Growth & Customers

How to run a great email marketing campaign

People are more time-poor than ever before, so catching and maintaining the attention of your email audience is challenging.

Often you aren’t just competing against your competitors in order to be noticed, you’re competing against all types of organisations all over the world at any one time. And, gone are the days of the compliant consumer who willingly responds to price promotions and other marketing tactics.

Customers are now far more sophisticated and more demanding and one of the results of an economic downturn is a loss of trust and confidence in large institutions. All of this means marketers and business owners now have to work far harder to attract and retain customers.

Here are my top tips to help your emails stand out through the noise and distraction, so you can engage with your audience.

Understand your target market

Mass-marketing is yesterday’s news. The only way to really connect with your audience is to truly understand their individual challenges. Only then can you use great content to effectively communicate how your product or service can add value.

Use this information to help when crafting messages and ask yourself:

  • How does my product/service or content deliver superior customer value?
  • How does it make my customer’s lives easier or better?
  • What is unique, original or authentic about the advice I’m offering or the product I’m selling?

With market segmentation you can tailor your messages, content and imagery to make it more personable, relevant and interesting to your readers.

Equip yourself with the right email marketing tools

Email marketing services, such as dotmailer and MailChimp, allow you to send large volumes of emails and manage your contact database. Many also contain best practice guides, easy-to-use editors and email templates so you can save time when creating new emails.

Other helpful features allow you to test the appearance and format of your emails on mobile devices. With a large proportion of emails being opened on mobile devices, it’s very important you do this.

Write appealing email subject lines

The subject line is the most important part of your email campaign. You can put a lot of time and effort into creating amazing email content, but if nobody opens your email because the subject line is a bit dull, what’s the point?

Having a deep understanding of your market will mean you are far more likely to get great results first time, however, testing and refining is also important in improving performance. Lean marketing is a concept born out of the Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Iteration, testing and measurement are at the heart of the model and reduce the risk of failure when reaching and communicating with your target audience through various channels.

Test your marketing campaign to learn and adapt

Learn the best time to engage with your audience. Try evenings, weekends, early mornings and weekdays and monitor the number of opens and clicks your communications get over a set period of time. Once you find it, aim to use this time for future communications.

Tips when testing:

  • Be clear about what you want to test and separate your data into equal sized pots
  • Don’t test more than one thing at the same time as this will skew the results. If you’re testing timings for example, keep all of your subject lines the same
  • Where possible ensure your data segments or pots share the same characteristics – for example, they contain the same no of adults of a certain age, in a certain demographic or have the same number of businesses in a certain sector, of a certain size etc.
  • When testing subject lines, be clear about what you want to learn – what word counts work best, does including numbers help, trigger words that grab attention, personalisation v non-personalisation and what promotions work best.

Calls to action and content

From the outset, it’s important to have clear objectives in mind about what you want your email to achieve: for example, is the goal to get people to review your product? Download your whitepaper? Buy from you? Watch your video? Once you know what you want to achieve, keep your content to the point and your calls to action bold and clear.

The first sentence is critically important, especially on mobile devices. This is often displayed in the preview window along with your subject line.

Marketing email best practice tips – a real-world example:

How to write a great marketing email


  1. Ensure the mail banner image is linked to your main piece of content
  2. Call-to-action buttons & links should stand out from the surrounding copy
  3. The first line of copy in the mail content is very important, especially on mobile

Ensure there is a joined up experience and journey from your email onto your web page. Does the journey make sense, does the email and web page appear to be part of the same campaign and from the same company?

Things to avoid when writing marketing emails:

  • Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
    This is a sure fire way to lose customers and generate complaints if you raise their expectations and then fail to meet them.
  • Steer clear of spam. Avoid words in subject lines that will get caught in spam filters and blocked from your intended recipient.
  • Don’t bombard your customers. Emailing too frequently risks creating antipathy and they will unsubscribe. Frequency of emails is a delicate balance and something you will need to test and learn from.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t fall into the trap of having too many calls to action. Decide what you would like your audience to do when they read your email and focus on that.
  • Don’t use poor data. Personalisation will only work if your data is top quality. There is nothing worse than seeing “Jenny, you’re invited to our exclusive event!” (My name is Cairine).
  • Avoid spelling and grammatical errors. Ask your friends or family to proof read for you. If you make mistakes in your marketing it could lead your audience to worry about what other errors you might make!

Finally: remember that you receive just as many emails as the rest of us. Go through your inboxes and really think about what you read, and why – the best exercise you can do is put yourself in the shoes of your target customer.