Concep Annual Benchmarking Report 2019

A Deep Dive Into Email Marketing Performance in Legal and Professional Services Organisations

Concep’s 2019 Annual Email Performance Benchmark Report



2. The Global Benchmark Study 2019 1. Email marketing is alive and well

By Sector By Region Who gets Concep Gold 2019?

3.The GDPR Effect

By Sector By Region

4. Internal Communication: How engaged are your people?

By Sector By Region

5. Trends in Email Practices: What makes the difference? 6. How to improve email performance: 10 top tips Summary


For the 2019 Email Marketing Benchmarking Report Concep analysed 186 million emails sent over 144,000 campaigns delivered throughout 2018. This is an increase in sample size of 52% compared to last year’s benchmark report. It is a testament to Concep’s growth and ability to respond to client needs. It also highlights the fact that email continues to be a primary tool for communication and engagement in the professional services sector despite the introduction of tighter regulation and new digital channels. In this report our experts drill down and explain the different metrics, differences and similarities in campaign results within professional services. We compare five sub-sectors in total:  Consulting, including technology firms with a consulting arm Financial Services, including accounting and insurance Legal Other professional services includingHR& recruitment, and healthcare Real Estate Welcome to Concep’s 5th Annual Benchmarking Report.  For the fifth year running Concep has analysed the emails and campaigns sent by their clients, to create a sector-specific benchmark for professional services.

What’s new in this Report ?

In some ways this report is unique from previous benchmarking reports. This year’s report gives a unique insight into how different regions were affected by the introduction of GDPR on 25 May 2018.  A year on, we have compared the number of emails sent both Pre-GDPR and Post-GDPR for each region: Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, as well as for each sector, to see the impact that regulation has had on email marketing.

Given the focus many professional service firms are giving to employee engagement, this year we are specifically taking a look at internal communications and how they have performed in different regions and in different sectors. Separating out email performance in Internal Communication Finally, the report looks at a range of different email practices to see how they impact performance: What’s the best day to send an email? How have mobile devices changed the way contacts open email? Does having a longer subject line really impact engagement? As legal and other professional services firms invest more in marketing technology, connecting data and automating repetitive processes, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on how well you are doing and how you can continue to improve. Trends in email practices


Consulting, including technology firms with a consulting arm

Financial Services, including accounting and insurance

All other professional services including HR & Recruitment, healthcare

Real Estate

Email Marketing is Alive and Well

2018 Report 122M 83K

2019 Report 186M 144K

emails campaigns

emails campaigns


increase in sample size 42%

What Concep experts say:

The increase in our sample size shows that email marketing in professional services is alive and well despite the rise of social media channels. 

There are other factors that have lead to an increase of over 50% in 2018.

Some firms used the run up to GDPR to send multiple campaigns to old contact lists so as to re-engage them or delete them from the system.

Another potential reason for growth is the decline of the monthly newsletter with lots of diverse content. Firms are choosing to send out content ‘as it happens’ - in smaller, more frequent campaigns or by distributing content using Concep Alert.

Save time and effort with Concep’s easy to implement automated content solution. Find out more

2. The Global Benchmark Study 2019

Overall Performance Metrics












​Open Rate​

Click Rate​

Click​To Open Rates​

Opt Out Rates ​

What Concep experts say:

Overall we are seeing a positive trend in email marketing performance compared to last year, with open rates rising 4.42%, average click rates almost 2% and engagement rates - or CTOR up 3.88%. Higher engagement figures reinforces the role in the marketing mix. Professional services organisations should continue to allocate budget for email marketing and invest time in getting it right. The trend also highlights the good work that marketing, events teams and Business Development are doing to improve targeting and segmentation. This may explain the low opt out rates which, despite GDPR, increased by less than 1% (0.88%) Perhaps the silver lining to GDPR is that marketers focused their attention on the quality of their marketing

lists. Firms now have more organically targeted lists meaning they are delivering content that is more relevant to contacts that want it. Given that many of our clients’ GDPR readiness campaigns included emailing outdated contacts, we would have expected higher bounce rates and higher opt-out rates. Whilst deliverability is only marginally down on last year, it is important to keep the focus on ensuring emails are delivered straight to the inbox. Concep does several things to help this: our sender scores are consistently higher than market average and we provide reporting on domains that our clients are not reaching, giving them advice on whitelisting, for example.

