Setup Your Email Marketing for Success

Email marketing may seem as simple as opening a MailChimp account and hiring a copywriter, but you might be losing millions in revenue if you misplace optimization efforts and forget delivery.

First off, this email marketing guide isn’t for everyone. It’s a an email marketing primer for sending millions of emails daily.

In this guide I’ll be chunking KPIs into two buckets to make email marketing optimization a bit more manageable. Then I’ll also share a few tips for each of these for measured gains in your email with those KPIs in mind; specifically, open rates and delivery.

  1. Individual Email Performance Metrics
  2. Continued Email Health Metrics

Your Email KPIs

There are several email metrics you need monitor so it’s easier if you chunk them:

Individual Email Performance

Continued Email Health.

In each of the tables to follow, bolded metrics are what I recommend you use for your KPIs of each respective KPI bucket in daily dashboards.

Individual Email Performance Metrics

These metrics are directly determined by your marketing strategy, copywriting skill, design prowess and quality of email addresses. But they’re also indirectly affected by your Continued Email Health metrics. Fewer solid deliveries means fewer possible opens and clicks.

Metric Calculation Definition
Opens Email renders
Openrate Confirmed Opens / Accepted = Confirmed Open Rate The number of users that an email is displayed (whether fully opened or within the preview pane) and recorded using tracking pixel OR if images are blocked and the user clicks any link including the unsubscribe link. This metric includes both HTML and plain text emails
Unique Openrate Unique Confirmed Opens / Accepted = Unique Confirmed Open Rate The unique number of users that an email is displayed (whether fully opened or within the preview pane) and recorded using tracking pixel OR if images are blocked and the user clicks any link including the unsubscribe link. This metric includes both HTML and plain text emails=The Openrate / OR measures how effective your subject line / newsletter title was in motivating recipients who received the newsletter
ROE Opens To calculate ROE Opens, the total number of opens is divided by the number of unique opens. The greater ROE Opens, the bigger interest of the recipients in your email. ROE Opens (rate of engagement (opens)) is the ratio of unique opens to the total number of opens. ROE Opens measures how engaging your email is and how your recipients value the content of the letter. The ratio is based on repeated opens that show the fact of opening the email by the recipient more than one time, or forwarding it to others
CTR Clicks / Accepted Emails = Click Through Rate The number of clicks on any links from a message divided by the number of accepted messages. For example if a message is sent to 4 people and two people open the message, downloading the images. One of two that opened the email clicked on a link one or more times, the resulting CTR for that link is 25% (1 unique clicker/4 accepted emails = 25%).= Please note: this metric includes the openrate / performance of your subjectline
Unique CTR Unique Clicks / Accepted Emails = Unique Click Through Rate see above, but refering to the number of people that clicked
ROE Clicks To calculate ROE Clicks, the total number of clicks is divided by the number of unique clicks. ROE Clicks (rate of engagement (clicks)) is the ratio of unique clicks to the total number of clicks. ROE Clicks measures how engaging your offer is and how your recipients value it. The ratio is based on repeated clicks that show the fact of clicking the link inside the email by the recipient more than one time or the fact of clicking the same link by other people if the email was forwarded to others by the original recipient.
CTO or CTOR Clicks / Email Renders = Click to Open Rate The number of clicks on any links from a message divided by the unique number of confirmed opens for that message. For example if a message is sent to 4 people. Two people render the email, and one of those two click on a link one or more times, the resulting CTO is 50% (1 click /2 confirmed opens = 50%).= The CTOR measures how effective your email message / Deal description was in motivating recipients who opened it, to then click a link.
Unique CTO or Unique CTOR Unique Clicks / Email Renders = Click to Open Rate Unique CTR, which refers to the number of people that clicked


There’s enough written about email CTR to not go into it here. It’s simple: trial and error through email design testing and engaging content users want. It results in something like this:



Instead I’ll focus on something for open rates and help you prevent being mistaken for spam: Front Loading.

Front Loading (Bump Opens):

Load up Google and search “Subject line character number”. I’ll bet you find many different answers. For the longest time it was around 50, then it shrunk to 30. You’ll probably get random numbers between those two.

But guess what? It doesn’t matter.

As devices continue to evolve faster and email clients become more fragmented, it’s a losing battle to count. It’s not even focusing on the most important aspect anyways.

Interest, Recognition and Action are what matter. Load up all three of those in the first 10 characters and open rates get a bump.

Let’s take BuzzFeed for example:


“11 Tricks”, “29 Secrets”, “This Hilarious…” are three very interesting and engaging starters. That’s why it’s called “clickbait.”

Now the above might work for promotional email subjects, but what about transaction email subjects? Same concept: put the most relevant and important information at the front for the best possible User Experience.

One disturbing pattern I see in Japan/Korea is putting the company name in brackets first thing in an email. How boring and unimaginative is that?

After buying a movie ticket online from TOHO Cinemas I get this:

The most important info, confirmation of my ticket purchase, is on the opposite side everyone begins reading from. Not only is placing company name first redundant with the From field, it’s a really poor user experience.

