Email Marketing Optimizations Increase Open Rate by 46%


Open Rate


Click Rate

The Background

Steuben Press is a Colorado-based book printer that specializes in custom book-printing for self-published authors.

Since 2014, BKMedia has been Steuben Press’ main marketing arm, working with them on everything from launching a new site to ongoing content marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising campaigns.

As part of our ongoing email list-building efforts, we continually track the download rate of their gated downloadable asset, an eBook for self-published authors. Around every six months, we optimize and update the eBook’s content, and reassess where it’s advertised on the site to improve download rate.

During one of these checkups the end of 2018, we realized it wasn’t just the eBook itself that needed continual monitoring and optimizing.

In this case study, we examine the email marketing drip sequence that was sent to users after they downloaded the eBook — and how we improved open rate and drove more traffic to the site by optimizing the content and timing of these emails.

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Our Objectives

When we first optimized the client’s eBook in 2017, we created a 3-email drip sequence to be sent out to users after downloading the asset. The goal was to stay in front of users and encourage them to continue to engage with our on-site blog content after downloading the eBook.

Each email focused on certain stages of self-publishing — from self-editing to digital marketing — and included intro text and 3 different blogs. Our main CTA for each email pushed users to get a quote for printing their book project.

Email 1 thanked the customer for downloading the eBook, and offered 3 different blogs: one on how different writers stay inspired, one on self-editing, and one on first steps after writing a book.

Email 2 focused on marketing, with 3 different blogs about how self-published authors can market their book online and on social media.

Email 3 was a catch-all email about the different challenges of self-publishing, from how much you can save when you self-publish and tricks of the trade to creating an author site.

The Landscape

When we paused this series in October of 2018, the average open rate was around 21.5%, with an average click-thru rate of 5.1%.

Compared to industry averages, these are good metric performances — the open rate for media and publishing emails is around 17.4%, and click-thru rate is around 3.3%. 125 contacts unsubscribed during the drip.

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The Execution

Copy Changes

The majority of authors who download the self-publishing eBook are likely in the beginning phases of their publishing journey, since the eBook provides a high-level overview of what authors should know before self-publishing.

We took a closer look at the content of each email in the drip, and decided to tighten up the logical flow so that each email worked to move the reader through the buyer funnel.

We also changed the CTAs for each email from getting a quote to signing up for a new consultation service offered by Steuben Press. This one-one-one, personal consultation service helps authors create a road map for their publishing journey — something that is likely more appealing to authors who are new to the process of self-publishing.

We swapped out the first blog of email 1 with Steuben Press’ top-performing blog, “How to Format Your Word Document for Book Printing (on Mac or PC).” For our second email, we swapped the final marketing blog for another high-performing and top-of-funnel blog, “The Digital Printing Advantage: Print Your Book in Color for Cheap.”

We completely revamped the third email to make the intro copy and focus all about the new consultation service. The accompanying blogs were “Save Money and Time with Self-Publishing Consultation Services,” and yet another high-performing, top-of-funnel blog, “The Difference Between Book Printing and Book Publishing.”

Timing Changes

From a technical standpoint, we decided to analyze the send times for our emails and see how this could be improved.

Originally, the series was just set to send as soon as you downloaded the eBook. The remaining emails in the drip would send at the same time in the following days.

That meant if the author was up late (as many are!) and downloaded the eBook at 1am, they’d get the remainder of our emails in the drip at 1am!

We changed the settings so that each email would only send between 7am and 7pm. We didn’t even change subject lines — the differences that we saw through our optimization were all because of when the emails were actually hitting users’ inboxes.

The Result

After we executed this email marketing strategy by making copy edits, optimizing the timing, and launching the rebranded campaign, our open rate jumped up to 31.3%, and click-thru rate went up to 8.6%!

Although we only changed the copy for email 1, it now boasts an open rate of 45% and click-thru rate of 15.8% — up from 31% and 9.3%.

Meanwhile, with both timing and copy changes, email 2 went up from a 27% open rate to 35.2%, with the click-thru rate rising from 6.3% to 10.9%.

We saw email 3’s open rate grow from 19.7% to 32%, and the click-thru rate rose from 4.8% to 9.9%!

We didn’t even change our email subject lines — it was optimizing the timing that drove more opens, and optimization the content that drove more clicks.


  • The buyer funnel is real. The CTAs in any piece of content — from a product page to blog to automated email marketing drip — need to make sense for where the user is at in the funnel. If they’re not ready for a big ask quite yet, start with a smaller one.
  • If your top-performing blogs make sense for the content of the email, be sure to include them. The numbers already prove that people love the content.
  • Timing is everything, and there’s no exception with email sends. Make sure your emails are landing in people’s inboxes during peak sending times.

Better understanding the buyer journey has made a big difference in our ability to optimize conversions our other clients, too. Discover how understanding customer flow led to a 120% increase in sales for one of our clients >

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