Okinyo Mark

Product Strategy

Brand Positioning and Marketing

Operations Management

Executive Leadership


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Okinyo Mark

Product Strategy

Brand Positioning and Marketing

Operations Management

Executive Leadership

The Marketers Guide to Email Marketing: A Futureproof Masterclass

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1. What is Email Marketing?


Email Marketing is the process of using the tools (or attributes) of an email to deliver marketing/sales communication. When I say tools of email, this is what I mean

  • Email Clients: Software that receives and translates your email for readability (Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud Mail, Office365/Outlook, Webmail etc.)
  • Subject lines: Usually the title of whatever email you’re sending
  • From Name: Means through which the recipient can identify (Know who you are)
  • Email Body: The message that is contained in your email body
  • Call-to-Action: The desired intent that is performed by the recipient (Usually an action that has business value e.g “Buy Now”


2. Evolution of Email Marketing

1971 – The first electronic mail is sent by Ray Tomlison

Tomlinson was a programmer working on applications for MIT’s Arpanet project (essentially the start of what we know today as the internet.) He doesn’t quite recall what the message he sent was but says it was most likely “Test123” or “QWERTYUIOP.”

1972 – The first email management system (EMS) is developed

Not long after, Larry Roberts created an email management database. This system allowed people to list, select, forward and respond to messages.

1978 – The first email blast (bulk email) is sent

Only a few years down the line, Gary Thuerk, a marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corporation, sent an email to nearly 400 users on Arpanet, advertising DEC machines.

The result? About $13 million in sales. Today’s marketers would give an arm and a leg to see similar ROI for their businesses. This huge success would usher the age of what is today known as one of the most efficient channels of internet marketing. Consequently, this email is also considered to be the first spam message.    

1982 – The term “electronic mail message” is shortened to “email”

Unlike the Boomers, Generation X preferred life a little simpler. They naturally dropped the term electronic mail message to the much cooler “email”. This was right around the time the smiley face “:-)” started being used. People could now start to place some form of personality and emotion in their digital communications.

1988 – Spam becomes a thing

This was the year the word “spam” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary and defined as junk mail. It was inspired by those who weren’t happy about receiving email blasts that sparked zero personal interest or relevance.

1989 – Lotus Notes launches and AOL recorded the iconic “you’ve got mail!” track

Lotus Notes 1.0, one of the first widely used email software services, was created and launched by Ray Ozzie and Mitch Kapor.

1991 – The internet (as we know it) is born!

The introduction of the internet to the general public really changed everything about everyone’s daily lives, but it opened up so many new doors for marketers. Gone were the days of relying on snail mail to send catalogues to promote products and services. With email, marketers could experience a whole new – and simplistic – way to directly reach potential customers.

1996 – Popular email services begin to launch

After the success of Lotus Notes, companies began to take notice of its popularity and decided to branch out and create their web-based email database. In 1998, Microsoft developed its Internet Mail, which would go on to be renamed Outlook. The same year, Hotmail launched free email services for the general public. Up until this time, private email was the only form of digital communication. Now, anyone with access to the internet could also create their own personal email address.

Late 1990s – Introduced us to HTML emails taking over plain text emails

Do you remember plain text emails? You know, the ones that consisted of basic, typewriter text and nothing visually captivating? This was the only option up until the late 1990s when HTML emails came about.

The use of custom fonts, colors, graphics and formatting changed the way messages were perceived. Before, everyone knew what they were going to see as soon as they opened the message. With HTML, it became more of a surprise.

Not only has HTML allowed marketers to help develop company brand awareness, but it also enabled them to make calls to action more prominent and engaging.

2003 – the CAN-SPAM Act was introduced in the US

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was signed into law by President George W. Bush as the nation’s first standard for sending commercial email, requiring the reduction of unsolicited email efforts. According to Autopilot, it also required that all marketing emails include sender details and an unsubscribe link, allowing readers to opt-out of receiving messages they found to be annoying or spammy.

2009 – Responsive emails were introduced

Did you know that mobile opens accounted for 46 percent of email reads in 2018? Webmail opens made up 38 percent, while 18 percent were desktop opens, according to Litmus. None of this would’ve been possible without the introduction of responsive email in 2009, which enabled marketers to optimize their emails for every user no matter what device they use to check their inbox.

