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How Dogfish Head brews an 80% email open rate

If you’ve never sampled one of Dogfish Head's cold, delicious brews, you’ve been seriously missing out.

Deemed “America’s most interesting and adventurous small brewery” by one of the world’s most respected beer writers, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery was founded by Sam Calagione in 1995. Since its humble beginnings as the smallest commercial brewery in America, Dogfish has grown like crazy – it now produces almost 250,000 barrels of beer annually, including over 20 styles of beer sold in 31 states and three kinds of 100% scratch-made spirits.

That’s a lot of beer to talk about (and sell), so the brand turns to email marketing.

“We always have the goal of selling more beer to our fans and distributors,” explained PR Coordinator Janelle Miley, "but a huge portion of our email marketing has to do with raising brand awareness. We have a lot of cool things happening here at Dogfish, and we like to make sure people are always in-the-know about what’s going on: where they can track down new beers we’re releasing, the different things we have happening here at the brewery, and so on.”


Creating a lasting connection with smart automation

Dogfish Head connects with new subscribers from the get-go with an automated welcome series.

The first email, a simple “thanks for joining our list” message, deploys right after a new subscriber signs up. The CTA? A call to find Dogfish brews near you. And the results of that first message are astounding: The email boasts an absurd 83% open rate!

The second message deploys a week later and helps introduce new subscribers to the brewery's many offerings. That one averages a 78% open and 22% click rate.

The last one, sent two weeks after signup, is the first that contains any sort of hard sell. It lets subscribers know about all the Dogfish swag they can purchase, and it truly works: This message also averages a 78% open rate, and 16.7% of those subscribers click the incredibly straightforward CTA, “Take my money!"

Janelle said the team has already been impressed with the results of their welcome series. “It’s something we’ve been meaning to do for a while; the whole team was pretty much unanimous when we discussed it as the next thing to add to our email marketing efforts.”

And the simplicity of their email has proven super effective, as well. “One of the newer things that we’ve been playing around with have been the CTA buttons. They’re big, bold, and allow us to point people to the information directly without adding a lot of distractions within the body of the email."


Weird beer + stellar video content = a recipe for success

The team has also seen a lot of success from their emails about their new web series, “That’s Odd... Let’s Drink It!” The six-part series pairs Dogfish founder and president Sam Calagione with celebrities like Mario Batali (two Emma-powered brands collide!), Chris Bosh, and Mac Miller in the pursuit of innovative and downright strange brewing – think BBQ stout.

“The emails about our web series go out weekly to just our Mug Club members, which is a group of our most hardcore fans. Every week we send out just the episode to them with a little synopsis. We’ve gotten a great response from those emails so far, and it’s just helped prove the power of sending ultra-targeted messages to smaller segments of our audience."

The web series itself has been a great example how interesting, fun content – and smart co-marketing – helps raise brand awareness.

"Sam is one of those guys where you can team him up with anybody and it makes for a pretty entertaining video. But to team him up with people from all facets of life and see them work together on a beer – people have been really receptive to that. And it’s helped us reach whole new audiences, especially since there isn’t a lot of overlap between our fans and the fans of the people we’ve worked with."

The “That’s Odd… Let’s Drink It!” mailings have averaged an impressive 58% open and 33% click rate.


The takeaways

1. Make your CTA the star of the show. Big, bold CTA buttons help Dogfish Head drive more clicks.

2. Segment, segment, segment. The smaller the segment (and the more targeted the message), the more effective the mailing. 39% of marketers who segment their email lists experience higher open rates (Lyris).

3. Never market alone. Two audiences are always better than one. Co-marketing efforts lead to audience growth for both parties – a total win-win.