“It’s Thursday. We send our main marketing emails on Thursdays. So it has been on every Thursday of every week since the dawn of time. And so shall it be unto infinity.”

Sound familiar?

For many companies, sending out regularly scheduled marketing emails has become an indispensable part of their digital marketing strategy.

And for good reason.

Email marketing has been consistently outperforming the ROI of most other digital marketing channels for decades, and current trends indicate that it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Traditionally, a consistent email marketing program featuring reliable and regular delivery has been viewed as the most efficient way to exploit the benefits of the email channel.

Such strategies have left little room to make key adjustments for industry-wide low subscriber interest and engagement, shortcomings generally viewed as “the cost of doing business” on a channel that has been growing exponentially for the better part of a decade.

For the enterprise companies that use email marketing, low engagement rates have done little to impact the bottom line. With massive mailing lists growing larger by the day, the number of subscribers ignoring or spam-boxing emails has seemed to have little impact, and sender reputation has generally been sidelined as a KPI by email senders.

But that may be about to change.

According to a new study from Return Path, the value of sender reputation may be much more significant than many thought. In fact, according to Return Path’s data, a brand’s sender reputation score has a massive impact on how many of its marketing emails make it to the inbox.

For brands scoring 91-100 (the highest bracket), 92% of marketing emails will make their way directly to subscribers’ inboxes, whereas for brands scoring 81-90, that number drops to 72%.

That 20-point drop in delivery rate may not sound like much, but for companies with audience numbers in the millions it can potentially mean huge amounts of lost revenue. Worse yet, once a brand’s sender reputation score drops below the 81 mark, delivery rates drop to well below half of those for senders in the highest bracket.

What does all this mean?

The old “batch and blast” approach to email marketing may be doing more harm than good. Brands that send out large numbers of emails to big mailing lists – irrespective of relevance, segmentation, and targeting – of people who aren’t interested, are missing a key piece of the email marketing puzzle.

Such brands need to begin asking themselves some important questions about their marketing emails before hitting “send.”

  • Do we have anything to say today?
  • Do we have something of value to offer?
  • Will anyone open this?
  • Will our subscribers care?

They’d better, because if a brand’s subscribers stop caring and lose interest in what that brand has to say, their lack of engagement will have a direct impact on that brand’s sender reputation score, and impact its bottom line.

Once a brand acknowledges how important it is to be aware of flagging subscriber interest, knowing what to watch for becomes essential.

4 signs your subscribers have stopped caring

1) Low open rates

This can be a sign of bad subject lines as well, but irrelevant topics, disinterested list members, or emails not making it to the inbox and instead getting delivered to a spam folder will all significantly impact your open rate metric. If people aren’t opening your emails over a long period of time, you’re in trouble.

2) Low click-through rates

If subscribers aren’t clicking through from your marketing emails to the next stage of the sales funnel, there’s probably an issue with your email content. Are you sending things they care about? What data are you using to inform your decisions?

3) Increase in unsubscribes

While a healthy unsubscribe rate can actually help protect your sender reputation by filtering out those subscribers who have already lost interest, keeping an eye on unsubscribe rates is important. A sharp increase in unsubscribes is a strong indication that something is sorely lacking in your strategy/approach. Of course, an increase in spam complaints isn’t good for your sender reputation, either.

4) Low conversions

While it’s not going to be reflected in your sender reputation, low conversion rates can give you a clear indication that your message is not getting through to your audience. This can be due to a number of factors within your strategy, but it always means that you need to re-evaluate. Besides, if your emails aren’t converting, what’s the point of sending them?

What do I do if my audience doesn’t care?

A robust email marketing strategy is all about offering your subscribers value. If reading your emails makes life better for your audience in some way, they will care. If it doesn’t, they won’t. It really is that simple.

The simplest way to engage subscribers and make them care about what you have to say is to make engaging with your brand worthwhile.

There are many ways to offer value within the context of the email marketing dialogue. For example:

  • Offering discounts (preferably good ones!)
  • Providing interesting content that your audience wants to read
  • Something funny (make people laugh, and they’ll come back for more every time)
  • Relevance (dive into the data to find out what your audience cares about)
  • Segmenting (no one message will impact everyone on your list in the same way)
  • Targeting (right person, right message, right time)
  • Behavior triggers (when done right, it can make a huge difference!)

The email marketer’s goal is to make sure that a brand’s audience cares about that brand’s messages. Every campaign’s success depends on it.

Increased delivery rates represent only a part of how important providing value to subscribers and increasing email engagement actually is.

How can this be accomplished?

Learning what your audience cares about, what types of messages it responds to, what works and what doesn’t work is the only true path to email marketing success.

As with so many things digital, the key touchpoints for effective email marketing can be delving into your audience data.