, says the report.

For the more complete report, and additional “tips for action” from MarketingSherpa, please visit here.



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