Email Success Requires Well-Educated Marketers

A colleague on an email discussion group posed a version of this question recently: "Who is responsible for educating email marketers?"

Is it their email service providers (ESPs)? Their employers?

Many ESPs provide vast educational resources such as Webinars, white papers, studies, client conferences, newsletters, tools and FAQs.

MediaPost and other publishers host email conferences and enable knowledge exchange through columns like this. Industry groups like the DMA's Email Experience Council and the Online Marketing Summit and countless blogs, communities and even Twitter generate more educational content.

The information is there for the taking; ultimately, it's up to individual marketers and their managers to seek it out.

The more knowledgeable marketers are about the specialized approaches required for success in email marketing, the better for their company and the industry as a whole.

Here's my list of essential areas that email marketers need to grasp in order to run successful programs:

1. Email strategy. Successful email marketing is based on a sound marketing strategy that helps achieve business goals. Know how to create an email marketing plan and program that maximize the channel's capabilities while achieving lifetime customer value, revenue, profit margin, retention and other goals.

2. List-building/acquisition. Key aspects of list-building expertise include list rental, POP displays, co-registration, Web site, landing page and form optimization and more. Some of these activities are unique to email and others not. Regardless, the marketer that can build a growing, high-quality list that produces will have a distinct advantage over competitors.

3. Email design. Email's design requirements differ greatly from those for print and the Web. Marketers don't need to be email design experts, but their designer/programmers or agencies must master email HTML coding, rendering issues, mobile design challenges and content-based spam filters. Make sure whoever produces your emails is an expert in email design and learn what questions to ask.

4. Deliverability. As the sender, you control almost all of the factors that affect your deliverability: authentication, list hygiene, frequency, relevance, content filtering and adherence to ISP email practices.

As a marketer, you must understand the basics in all of these areas (except frequency and relevance, where you should be an expert). Rely on your IT department, delivery specialists at your ESP or outside delivery consultants for more technical aspects of deliverability.

5. Copywriting. As I've written before,  email is not electronic direct mail. In general, email copy is designed to make someone click a link.

People writing for email must understand the ins and outs of subject lines, content and human filters, the impact of preview panes and blocked images and the need for scannable copy. The best training for effective email copy: develop a voracious appetite to read others' emails and test, test and test your own copy to see what works best.

6. Database marketing. Sound database marketing skills are at the heart of email success. Marketers must understand how to use customer data (both explicit and implicit), conduct RFM analysis, create relevant segments and use personalization to drive relevance and conversion.

This also includes understanding the principles of testing, response models and integrating email with other channels such as direct mail and social media. Database marketing is probably the key area on which to focus your knowledge-building efforts.

7. Legal issues. Do you know and understand your country's laws regulating commercial email? Marketers who send to U.S.-based customers must master the nuances of the CAN-SPAM Act. If you market internationally, you need to know which countries require double opt-in, and any data privacy issues that may affect you. Tap into your company's legal resources for expert help.

8. Email trends and best practices. Email is a dynamic channel. Spam filter technologies and email client rendering are changing constantly. Consumer email use is evolving with social media, networks, communities and blogs. Today's inbox is different from 2008 and will change again in 2010.

To keep up with the changes, scour your ESP's resource library and newsletters, attend conferences and workshops, and dedicate yourself to continual improvement.

Did I overlook some skills you consider essential for today's successful email marketer? I welcome your comments.

Until next time, take it up a notch!  



5 comments about "Email Success Requires Well-Educated Marketers".
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  1. John Bruce, July 30, 2009 at 1:52 p.m.

    Good points, Loren! I've been doing email marketing for 3 years but I'm constantly learning and growing my knowledge base and Database Marketing is at the top of my list!

  2. Simms Jenkins from BrightWave Marketing, July 30, 2009 at 3:07 p.m.

    good piece Loren - one of the must crucial (and often overlooked) aspects of a strong email marketing program is education - it is certainly a fundamental part of long term success. Kudos for raising awareness.

  3. Maureen Elsberry from FireDrum Internet Marketing, July 30, 2009 at 4:35 p.m.

    Loren, you have touched based on many key points we try to educate our clients on.

    I think it's important to provide relevant information and education for clients which is why we provide personalized training and strategy tips etc. to each of our clients and will answer any and all questions we're asked.

    But there is a wealth of information on the subject and I think in part it should be part of the email marketers initiative to adapt and learn the best trades and practices as well. This is crucial when they are creating their own content for adapting better practices to keep their unique opens/click through rates increasing.

    Great points thanks.

  4. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International, July 30, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.

    Great post Loren, especially "email marketing is not electronic direct mail." Too many people I teach believe they need to be able to write great copy. Whilst this is important the most crucial aspect is about building a relationship with your list and this can be achieved very quickly if you can move them to a website or a video etc.
    I agree the purpose of email marketing is to get them to 'click' or move onto the next step.
    I have 7 Killer Tips which work, Free download at
    Kurt Johansen - Australia's Email Marketing Guru

  5. Cynthia Edwards from Razorfish, August 7, 2009 at 2:13 p.m.

    Loren, your article came out right after I had made a suggestion to incude a session on the training and education of email teams at the next EI Summit. Thanks for highlighting this important need.

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