Present & Future Predictions:

  • The launch of Apple’s iOS 15 and the Mail Privacy Protection feature has been well documented since mid-2021. However, it appears to have only increased email open rates and leading to a decline in click rates by a similar margin due to emails being automatically marked as opened as apple downloads the entire email and tracking pixels. Marketers need to continue monitoring their metrics and looking into what is affecting opens and clicks outside their own optimizations.
  • New Privacy Regulation Won’t Dramatically Impact Email: Email marketing is uniquely positioned to weather the storm of many types of data privacy regulation in the future due in part to the fact that it relies on arguably the most valuable piece of first-party data: the email address. While various marketing channels may be disrupted by a renewed focus on behavioral targeting or the use of various types of third-party data, email marketing is less likely to be as heavily impacted. It also helps that email marketing already has the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 in place, which created a very specific set of guidelines for email marketers to follow in their campaigns. With that law in place for so long, email marketers already have plenty of experience in operating within a set of rules and regulations and doing it successfully, whereas for other channels, this is somewhat new territory to navigate.
  • Machine learning, AI and cloud-based technology will change the face of email marketing. As in most industries today, machine learning and artificial intelligence are becoming a major part of email marketing. Advances in both forms of technology have made marketing automation a possibility, tailoring messages to an intended audience based on customer data.
  • Interactive email will more easily bridge the gap to a sale. We could start seeing emails that look and operate like their own miniature web experiences with features like enticing video content, interactive calls to action, and in-email instant messaging, email marketing materials could become portals to products or services.
  • Captivating storytelling will drive email marketing. With a users being hit left-right-and-center with advertising noise wherever they look, it is no wonder lots of social media sites are now pivoting to having short videos and stories to compete for users attention. As such email marketers will need to improve on their storytelling, content writing and presentation since the inbox is no different article.

The effects of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection

While it may not seem like much on the surface, those swings in average open rate across all industries (up 3.5% year-over-year), and click-to-open rate (down 3.6%) are pretty significant! And it turns out, there’s a reason for it. For those unfamiliar with Mail Privacy Protection, it’s a new privacy feature, released by Apple in September 2021, that gives users more control over their data when it comes to their inbox.

MPP effectively disables open rate tracking by pre-fetching (or downloading) an email and its images (including each email’s tracking pixels). By doing this, MPP is marking an email as opened, artificially inflating open rates for each user that has opted into the new feature. For a deep dive on MPP, be sure to check out Campaign Monitor’s guide.


3. Does Email Marketing Work?

ROI in Americas & Asia Pacific

Email marketing continues to be unmatched when it comes to the return on investment it drives. A whopping $36 for every $1 spent” – Litmus 2020 Report

Hubspot Email Marketing Stats (2020)

Industry Email ROI
Media, Publishing, Events, Sports & Entertainment 32:1
Software & Technology 36:1
Marketing, PR, & Advertising 42:1
Retail, Ecommerce & Consumer Goods 45:1

ROI in Africa:

It’s the best ROI for any digital medium in SA: Touchbase reports in 2019 that Email marketing has the best return on investment (ROI) of any digital marketing channel measured in their research. Clients  reported an average ROI of 30:1 when using targeted email marketing.


4. Types of Email Marketing

Different email types serve different purposes, ultimately your strategy defines what the right investment is when it comes to what kinds of emails to send

Newsletter Emails:

TVs and Radio Stations usually have the news bulletins running at set (regular) intervals (can be time or day). The purpose for this scheduling is so that consumers can know what time to tune in so that they can get their updated news. A newsletter is essentially this. It is communication about your company/product that you send to your email subscribers at set intervals updating them about the latest and greatest. It can serve both informational and commercial purposes. 

Newsletters typically have lower open rates due to “inbox chatter/clutter/noise”. On average these are the industry benchmarks relating to email newsletter performance

Transactional Emails:

A transactional email comes into play whenever a customer (or potential customer) takes an action that has potential business value …and… they expect to receive some form of communication/acknowledgement from your company. Examples can be:

  1. An account creation
  2. A product subscription
  3. Completing or Not-completing a purchase
  4. Signing up for an alert
  5. Adding items to a shopping-cart/wishlist
  6. Unsubscribing from an email list
  7. Becoming an inactive subscriber

The main difference between a newsletter and a transactional email is that transactional emails are usually 1:1 since they are triggered (automated) based on an individual user/customer/subscriber action while newsletters are usually broadcast/sent in bulk.

