As a keen carp angler, I know that by feeding a spot in the lake little and often I can get the fish feeding confidently, enough to get me a bite or two.  If I start with a small amount of bait and then gradually increase the quantity as more and more fish come in I can sometimes get those wary carp into a feeding frenzy.  This is even more likely if I’m using the right choice of bait and my timing is good too.

The exact same principles apply to email marketing (not that I think of my target audience as fish!).


If you are targeting carp, it’s no good fishing in a lake with no carp in it.  Therefore with regards to email marketing it is worth checking your target audience before you start your campaign.

  • Size:  At the outset, is the number of contacts in your database sufficient? And have you profiled your target audience to ensure they are from the correct size of company by turnover or no. of employees?
  • Quality:  Are they the right sort of contacts?  Do they have the authority to buy?  Are they from the right industry or sector?
  • Clean or Dirty:  How good is your data, do you have the confidence that the records in your database have been recently cleansed to ensure they are up to date and fit for purpose?
  • GDPR – have they opted in?


In truth, carp will eat just about anything, but you’ll get a quicker response from a good quality bait.

For the audience of your emails, it’s no good sending people stuff that is of no value to them.  Remember the content you send shouldn’t be about you – make it about the individual you are targeting.  Deliver them something that is of value and you are more likely to get a response. Our blog ‘How to power up your personas’ talks about not casting your net too wide. 

QuantityContent Journey Map

Like with fishing, little and often works best.  People’s attention spans are much lower now than they were ten years ago – they won’t read a long email from you, so don’t send them one!  Make it simple, to the point and easy to understand and link to further information to make it easy for them to find out more, if they want to.  As your audience becomes more engaged, you can give them more.

With fishing, although yes you are targeting all the fish in the lake, you can’t possibly assume that every fish with come across the bait you have presented.  The same is true for your target audience, you can’t assume that just because you have sent them an email that they will read and engage with it.  Even if your email is fantastic, optimised and exactly what the individual is after there is still a very good chance they won’t see it.  There are many factors in play, both external and specifically related to your email, which influence whether it is opened or not.

Therefore, in order to be successful, you need to repeat the process a few times (or rebait!).  Repetition needn’t be an exact resend of the email, try different subject lines, trying sending at other times and try reordering the content.  But just like with fishing, don’t throw too much bait out there, else you’ll spoil your spot!


Watching the lake to get an idea of feeding patterns is key – are there certain times of day when the fish are feeding more vigorously?  Are they feeding heavily in certain spots?  Historical campaign information should be able to assist you in determining when is the optimal time to send the email and what gap you should leave between emails.  In fact, depending on which email marketing platform you work with, it is possible to use historical engagement information to determine the optimal timing for each individual.

It’s also worth avoiding certain times of the year and also specifically targeting certain times too.  Know your audience, understand what their feeding habits are!

In summary

 53lb 1oz Mirror CarpI’m not suggesting that carp anglers make good marketers but patience and observing how the fish behave ultimately leads you to getting more bites.

So take a note from a fisherman, watch and learn how your audience behaves, feed them good quality and valuable content, at the right time and in the right amounts and you’ll get more bites too.

Fingers crossed and you’ll land a whopper like this!

A 53lb 1oz Mirror Carp I luckily managed to land in September 2016.