Email Performance by Region

North America


96.75% 25.75% 2.80% 10.89% 0.10%

97.25% 38.90% 4.53% 11.66% 0.12%

Average Deliverability Open Rate Average Click Rate Average Click To Open Rate Average Opt Out

Average Deliverability Open Rate Average Click Rate Average Click To Open Rate Average Opt Out

Asia Pacific

What Concep experts say:

97.69% 42.39% 7.13% 16.81% 0.21%

Average Deliverability Open Rate Average Click Rate Average Click To Open Rate Average Opt Out

For the first time in a benchmark report we are looking at how email performance differs across our client regions. While many of our clients are global, they often have decentralised marketing structures, which allows them to send campaigns locally. By looking at the metrics in different geographies we can start to think about what they may be doing that is leading to better performance. Whilst good data management plays a part in deliverability and open rates, it appears that contacts in Asia Pacific particularly are much more engaged with the email content. This could be down to a higher focus on event-related emails in this region which would increase engagement. If you deliver a high number of events and engagement is lower than average you should be asking yourself why.

Email Performance by Sector 2018


What’s the trend?

Deliverability 97.37%



Open Rate 0.54%


Click Rate 0.59%


Click to Open Rate 1.3%

Opt Out Rate 0.06%


What Concep experts say:

Consulting firms came in slightly above average in deliverability and delivered improvements across the board bucking the trend of a downward shift in Click to Open Rate. One possible explanation for their larger gap between Open Rates and Click to Open Rates could be due to content. Information-led content has lower levels of

engagement than event-driven content. It highlights the fact that while we can learn from other sectors, each sector has content, activity and clients that respond differently. The key is to ensure that you are continually improving on the metrics you have by testing and applying what works best for your audience.

Financial Services

What’s the trend?


Deliverability 0.71%

Open Rate 4.7%


Click Rate 1.47%


Click to Open Rate -3.68%


Opt Out Rate 0.01%


What Concep experts say:

Financial services have improved open rates by almost 5%. Potentially this is due to an increase in compliance and  regulatory communication, which has impacted this sector as the financial conduct authorities seek more transparency. Brokers and Advisors NEED their contacts to SEE the communication although not necessarily act on it. There may be lost opportunities to drive traffic

to landing pages or to use videos that would perhaps increase understanding of the content and improve the the click to open rates. It’s also good news that the deliverability averages have improved above the overall average, meaning data quality in Financial Services continues to get better and better.


What’s the trend?


Deliverability 0.25%

Open Rate



Click Rate 0.49%


Click to Open Rate 1.09%


Opt Out Rate 0.02%


What Concep experts say:

An increasing number of law firms are connecting their technologies and using data to draw insights that support fee earners and business development teams. The renewed focus on data quality and management, as well as efforts to gain contact consent for email, has had a positive impact on deliverability, and on other email metrics too. Better quality marketing lists have helped keep low opt-out rates. Building on the encouraging upward trend in open rates - up 1.29% from

last year - overall law firms are implementing better email practices and ensuring their content is more relevant. And that is driving up engagement. Make it easier to find out what works for your contacts. DOWNLOAD our 30-minute webinar on how drag and drop templates impact performance.

Download our 30-minute webinar here

Other Professional  Services

What’s the trend?


Deliverability 0.93%

Open Rate 5.51%


Click Rate 3.08%


Click to Open Rate 9.98%


Opt Out Rate 0.63%


What Concep experts say:

Professional services firms that are not legal, financial services, consulting or real estate fall into this category meaning they have highly diverse audiences, content and marketing activities. These firms follow an upward trend in overall performance and are the “most improved” with engagement rates increasing just below 10% - although they still remain 3% the

average for all five sectors. Potentially, these firms may be doing more marketing activities including events, which could explain the rise in click to open rates that indicate email engagement. They’ll need to test and apply good email practice to keep improving, as well as keep their focus on the quality of their data and strategies to ensure good deliverability.

Real Estate

What’s the trend?


