November 21, 2012
Case Study

Email Marketing: Video email doubles clickthrough rate for Ragan Communications

SUMMARY: Video is a format that B2B marketers should, at the very least, be consider for inclusion in an overall content marketing strategy. And, producing video content does not have to be an overly complicated or costly endeavor.

Learn how one B2B publishing and training company was able to quickly introduce video into its email marketing campaigns through in-house talent and a willing CEO. When compared to the company's text-only and standard graphic email, the video sends maintained the company's average open rate, but went on to garner the highest clickthrough rate.
by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter


If content marketing is the topic du jour right now, then video is the trending content piece for B2B marketers.

A number of reasons for this trend exist, including that B2B audiences are looking for content and information in a number of formats and lengths -- think whitepaper vs. blog post vs. infographics vs. video clip. Another is B2B audiences are using mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to find content, and video is a natural fit for consuming that content on a smaller, handheld device.

Jenny Fukumoto, Marketing Manager, Ragan Communications, a B2B publisher and training company, said Ragan added video to its email marketing program as a change of pace.

"We had not really dived into any sort of video marketing before," she explained. "We were bored with our regular emails that were only text, or text with a little bit of graphic design element. We decided we were going to go kind of crazy and do a short one-minute video to place in our marketing email."

Read on to learn how that one "crazy" idea led to an ongoing utilization of video in its email marketing, and how video did not hurt average open rates while improving average clickthrough rates.


Ragan’s email campaigns promote its live events, such as an annual social media conference, along with its virtual events.

The videos produced by the marketing team were not playable within the actual email sends. Instead, the email includes a screenshot of the video and a link to a landing page where the recipient can watch the video.

Step #1. Create the first video

To create the video, Ragan’s videographer had a background in film and wanted to put together a mini-script. The CEO changed that plan.

"Our CEO said, ‘It’s going to be off-the-cuff. We are going to walk around downtown Chicago and see what kind of background we can find,’" she explained.

The result was a short, one-minute video that was distributed in a hotel rate incentive email — a promotion for $100 off the hotel bill if email recipients registered for the marketed event using the email link.

This send was an informal attempt to see how the email subscriber list would react to the video element, as the team sent the video email to the entire list. Fukumoto said the marketing team watched for feedback, particularly negative feedback, as well as the impact on open and clickthrough rates.

Knowing the goal was to get the recipient to click the link to the video landing page where they could register for the event and claim the incentive reward, email copy was very minimal.
To keep the entire email send very concise, Fukumoto used the landing page for most of the copy necessary to communicate the offer.

Step #2. Develop a video email strategy

The first video email produced satisfactory open rates.

Fukumoto said, "Our readers weren’t totally turned off to the method, and we decided we were going to keep trying video promotions, as we had time to do them."

She continued, "We decided then that, in a perfect world, we wanted to have one video email promotion for every event that we produced."

The strategy became sending three different types of email with each specific campaign:
  • Text-only email

  • Email that included design elements

  • Email with screenshot and link to landing page with video promotion

The second video email promoted a free boot camp for recipients who attended a B2B best practices summit.

Similar to the first video, the approach was very off-the-cuff, with the CEO at a donut shop talking about B2C versus B2B communications.

The second video also achieved average open rates, showing the email subscriber list was not rejecting the video email concept. And, Fukumoto added that the unsubscribe rate did not increase with the video email.

Step #3. Determine the video email process

With video email a part of the email strategy, the team developed a process and format for each video email:
  • Place a screenshot of the video in the email

  • Include short copy (three paragraphs or less) describing what the recipient sees in the screenshot

  • The call-to-action is to click through and watch the video on a landing page at Ragan’s website

  • Each video is short -- around one minute on average -- and serves to explain the incentive that is part of the event being promoted in the email campaign

When the email recipients click through to the landing page, they can immediately watch the video. There is no registration form to fill out or other data capture process to undergo from the user’s perspective.

"The shiny object in the promotion is the video," stated Fukumoto. "We want them to watch the video even if they don’t register for the conference. We want them to see that we are having fun and we are offering a great deal on our event."

Step #4. Incorporate video in other marketing areas

After adding video to the email strategy, Fukumoto said the marketing team began using video in other marketing areas.

She explained, "We have a video specialist here who takes interviews that our CEO has done at the NASDAQ studio in New York, and he packages those into less than one minute tips for our readers."

These short videos are featured on the Ragan homepage.

Step #5. Take advantage of current events

One of Ragan’s more successful video emails was spontaneously created late on a Friday afternoon.

The company had an upcoming event in Las Vegas scheduled for the next month, and on this particular day, a heavy snowstorm hit Chicago where Ragan’s office was located.

The CEO announced at 4 p.m. on that Friday that he wanted to do a video promotion. Marketing and the video editor got together with the CEO to create a video with no voice-over. It was just the CEO standing around in the snowstorm holding signs about looking forward to Las Vegas rather than the cold Chicago weather.

The video ended with the CEO throwing a snowball at the camera.

The team created the email and sent it out late that afternoon. It achieved a 13% open rate, much higher than Ragan’s average open rate for all types of email.


A key outcome of this first step into video email was that it opened the door for the Ragan team to produce effective videos to include in the email mix and to promote incentives around its pre-event marketing on a fairly low budget. This was made possible with a combination of an in-house video expert, a responsive marketing team, and a very willing CEO.

The key performance indicator for Ragan’s pre-event marketing is event registrations, although Fukumoto said because of overlap between email, direct mail, print brochures and other marketing efforts, it is difficult to track registrations to any one channel.

She explained, "We measure the orders from each specific email promotion, but it’s something that we take with a grain of salt because there is just so much overlap between our different marketing channels."

Here are Ragan Communication’s email metrics on each of its three email types:

Video emails (with videos embedded in the separate landing page)
  • Average open rate: 7.7%

  • Average CTR: 0.51%

Emails with a design element
  • Average open rate: 7.09%

  • Average CTR: 0.29%

Text-only emails:
  • Average open rate: 7.87%

  • Average CTR: 0.25%

As you can see, although open rates were consistent across all three email types, video emails achieved a much higher clickthrough rate than text-only emails and emails with a design element.

Creative Samples

  1. First video email

  2. Landing page for first video

  3. Snowstorm video email


Ragan Communications

Related Resources

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 – February 19-22 in Las Vegas

Content Marketing: Videos attract 300% more traffic and nurture leads

Embedded Video Lifts Conversion Rate 50%: 5 Steps to Test Deliverability & Subject Line

Inbound Marketing: A pioneering YouTube video strategy

Video Email Marketing Has Finally Arrived (part one of a three-part series via ReelSEO)

How to Add Video to Email on a Shoestring Budget & Double Conversions: 6 Steps + 6 Lessons Learned

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