16 Things I Learned In 16 Years Of Email Marketing

Email is an ever-evolving channel. As marketers, we are consistently looking at new ways to leverage it — either alone, or in conjunction with other experiences.

But as I look back upon my 16+-year career -- largely focused on this great channel that is email — I thought I would share 16 key things I have learned along the way. Some may be more obvious than others, but the hope is that you find a great nugget in here!

1. Email is a relationship channel — it performs best when there is an actual relationship with the customer.

2. Conversely, email is not a good channel for acquiring customers. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but in general email works much better after the initial relationship has been established in another channel.

3. The word “blast”  in any form, in reference to an email program, is marketing blasphemy. You are basically saying that there is nothing targeted about your program and that little care has been placed in the planning of your program.



4. Your customers are in charge of your program. It is not about what you want to say, it is about what they want to hear from you. If you don’t deliver, they don’t engage.

5. Customers do not see engagement with a brand as a channel experience — so, yes, positive or negative experiences in other channels can impact your email program.

6. Deliverability and inbox placement are paramount to your programs’ success. If the message isn’t seen, how effective can it really be?

7. It is possible to over-target and over-segment your subscriber base. By getting too targeted, you risk eliminating customers who may also have been interested in your message.

8. Blindly following best practices breeds mediocrity. It is OK to push the boundaries of what is considered ideal; you may just find greater success than you could have expected.

9. Delivering great email creative, consistently, can pique the interest of your subscribers and have a positive impact on open rate.

10. The impression an email or series of emails has on a subscriber is a largely overlooked and under-measured metric in email marketing. Nearly every other marketing channel places value on impression, but not email. We should.

11. Executive management does not care about open and click rates. Email marketers need to translate and measure success in terms your management cares about — typically, conversions and/or dollars.

12. Thoughtfully constructing your email message can make all the difference. Think about features, hierarchy and CTA placement. 

13. Email is like a conversation with your customers. You say something to them, and they respond in some way. They expect you to reflect that response in what you say next — just as they would if you were having a conversation.

14. Managing your reply-to experience can be very valuable. Leveraging an unmanaged inbox tells the customer you don’t care. Engage in the conversation when a consumer responds.

15. Blindly suppressing subscribers for lack of email engagement isn’t the best way to address disengagement, though sometimes it is necessary. But remember, email engagement is simply one measure of a customer’s involvement with your brand.

16. Being true to your brand and delivering on that brand promise goes a long way toward keeping your subscribers engaged. Capitalize on the brand you have worked so hard to establish.

3 comments about "16 Things I Learned In 16 Years Of Email Marketing".
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  1. Buzz Park from TruePresence, September 22, 2015 at 3:37 p.m.

    Great article, Kara. A good summary; concise and too-the-point. I think I'll share it on my blog as well. :-)

  2. Neil Mahoney from Mahoney/Marketing, September 22, 2015 at 4:07 p.m.

    Great article -- especially #4.  Far too many sites, just talk AT the prospect, telling us non-entities what they think.  Very few postings ever invite comment or reswponse.  Neil Mahoney

  3. john keating from Databroker Ltd, September 23, 2015 at 12:10 p.m.

    Agree - point 4 is crucial. Even to the extent of not emailing if that is not their preferred medium. Whether business or consumer, everyone are indivuduals and the nirvana is to treat them as such with sophisticated segmentation.

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