Deliverability 2.01%

Open Rate -3.81%


Click Rate -0.95%


Click to Open Rate -2.06%


Opt Out Rate 0.19%


We are seeing a big move in this sector to adopt good data practice which has driven improvements in deliverability. However, they still have a way to go compared to metrics in other sectors. Perhaps their decentralised structure means they have a wider variety of email practices combined with a focus on business development rather than on content or creating trusted advisors. From a good practice What Concep experts say:

perspective, marketers should make sure they don’t include huge images in their emails. They should support their listings with click through buttons along with supplementary text links to drive up engagement and increase enquires from the website. Real Estate has the lowest opt out rate across all five sectors demonstrating there is opportunity for greater engagement.

Best metrics across all sectors Who gets Concep Gold 2019?

Best Deliverability Rates in 2019 Financial Services takes first place with 97.78%. Real Estate has improved the most by 2%

Best Open Rate in 2019 Financial Services at 51.87% beating their own performance from last year by 4.7%

Best Click Rate in 2019 Financial Services takes top position in this category with 5.77%

Best Click to Open Rate in 2019 The Legal sector has the highest level of engagement with click to open rates of 14.23%. The most improved engagement, by nearly 10%, is from Other Professional Services

Most improved Opt Out Rates 2019 This year, firms falling into Other Professional Services have the most improved opt out rates with 0.63%

3. The GDPR effect 2018 was an exceptional year for consumer driven data privacy and new regulation. The EU General Data Protection Regulation came into effect just over a year ago. Many organisations were worried about the impact GDPR would have on marketing list size and client communication. Results show, however, that Professional Services organisations have continued to deliver email campaigns that perform well. In the month of May 2018, Concep saw a historic spike of 22 million sent emails (12% of all campaigns sent in 2018) as clients implemented GDPR workflows to gain email marketing consent, set up preference management to give clients control over what they received and when, and clean their data.

Concep’s data protection bundles are helping clients implement consent-driven email campaigns. Read more


Pre GDPR Post GDPR Change

1.14% 1.42% -0.24% -1.49% -0.04%

97.62% 30.77% 4.25% 13.82% 0.11%

96.48% 29.35% 4.4% 15.30% 0.15%

Average Deliverability Open Rate Average Click Rate Average Click To Open Rate Average Opt Out

Firms emailing contacts in Europe are sending 16% less emails following the Introduction of GDPR. The impact of gaining consent and cleansing old data has lead to better deliverability and an improvement in opt out rates. With better marketing lists, open rates have gone up. The opportunity here is to create content and email formats that are designed to engage and elicit a response or action from the recipient. It’s a good opportunity for marketers to review the quality of their email copy, check the positioning of their call to action and consider bringing video and podcasts into the mix. What Concep experts say:

North America

95.97% 25.77% 3.12% 12.13% 0.14% 1.18% -0.01% -0.54% -2.11% -0.06% Pre GDPR Post GDPR Change 97.15% 25.76% 2.58% 10.02% 0.08%

Average Deliverability Open Rate Average Click Rate Average Click To Open Rate Average Opt Out

We’ve seen a mixed reaction regarding GDPR from clients. For many this was an opportunity to clean out lists and build stronger relationships by implementing email consent programmes, particularly those firms with global contacts. Their efforts have seen an increase in deliverability and maintained good opt out rates in spite of sending 70%more emails after GDPR than before the regulation came into effect. Marketers should think about the frequency of their emails as well as other email marketing practices like personalisation, testing different templates or subject lines to improve metrics that show their emails are relevant and engaging. What Concep experts say:

Case Study: The Age of Consent Read how one US law firm has taken a fully permission-led approach to email marketing. Click for more

Asia Pacific

Pre GDPR Post GDPR Change

-0.38% 2.14% -0.41% -1.81% 0.01%

97.40% 43.43% 6.80% 15.66% 0.25%

97.77% 41.28% 7.21% 17.48% 0.24%

Average Deliverability Open Rate Average Click Rate Average Click To Open Rate Average Opt Out

What Concep experts say:

Firms sending to contacts in Asia Pacific have shown the least change in numbers, sending just 15% fewer emails now than pre-GDPR. With less or no focus on the new European regulation there were perhaps missed opportunities to improve opt out rates. An improvement in good email practices, including perhaps lower email frequency seems to be paying off as they enjoy the highest open rates and click rates of all three regions. With strong events-led campaigns, APAC marketers need to ensure they keep their contacts engaged by testing new templates and content formats.

How has GDPR affected email performance in your sector?​ We compared pre-GDPR campaign metrics with post-GDPR metrics for each of the 5 sectors.