Front Loading (Prevent Spam):

On the flip side of positive front loading comes countering spam filters. Avoid words like these in your subject lines and first paragraph:

  • Special characters ($, %, !!!, @, &)
  • Popular virus and scam wording.
  • Discounted, Teenage, Free, etc.
  • Words involving the birds and the bees.

Also check your spam box for subject lines and words to avoid (e.g. Chance to Win, Members only, Hello, Hot…).

Continued Email Health Metrics

You can improve your Continued Email Health metrics through selection of Email Service Provider (ESP) and segmentation of your email messaging. Stick the bolded KPIs below in your marketing dashboad.

Metric Calculation Definition
Delivered or Accepted Accepted = Sent – Bounced Any email that is not rejected by a server, including emails delivered to the inbox, spam or junk folders or those are missing from those folders that did not receive a bounce reply.
Deliverability or Accepted Rate Accepted Emails/Sent Emails = Accepted Rate The total amount successfully delivered to the server divided by the total e-mail deployed (unique records). The amount successfully delivered is the total amount attempted minus all failures, including hard bounces.
Bounce A message rejected by the receiving server. Typically bounces are referred to as either hard bounce, a delivery failure for permanent reason (e.g. a misspelled email address) or soft bounce, a delivery failure due to a temporary condition (e.g. mailbox is currently full).
Hardbounce number of hardbounces / total number of emails send = hardbounce rate An email message that is undeliverable due to an invalid or expired email address. The email is returned to sender as a “recipient unknown.”
Softbounce number of softbounces / total number of emails send = softbounce rate An email message that is undeliverable that could be due to: the recipient’s mailbox being full, the attachment being too large, or a there being a connection problem. This may be a temporary problem.


Email Service Providers

There are two types of ESPs: easy-to-start, hands-off ESPs like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor or Aweber, and then more industrial-strength setups like CheetahMail. There are only a few of the latter. CheetahMail acquired most the competitors and forged partnerships in in more legally adverse markets like Korea (storing email addresses outside the country for companies based in Korea is a big no-no). That also makes them easy to work with in scaling your deliverability optimizations across the world.

Benefits from providers like CheetahMail include uncapped delivery speed, dedicated local mail servers and private IP blocks.

Ever wonder why your emails take so long to send with your mail?It’s because they’re also sending email for others on the same servers you use – from the same IPs too.

You might also notice you’re advised if you get a certain % of spam reports or unsubscribes you’ll be suspended. That’s done as a courtesy for other clients of the service as they maintain delivery for all using their servers.

With a dedicated provider you’ll be able to deliver millions of emails  an hour. You’ll have private, clean ip blocks that haven’t been used before and you won’t be gambling on delivery rates.

Email Messaging Segmentation

Sending your emails from the same domain or email address is risky. It’s best to segment your emails into categories like these:

Transactional: Your most important communication. One undelivered confirmation email or receipt can cost you a customer. These deserve their own address or subdomain.

Newsletters: your regular emails that customers or followers expect on a regular basis.  Not the most important and could be something like a separate blog address from your content marketing efforts.

Sales: Irregular emails for seasonal promotions or SalesForce emails from sales staff. Try a subdomain.

Here’s an example of email fail from Yahoo Auctions Japan:


This weekend I missed a few transactional emails for flagging their newsletters years ago after I couldn’t unsubscribe. All of these emails are sent from (and the inspiration for this post).

This is called domain reputation and it goes a long way. Experian, now parent company of CheetahMail, wrote about it here.

Equally important, if a sender is using the same domain for transactional messaging, those emails may also see their deliverability rates decline..[read more]..

tl;dr Don’t stick transactional on the same domain as your marketing and sales efforts.

In closing, email marketing is often one of digital marketing’s afterthoughts in teams with big ad budgets. While ad spend is being decided or fancy new programmatic buys go down, delivery will all too often continue suffering. Or, too much emphasis is placed on areas like photo choice or branding in the email design.

Respond to your most important KPIs first: delivery and open rates, the lowest-hanging fruit that will result in big quantitative wins.


Digital Media Buying Tips for Japan

Welcome to Japan, a country where most premium ad inventory is still bought and sold direct over a high-speed exchange of time-stamped … Excel docs.

Newspapers are still read here too. It’s weird, I know.

Here are two tips for spending less and running a successful ad campaign that I learned from buying over $60 MM in ad inventory while at Groupon.

1. All Prices Are Inflated for Negotiation.

Japan, and Asia in general, is a region where people spend much time negotiating. They call business here “wet” for a reason. Sales teams begin with chit chat, gifts of sweet rice snacks, bowing and if performance has been poor probably a whole lot of apologies too.

The norm here is to get a discount. There are factors such as length of the business relationship and your total spend that come into play.

Always start with “Is that really the lowest price? We talked to another agency and it was much cheaper.”

Here’s the relationship breakdown of the industry:

Publisher > Media Rep > Agency > Another Agency

Unless you buy in excess of a $1 MM USD per month you’ll be meeting an Agency. Sometime’s an agency’s agency (ridiculous I know). Unnecessary margins are here and I guarantee you there’s always a lower price. As a point of contrast, in Korea you’ll get production costs and consultations included in the media price, but in Japan, that’s not the case.

