• Nicola Macdonald

Back to basics: a guide to email marketing

Barry Wise, Director of RegBox, talks to Exhibition News about effective email marketing best practice.

The worlds of marketing and technology have been transformed time and time again and though many predicted email’s demise it remains a powerful marketing tool.

One of the biggest, and perhaps fairly predictable, changes has been in how people access their emails. In 2018 a marketing agency called Litmus analysed billions of email opens, and found that 46% were on mobile devices, and that number will continue to rise.

Like many aspects of modern events, email marketing is at its most powerful when it is personalised and bespoke.We’ve all received the “five reasons to attend ‘X’” message from an event that is no longer relevant to us, and it’s campaigns like that which cause many to lose faith in email and a marketing tool.

It’s easy to accept low open and engagement rates as par for the course, but there are several fairly simple ways to improve the relevancy and reach of your email marketing.


Deliverability is a critical element to the success of your visitor promotion email campaigns, and is therefore an important area to manage proactively in order to achieve best possible open and engagement rates. Ensuring client messages are successfully delivered is just as essential as the messages they contain.

When we look at deliverability for a client we tackle various issues such as email validation, datasets cleansing and list hygiene as well as helping to improve the overall strategy. To get slightly more technical, we use our own email message transfer agent (MTA) delivery platform to send millions of messages through a range of shared and dedicated IP addresses as well as other well-known 3rd party cloud-based delivery systems, which enables us to control email deployment and offers ease of management along with the intelligence, control and performance required to maximise delivery.

We also implement best practice protocols such as validators, throttling, email authentication (SPF records, strong DKIM signing, sender ID), dedicated IP addresses and more to make sure the right emails reach the right people.


Subscriber engagement data is the most powerful data on anyone’s list, which is why it’s best practice to segment lists by subscriber engagement level and use this as the basis of a visprom email sending strategy. Segmenting on engagement level will help send targeted emails with a higher chance of getting opens and clicks.

Active Visitors: These are people who continuously engage with your emails. Core visprom marketing emails should be sent out to this segment. Keep your email design layout simple but ensure that it’s also mobile friendly. Use call-to-action buttons with unique promo code links to track and analyse engagement and see which design elements of visprom email perform better and adjust those accordingly in follow up email campaigns.

New visitors: These are people who have recently subscribed. In order to engage and convert these visitors, best practice is to set-up automated series of emails to further educate them about an event. Timely and interesting content is a killer combination.

Risky visitors: These people are starting to lose interest and haven’t opened an email recently (e.g. last few emails). To get these risky to re-engage its best to design an email that includes an incentive to win them back.

Inactive visitors: Those who haven’t engaged in a while. The key is to spend time designing a “win back” email for this segment.

Visitor subscription engagement data is a powerful tool that event organisers can use to improve email deliverability, opens and clicks. Applying a strategy based on levels of engagement will boost overall email performance and send emails your subscribers actually want to receive. Plus, you can leverage email automation to trigger based on unique subscriber actions, so you send the email exactly when subscribers are most likely to engage. It’s a win-win for your email strategy and your deliverability.

Our clients have recognised the need to implement deliverability and re-engagement strategy for their visitor promotion campaigns and the results this year were:

  • An increase in open rate and click-throughs in the email

  • A drop in the unsubscribe rate

  • Overall pre-registration numbers increased by 5.9% from the re-engagement strategy

  • A surge in “refer-a-colleague” registration

As a final point, it goes without saying that adherence to GDPR regulations and an awareness of data security are a vital part of the email marketing mix. GDPR forced a positive change in how the exhibition industry uses, handles and exchanges data. The people on the other end of your email marketing campaigns have expressed an interest in you, your company and your event and the core of a successful campaign is providing interesting, relevant messages which don’t abuse that trust.