Average change from pre GDPR and post GDPR


Financial Services


Other Professional  Services

Real Estate












Open Rate​






Click Rate​






Click​To Open Rate​






Opt Out Rate

It is great to see the effort being made in law firms and financial services to improve data quality and this shows with the positive shift in deliverability rates since GDPR came into effect. Real Estate however has seen the biggest impact of good data management strategies which has brought them on par with the other sectors. The knock on effect of Real Estate having better contact lists is higher open rates. Along with Consulting, they have experienced better email engagement since 25 May 2018. This highlights the fact that GDPR has helped marketers sit up and take more notice of the data they hold and whether they are relevant to their audience. It’s a great foundation on which to build stronger relationships. What Concep experts say:

4. Internal Communication How engaged are your people?






Average​ Open Rate​

Average Click Rate​

Click​To Open Rates​

Opt Out Rates ​

Average Deliverability​


Financial Services


Other Professional  Services

Real Estate







Open Rate​






Click Rate​






Click​To Open Rate​






Opt Out Rate






Regional differences

North America


99.36% 52.12%

98.19% 56.97% 8.20% 14.39% 0.01%

Average Deliverability Open Rate Average Click Rate Average Click To Open Rate Average Opt Out

Average Deliverability Open Rate Average Click Rate Average Click To Open Rate Average Opt Out

4.31% 8.26% 0.01%


Concep clients are increasingly using our platform to communicate with their employees throughout the employee lifecycle. With the battle to recruit and engage talent, and comply with regulatory reporting, HR teams are using Concep to automate onboarding procedures, ensuring compliance, support change programmes and run events. What Concep experts say:

99.50% 74.08% 14.28% 19.28% 0.00% 73,209

Average Deliverability Open Rate Average Click Rate Average Click To Open Rate Average Opt Out Internal Emails Sent In 2018

Case Study: B2E gains Buy-In Read how internal communication specialists in the HR function are transforming employee communication and engagement. Click for more

5. Trends in email marketing practices: What makes the difference? As marketers across all sectors look to build on their improved deliverability and better data quality, we look at the small changes that may make a difference to open rates and click to open rates as measures of relevancy and engagement.

A reason to love Mondays (and Sundays too)

The world of work has changed. And we are busier than ever! The lines between office and home are blurred as more people work remotely. People are getting organised and ready for the week by clearing their inboxes on Sundays or Mondays. Marketers take note: it’s not about bombarding people with messages on a Sunday night but an opportunity to tap into new behaviours with new formats and even tone of voice. What’s clear is that if your email is interesting and relevant, the recipient is more likely to open it before the week gets under way.

Open Rates on different days of the week

Sunday 37.64%

Monday 35.01%

Tuesday 30.24%

Wednesday 31.01%

Thursday 31.09%

Friday 29.21%

Saturday 28.75%

The battle for attention; a 5-year view of email open rates on mobile devices and desktop. For the first time in five years that Concep has conducted a benchmark report, we are able to take a longer view on how mobile devices have impacted efforts to get a recipient’s attention. 2016 saw a peak in open rates on mobile devices as more people acquired tablets and smartphones. Interestingly, over the last two years, the trend has been inverted. This may be due to the fact that people are choosing to use a laptop and work remotely. This suggestion is supported by the high open rates on a Sunday. Mobile remains a hugely important channel for legal and professional service marketing and marketers will get the best results when they ensure emails can be viewed, subject line included, on all types of devices.






65.69% 29.49%

58.16% 31.33%

54.65% 34.58%

59.68% 30.79%

65.41% 25.80%

69.18%​ 27.02%

Desktop Mobile

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

Does it pay to personalise?

Only 1.44% of marketers ran campaigns with a personalised field, or included dynamic content in the subject line in comparison with the large majority (96.8%) who opted not to personalise. If you are looking to improve engagement with a highly targeted audience using some form of personalisation can encourage contacts to click. It’s worth testing what works best for your message and audience.

Non-personalised field in subject line

Personalised field in subject line


40.55%​ 6.33%​ 15.61%​

Average​Open Rate​ Average Click Rate​

98.56%​ 31.22%​ 11.68%​

Average Click​To Open Rates​

Non-personalised sender profile

Personalisedsender profile


32.29%​ 3.64%​ 11.27%​

Average​Open Rate​ Average Click Rate​

31.36%​ 3.69%​ 11.77%​

Average Click​To Open Rates​

Questioning the question mark​

There is no silver bullet for crafting the perfect subject line that will get the attention you want. Can asking a question to pique the reader’s curiosity improve open rates?

