If there’s one marketing channel that works for both the big boys and the newcomer-on-the-town equally well, it is email marketing. Long relegated to the backbenches of marketing tactics, research now shows that email marketing is as effective, if not more, than most other marketing methods.

Data shows that email marketing offers the highest ROI among all digital marketing tactics clocking in $44 for every $1 spent on it. It’s no wonder then that, email marketing was voted the most regularly used digital marketing platforms among respondents of this survey by Gigaom:


And yet, simply too many marketers see little success from this workhorse of marketing tactics. What are they doing wrong? Or rather, what are successful email marketers doing right? Let’s find out.

1. Segmentation

The days of mass email blasts are long gone. Today, relevance is the name of the game if you want your users to take your business seriously. So stop sending out emails about the latest deals on hair extensions and blow dryers to your balding male customers.

Factors like whether a customer opened your email or not, clicked or not, last purchase date, geolocation, etc. are excellent places to begin your segmentation roadmap. A good email segmentation tool such as GetResponse will allow you to create customer segments based on a combination of profile information and behavioral data.

Don’t forget, segments are not static and need to be updated on a regular basis. An email with content that is aimed at reviving dormant customers will fall flat on a user who recently started buying from your business again.

2. Personalization

Shakespeare downplayed the importance of names by claiming that a rose by any other name would be as sweet. Clearly he was not called Robert Frost or William Wordsworth by anyone.


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The importance of personalization cannot be overstated. Especially when it comes to email subject lines, the more personalized your subject line, the higher are the chances of a user opening the email. This piece from Marketing Land shows that personalized emails achieve 6 times the transaction rates that mass emails do. That figure alone would send marketers like me running towards my CRM and the company behavioral psychologist.

You can “hyper personalize” your emails with real-time, relevant content using an email recommendation engine such as Avari.

3. One Message per Email

An email newsletter offers you undivided attention from your prospects unlike social media or search marketing. Wasting this captive audience would be doing an injustice to your business. Instead of allowing your users’ minds to wander by offering five different things to talk about each time you email your users, give them one thing that they must buy (or buy into) now. And tell them why. And tell them how.


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Take a look at the email above for instance. It has a clear focus on the new line of cushions from luxury home furnishings retailer Oka Direct. The imagery and copy both reinforce this message. The red button in the middle (call to action) too encourages an immediate action by subtly encouraging you to “Shop Cushions” instead of the more typical “Buy Now.” The email does mention other actions that a reader may take, however, these are deprioritized and placed at the very end, in small font.

4. Recognizable Layout and Design

An important aspect of building trust and helping your emails be delivered to a full 100% of the time is by becoming a familiar sight in your users’ inbox. The fact that you stick to a standard color palette and a single unified layout helps users remember your business better, leading to higher open rates and click rates.

The other benefit of a familiar layout is that your regular users know where to find what on your email template. A pre-defined spot for social sharing buttons, navigation buttons leading to your home page and similar other visual cues help users interact with your emails in a more fluid and natural manner.

5. Continuous Testing

When in doubt, test. A/B testing is a fundamental aspect of email marketing that most email marketers conveniently forget. By creating multiple versions of the same email or email subject line and testing them against each other on a sample audience, you can arrive at the perfect email that will offer you high engagement and higher conversions.

Let me illustrate this with an example. Online learning company Treehouse found that their CPA (cost per acquisition) was stubbornly stuck at $60 per customer despite various efforts. Finally an A/B test suggested that adding the word “free” to their ad copy might help. And help it did! Their CPA fell by a drastic $17 – that’s a drop of nearly 30%!

6. Mobile Friendliness

Data shows that over 66% of all Americans check their emails on their smartphones. This means not only do your websites have to be geared towards mobile devices, your emails too need to render perfectly on mobile screens.


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There are various things that you can do to ensure readability on mobile, including

  • Create responsive emails that resize to users’ devices.
  • If responsive design is not an option, narrow layouts are the way to go. A width of 320px makes sure that a standard smartphone screen can easily read your email without having to scroll from left to right.
  • Create large buttons and leave enough white space around the text and buttons to prevent users from tapping the wrong spots.
  • Use larger font than normal to help users read your copy without straining their eyes on small smartphone screens.

7. List Maintenance

It is said that a good 25% of your email list becomes defunct every year. This is thanks to the fact that many people change their email addresses, switch jobs, unsubscribe from your mailing list, or simply aren’t interested in buying your product anymore. Unless you keep updating your email lists, you’ll be stuck with a completely irrelevant database in a matter of four years.

Track the movements on your contacts closely and regularly clean up your list to prevent deliverability issues and avoid being marked as spam. A good frequency to perform list maintenance is at least once per week, assuming you send out at least a weekly email to your audience.

Final Words

Harris Interactive found that 81% of US online shoppers are more likely to make additional purchases, either online or in a store, as a result of email campaigns based on their past behavior. A well thought out email marketing campaign has the potential to bring in customers second only to television ads. Not everyone can afford television campaigns. Email though is within everyone’s reach for sure. So why not make the most of it?

Rohan Ayyar

Rohan Ayyar


Rohan Ayyar is the social media and content marketing maven at E2M.