One of the key touch points between organizations and customers is email. Organizations have been exploiting this touch point since Gary Thuerk of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) sent out the first mass email to approximately 400 potential clients via the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) on May 1, 1978. Now though, as digital customers become more demanding companies are expected – and even obliged – to build better digital workplaces and better customer experiences. The "science" of email marketing to reach these demanding customers is also becoming more and more refined.

In fact email marketing now no longer starts and stops when a customer makes a purchase. Instead, it should start by winning a new customer and continue through the entire customer lifecycle, increasing the lifetime value of each customer, according to Jason VandeBoom, founder and CEO of Chicago, Ill.-based contact management specialist ActiveCampaign.

This means that organizations need to move beyond email marketing and apply marketing automation best practices that go beyond pop-ups and lengthy newsletters. It needs to develop where businesses can segment their customers and create customized messages that reach the right customer, at the right time.

Emailing Customers

Even still, while email marketing strategies are continually evolving, the principal purpose of email marketing is about creating connections with consumers. One-to-one messaging, highly personalized experiences, and customer-centric strategies are key to email success. Anders Ekman is CEO of V12 Data. As such, he led the transformation of the company into an omnichannel data powerhouse, which the company claims has resulted in double digit growth. He told us that email marketing still has a long way to go and that the drive for better customer experiences built on personalization strategies will continue. In fact, in 2018, personalization will evolve even further into marketing to a “segment of one”.

“70 percent of people already expect a personalized experience and marketers must push the envelope to take personalization even further. Email personalization reduces unsubscribe rates and has a major impact on boosting revenue,” says Ekman

Citing research by email automation provider Silverpop,which is now part of IBM, he also pointed out that 50 percent of consumers unsubscribe from an email list due to irrelevant emails. This impact of unsubscribes adds up to a loss of 60 percent in future lifetime value (LTV). However, when emails are personalized, the average click-through rate is 2.5 times higher with an average increase of 5.7 percent in revenue.

Marketers who realize the full impact personalization can bring to the table are now experimenting with numerous data points to add value to their emails. Marketers can use data such as location, transaction history, demographics, open time, social profiles, and more in their personalization techniques.

Building Marketing Emails

How do you achieve this? Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder and CEO of  Boston- based Mavens & Moguls has this ‘quick fix’ list of what email marketers should be paying attention to. They include:

  • Open rate
  • Subject line
  • Call to action
  • Conversion rate
  • Pass alongs

Bryan Clayton CEO of Nashville, Tn.-based GreenPal – a company he describes as the Uber for Lawn Care – has used these pointers to develop the company’s campaign. He told us that the biggest mistakes they were making with its emails was using company logic as opposed to customer logic.

“You really need to put yourself in the mind of your customer when crafting emails. Run your email copy by friends, and strangers. Get feedback because it’s so challenging to get out of your own skin,” he said. The result is a list of micro conversations that organizations need to engage with. This breaks down as this:

  1. Subject: Just get the opener right
  2. Sub head: Peak their curiosity
  3. Header: Convert that curiosity into interest
  4. Body: Quickly point out what you’re going to do for them
  5. CTA: Get them to the landing page

“The goal of the email is to get a click. Do not try to make or close the sale in the email,” Clayton added.

Developing An Email Strategy

These pointers are not just the result of a guessing game. Carson Tucker is a front end web developer for Bend, Ore.-based Bend Cloud who develops email templates and email marketing plans for clients. He broke the development of marketing emails into six different steps

1. The Subject 

The subject line is the first thing any user will read when they get your email, and it immediately effects the impression they will have. The goal of your subject is to entice the reader into opening your email and go through your content. You want a subject that is intriguing and makes the reader excited or curious to read your email’s content. It is good to think creatively for your subject, but make sure that it can easily be understood what your email is about.

2. The Content

Writing great content is essential to successful emails, but users do not want things that are too wordy or long. Including images is an essential part to creating successful email marketing campaigns. If you have a wealth of great content to offer don’t use it all in your email. Use CTA (Call-To-Action) buttons to send people to the pages on your website with the relevant content. 

3. Personalization

Personalizing emails is no longer just addressing the user by their first and last name, emails should be relevant and provide value to the targeted user. As your user shows more and more interest in a particular subject, you need to target them with content that is relevant to their interest. Depending on what page the user signs up for a newsletter could be an indicator of what type of content is relevant.

Learning Opportunities

4. Optimizing For Devices

The majority of emails are no longer being accessed through Desktop but through all different kinds of mobile devices, meaning not everyone views an email the same. That is why it is so important to make sure your email has a responsive design that looks well on many different screens of different sizes.

5.  Timing and Frequency

After having created your email knowing when and how often to send out emails becomes the main concern of making your email marketing campaign successful. When deciding when to launch your email it is crucial to do it at a time that is good for the large majority of your demographic, not basing it around your time zone.

“If you blast your users with email constantly the less effective your campaign will be. It is important to have a healthy balance of staying relevant to your user while not spamming their inbox. The frequency depends on your content and can be range from 2 emails a week to one a month, or whatever else,” Tucker said.

6. A/B Testing  

Once you have everything close ready and set to go, you can start doing some small scale A/B testing. Changing the subject, from name, content, and send time can all have a big impact in the success of your emails. Natasha Kvitka, Digital Marketing Strategist, at has a few tweaks. She points out that you need to send these emails to a targeted audience - sending just to hit the number of required emails distributed will never work. Your email needs to speak for itself

“You segment your audience to target exactly the segment that is interested in this particular cause, whether you are sending out your holiday promotion, sharing recent blog posts, or announcing webinar or offline event,” she said. You need to customize and personalize your message but simply using ‘USERNAME’ won't work. 

“You can use information on the subscriber's latest purchases, recent interaction with your website, insight about the timezone where they live to ensure that the email is delivered on high opening time,” she added.

Elsewhere, Dave Charest, Director of Content Marketing, at Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact has two interesting additions to the list of ‘must have’s for any email marketing campaign.

7. Measurement

A simple measurement approach will you help optimize your approach and make sure your email is helping meet your business goals. Start by getting goals for yourself in a few key categories - Open rate, click-through rate, bounce rate, unsubscribe/opt-out rate - and compare your results with averages in your industry.

Charest adds that once you analyze your emails' performance, you can see where you need to course correct. "[Organizations] need to look beyond opens and clicks to measure your actual business results after you send your emails. This may mean looking at your other systems, but ultimately you want to see if the emails you send are having the overall business impact you want,” he said.

8. Focus on Growth

It's less costly to get your existing customers to buy more from you than it is to find new customers, so encouraging them to do that is a key to business growth. And email marketing is a sure-fire way to get there. “If you can capture email addresses from your customers, you can more easily turn them into repeat buyers, so never miss opportunities to grow your email list, whether it be training staff to ask for emails at check-out or including an email sign-up form on your website,” he said.