No question mark in subject line

Question Mark in

subject line Vs.

28.25%​ 3.89%​ 13.78%​

Average​Open Rate​ Average Click Rate​

31.48%​ 3.68%​ 11.7%​

Average Click​To Open Rates​

Dividing the subject line | Here’s the result:​ 16.53% of marketers divided their subject line into sections using a | or a pike. Did it have an impact on email performance?

No pike in subject line

Contains pike in

subject line Vs.

26.57%​ 3.24%​ 12.21%​

Average​Open Rate​ Average Click Rate​

32.30%​ 3.78%​ 11.69%​

Average Click​To Open Rates​

Short or long subject lines: the jury’s out 55.96% of marketers ran email campaigns with subject lines longer than 54 characters with the remaining 44.04% keeping it short and punchy. It is worth remembering that some recipients may see an email subject line first on a mobile device before going over to a larger screen to clear their inbox. That’s why we always recommend getting the message across in as few words as possible - particularly if you are looking for a speedy response.

Short subject line Vs.

Longer subject line

33.65%​ 3.94%​ 11.70%​

Average​Open Rate​ Average Click Rate​

28.94%​ 3.42%​ 11.83%​

Average Click​To Open Rates​

6. How to improve email performance: 10 top tips

03. 01. Personalise emails by inserting the recipient’s name or organisation and the sender’s name, particularly if they are the relationship holder. You won’t know what works until you try.  02. Use A/B testing to see which subject lines or Calls to Action (CTA) your contacts respond best to. Review your distribution lists. Are you sending to contacts who will find your content relevant? If you are not sure what they want, ask them! Send them a survey to fill in or use Concep’s preference manager tool when they sign up to your content. Remember that preference-based marketing is likely to boost your email engagement. Check your contacts’ email scores. A low email score reflects a lack of of email engagement. Consider what action you want to drive from your communication and the number of emails you have sent them. Does the score reflect the importance of their relationship with your firm? If not, what can you do differently? 04.


Use the button functionality within Concep to highlight your Calls to Action – not images. Images are never a good substitute for buttons as they won’t load automatically in the inbox. 

06. 07.

When using images, make sure you have a balanced text to image ratio.

Remember to support all your Call to Action buttons with a written text link. Recipients sometimes need a nudge to find the link to click on. Always position your CTA in the top third of the email so the recipient does not have to scroll to find it.  Keep your email copy crisp and to the point. Include a content teaser or headline linking it to the full article on the website. That way you drive traffic to your website and more likely to engage the reader with additional content.


09. 10.

Use the benchmark for your sector as a guide but don’t forget that every firm is different: different content, different contacts. It’s about continually improving on your campaign’s “personal best”.

Learn to work smarter. Sign up for Concep’s free Webinar Wednesdays, use the Knowledge Base articles and ‘how to’ videos and engage with us on our LinkedIn Knowledge Forum Peer Group.

Find out how our client experience programme is making Concep users happier and more efficient. Click for more


There is no doubt that regulation is a key driver in making marketers more aware of their approach and practices when it comes to email marketing. Whether it is GDPR or sector-specific compliance requirements, we’ve seen the positive impact of better data quality and management. The results should be enough to prove to all sectors that careful data management and contact consent makes good business sense. The results of this benchmark show that marketers need to become bolder when it comes to testing what works for their audience. Too few marketers are trying personalisation techniques or making changes that may have an impact on a particular campaign. With change being a constant in today’s working world, it’s imperative that we don’t accept “best practice” and strive for continual improvement. Finally, marketers need to embrace the power of reporting and make it their aim to understand what they are looking to achieve and how best to achieve it. Concep clients have access to a selection of time- saving reporting options that will help them improve performance on a regular basis. We encourage clients to set aside time to attend our free monthly webinars on how to get the most out of the platform. They can also sign up team members to get monthly emails with advice and tips. When it comes to email marketing in professional services, it is not about changing the game, it’s about playing the game better and winning more, more often. That is what makes the difference.

For more information about Concep’s B2B relationship marketing technology solutions for legal and professional services visit

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