If you’re buying much more than that then quit meeting the agency. Talk directly to the Publisher if possible or Media Rep. Normally this is difficult Getting a third-party introduction is most effective. To ease any anxieties about industry relations being hurt for dealing directly, you can setup a special purpose entity.

A story from a friend that’s an account manager for a big Japanese brand illustrates how bad the media buying culture is here:
“One time after selling hard, the online marketing manager sensed he wasn’t going to get a discount and said, ‘I have to show I got a discount or I’ll get in trouble. Mark up the price so it looks like I negotiated a discount.’”

2. Don’t Believe CTRs/CVRs

After greetings, the junior member of the sales team will start passing out several PAPER copies (remember, newspapers aren’t dead yet) of a 30-page proposal he’s stapled together and after all the details of how targeted and refined the media is, you’ll find a media plan with estimated performance.



This will probably be your second or third time meeting them. They’ve asked your average conversion rates among other questions. It’s so they can put one of these sheets together to “help” you with the whole decision-making process.

Here’s your line to save you time and money:

“Tanaka-san, thank you so very much for this. Unfortunately, my boss in <foreign city> must decide. Let’s meet after we talk so please send me the Excel version by end of today.”

Stand up, giving them the cue that no deals get signed today and your meeting concludes after just 20 minutes.

Take this sheet, add a new column next to each CTR and CVR estimation. Multiply the CTR/CVR by 50% and see what’s a more realistic and worst case scenario.


Take these numbers and based on what seems like a realistic campaign, reverse the calculation to find a target price you can negotiate.

Remember, these will be well-dressed sales people who were hired based on looks and ability to drink. Even if their title is “Chief Consultant” their goal is a bigger bonus.

It’s all just an elaborate trick. Take heed and control your KPIs.


In Japan, April Fool’s is a Chance for Marketing

Much like many things Americana, April Fool’s is another cultural tidbit that Japan has taken home and made its own. It’s so prevalent in fact that releasing anything near or around April 1st is a bit scary for some because they don’t want it to be mistaken as a joke.

Here are the three most popular of Japan’s April 1st jokes that I saw throughout social media in Japan.

1. AU – Build Your Own Smartphone Kit (page taken down).

AU might have snagged the #1 spot with the tag line “Spend 10 years and build your smartphone!”

Other one liners include one of Japanese marketers’ favorite marketing campaign additions, “in a miraculous collaboration with…”.

AU April Fool's

2. Google Japan’s Magic Hand

From the team that brings you the best (and free) Japanese IME, comes the Magic Hand. The Magic Hand does all the clicking and pushing to input the text for you.



3.  Yahoo! Wifi Begins Beeper Service (“Pocket Bell”).

In Japan the beeper/pager was called the “pocket bell” (Pokeberu for short). Along with the fossil of technology being re-introduced they use some thick high school girl lingo for additional laughs.



Until next year, enjoy this listing of the top 2013 April Fool’s Jokes in Japan too.



Japan Advertising Landscape “Chaos Map”

You call it the Lumascape or marketing technology landscape. Japan calls it the “Chaos Map”. just released a 2014 edition that covers much of the world that’s not representative of Japan’s ad industry.

Need to research Japan’s advertising landscape or looking to find some leads for your agency, marketing SaaS or advertising solution?

Well then, this is for you.

The 2013 Japan Marketing and Advertising Landscape put together by Hiroshi Kondo of Septeni Holdings is super helpful for staying on top of the market here.

shibuya crossing

Japan’s Top 10 Sites, Apps and Ecommerce of 2013

Nielson Japan published their TOPS OF 2013: DIGITAL IN JAPAN report a few weeks back, but all in Japanese.

Here’s my translation for those of you who cannot read Japanese.


  • Internet use from PCs saw a decline.
  • #1 Smart phone use in Japan is LINE messenger.
  • Tablet possession was 18%, an 8 point increase over a year.

Top 10 Sites in Japan (PCs)

  1. Yahoo Japan
  2. Google
  3. FC2
  4. Youtube
  5. Rakuten
  6. Microsoft
  7. Amazon
  8. Wikipedia
  9. goo
  10. Ameba

Top 5 Video Sites in Japan (PCs)

  1. Youtube
  2. Yahoo GyaO
  3. niwango
  4. FC2 Videos
  5. Dailymotion

Top 5 E-commerce Sites in Japan (PCs)

  1. Amazon
  2. Rakuten
  3. Yahoo Shopping
  4. Yahoo Auctions
  5. (price comparison site)

Top 10 Smartphone Apps (iOS and Android)

  1. LINE
  2. Google Play
  3. Google Maps
  4. Facebook
  5. Google Search
  6. Gmail
  7. You Tube
  8. McDonalds
  9. Twitter
  10. Yahoo! JAPAN

About the PC results:

Sample of both personal(40,000+) and office PCs(2200+) from all across Japan.

About the mobile results:

Sample: 2000 Android Users, 2000 iOS Users for a total of 4000 smartphone users from all across Japan.