Quantity vs. Quality: Settling the Age-Old Debate on Email Marketing

November 1, 2021
4 min

Ask digital marketers the best way to do email, and everyone’s got a different philosophy. Some swear the more impressions, the better. Others will stand by a targeted approach. Is it time for the big debate on email marketing? We’re here for that. Let’s go 3 rounds on data sourcing, engagement exploration, and conversion. 

Ready, set, go!

Round 1: Data Source Discussion

Not all audiences are created equal. Often, emails targeted to larger lists can actually have a higher cost per lead. That’s why we need to start from the beginning—with quality.

When you’re evaluating the quality of a data source, first find out if the data set is first party, and how long ago it was created. It’s great to reach 100,000 people, but what if some of them are pet owners instead of clinicians? Or what if the data set is 5 years old and you’re now emailing a retiree? Targeting your message to the wrong prospects can be costly.

The gold standard for collecting and maintaining a clean database is to have a gated website. Gated websites require some form of sign-in, which enables the collection of first-party data that provides true, accurate behavioral tracking. If you’re deploying emails through media partners, ask where they get their data, how they maintain it, and how their behavioral information is curated. 

Status Quo

(Or what you may have heard.)

  • Cookies: “They’re not enough for tracking behavior!”
  • Events: “Live events are effective for segmenting audiences.”
  • Quantity: “More is ALWAYS better.” 


(Or the real talk about data.)


Without first-party data, cookie-based tracking is specific to an electronic device, not necessarily a person. For example, many team members may share a clinic computer, which makes individual targeting with cookies irrelevant. Users can also clear cookies, leading to a loss of history. Instead of relying on cookies, quality databases are built from first-party data. This paints a truer picture of ongoing prospect activity that can’t be lost.


Creating target audiences is a great tactic for your brand to employ if it’s done directly after an event. The downside of this method is that the data quickly become stale, and it’s not an ideal long-term solution for targeting.

More Is Better

Sending more emails will get more impressions but not necessarily more activity. And we typically see that as the volume of emails goes up, engagement goes down. Especially during the times when our target audience is experiencing an overwhelming amount of day-to-day challenges. Fatiguing a database will negatively impact engagement and can cause long-term database damage.


(Or considerations for your brand.)

Segment Your Audience

You may have several targets, and that’s okay! Determine who your target audience is with very specific criteria. This allows you to segment the different audiences in order to more narrowly target your message to meet their needs. If you’re working with a media partner, share your audience definition and ask how they can reach them. Remember to ask where the data set comes from and how your partner keeps it updated. This can be critical to the success of your campaign.

Send Several Emails to Smaller Groups

Deploy several emails to smaller audiences. This technique allows you to match a message to an audience.

Round 2: Engagement Exploration

In Round 1 we touched on the concept of database fatigue. Now let’s take the debate to engagement. This is where we can discover if we’re tiring out our audience. 

It’s easy to overlook the impact of low engagement. Low engagement results in small audiences for retargeting and nurturing campaigns, which are critical tactics in veterinary medicine when practitioners are already starved for time.

Important note: Engagement metrics have been a hot topic with Apple’s recent iOS changes. While open rate has become a more nebulous metric, it’s still a piece of the puzzle when evaluating email strategies.

Status Quo

  • Open Rates: “High open rates mean high success!”
  • Click-Through Rates: “This is the best measure of true engagement.”
  • Unsubscribe Rates: “This won’t matter much. It isn’t a commonly reported metric.”


Open Rates

Apple’s changes are causing inflated open rates, so the unique number of opens will not be as accurate as it once was. Also—high open rates do not automatically translate into high success. People often browse through email and click on them within an email client but never read them, or they open them explicitly to opt-out.

Click-Through Rates

Yes, click-through rates are a true measure of engagement, and we even take it a step further and look at the rate of clicks to conversions. (More on that in Round 3.)

Unsubscribe Rates

Even when sending emails through third parties, you still want to have a pulse on unsubscribe rates.



Monitor opt-out rates. Or, if you’re advertising through a partner, ask about opt-out rates. This metric can indicate the health of a database. 

Internal Metrics

Set up internal metrics to help you measure downstream engagement such as conversions by tactic. For example, if you send an email through a media partner, set up tracking to identify how many lead conversions you earn from that single tactic. This can give you a more accurate picture of engagement.

Remarketing and Retargeting

Make sure you’re considering both remarketing and retargeting within your campaign strategy. This can alleviate some of the burdens on the initial email to perform MQL and SQL miracles and support a longer-play conversion plan.

Round 3: Conversion Conversation 

This is where the rubber meets the road. So, you got an email open, great! They clicked a link—even better! They get to your lead magnet landing page…do they convert?

Status Quo

You probably haven’t heard much about this topic. To measure conversions by tactic, you’ll need to set up tracking on your lead magnet through separate forms or tracking links.


This data set is critical to evaluating the success of your tactics. It’s great to see a 50% open rate and 10% CTR, but if there are no conversions, is the campaign really a success?

We performed a head-to-head comparison using a piece of business content. We sent it to a highly targeted audience in the Brief Media database and as a mass broadcast through another media company. The conversion results:

  • 73% of the clicks downloaded the lead magnet from the Brief email
  • 39% of the clicks downloaded the lead magnet from the mass email


If you’re not tracking performance by tactic, consider a marketing automation system that can help you collect these valuable metrics.

That’s a Wrap

In a nutshell, the performance of your emails is only as good as the quality of the audience they’re reaching. If you need support with your email strategy or launching your next campaign, our team is here to help!