Relationship Emails: 

Successful businesses are able to stay ahead because they nurture relationships with their customers by encouraging interactions and a feedback-loop with them. Relationship emails provide an opportunity to create more value for the customer through the creation of superior products and extending that aid in the extension of their customer lifetime value

Examples of Relationship Emails can be:

  1. Win-back Campaigns – Re-engagement
  2. Double Opt-in Campaigns (For when you get your lists offline)
  3. Lead nurturing emails (Welcome Series for new subscribers)
  4. Rewards Emails (For when they complete certain milestones such as average order value, staying active for x months, when they refer a friend, etc)
  5. Anniversary Emails (Anniversary of their first registration, birthday, first purchase, 
  6. Feedback Emails (Customer Experience & Product Surveys & NPS Scores)

Promotional Emails: 

These are bulk/broadcast email communications that are sent out without any prior set schedule. They can be to promote sales (Flash sale), a breaking story, or sponsored by third party clients (cold emails). It is advisable to keep this on a minimum and only send communication that is relevant to your audience/subscribers and their interests. Send too many and you risk damaging your list integrity due to the high volume of  unsubscribes necessitated by receiving unsolicited emails.


5. Choosing the Right Email Marketing KPIs

Building a quality email marketing program takes time and in any business environment, time=money. Therefore it is of utmost importance for email marketers to set and track metrics that create value for them and the businesses they support. Outside of the many email marketing metrics & KPIs that exist, these are the ones I would focus on and why:

  1. Deliverability: What percentage of your emails are making it through spam filters implemented by the different email clients? 
    1. I love it because it is usually a very good indicator of your sender reputation and will generally let you know if you should continue investing in email or not. If most of your emails are going into spam, then you need to re-strategize
  2. Delivery Rate: What percentage from the total number of emails sent were actually delivered to real email addresses (Deliveries/Total Sends) x 100%
    1. It gives an accurate representation of “real users” in your database. You should aim for a delivery rate greater than 98% always or your sender domain will be flagged for sending unsolicited emails or spammy behaviour. This is the primary reason why buying lists and cold emailing them is a bad idea
  3. Open Rate: The percentage of unique opens compared to total sends (Unique Opens/Total Sends) x 100% 
    1. Informs of what percentage of your email list is engaged with your communications so that you can compare against the industry benchmark
  4. Click Through Rate: The percentage of clicks compared to total sends
    1. Informs of what percentage of your email list is active/interacting with your communications so that you can compare against the industry benchmark and your own core business KPIs
  5. Conversion Rates: Calculate this how you want but typically how many clicks led to a completion of an action with business value (reading an article, making a purchase, signing up for an announcement etc)


6. Benchmarks for Key Email Marketing KPIs/Metrics

Different industries have different results when it comes to email marketing. In 2021 Campaign Monitor analyzed over 100 billion emails sent across their platforms in 2021 to give the most comprehensive benchmark data and email marketing stats to date.

Benchmark by Industry 2021

Industry Open Rate Click Through Rate Click vs Open Ratio Opt Out Ratio
Advertising & Marketing 20.50% 1.80% 9.00% 0.20%
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Hunting 27.30% 3.40% 12.50% 0.30%
Consumer Packaged Goods 20% 1.90% 11.10% 0.10%
Education 28.50% 4.40% 15.70% 0.20%
Financial Services 27.10% 2.40% 10.10% 0.20%
Restaurant, Food & Beverage 18.50% 2.00% 10.50% 0.10%
Government & Politics 19.40% 2.80% 14.30% 0.10%
Healthcare Services 23.70% 3.00% 13.40% 0.30%
IT/Tech/Software 22.70% 2.00% 9.80% 0.20%
Logistics & Wholesale 23.40% 2.00% 11.70% 0.30%
Media, Entertainment, Publishing 23.90% 2.90% 12.40% 0.10%
Nonprofit 26.60% 2.70% 10.20% 0.20%
Other 19.90% 2.60% 13.20% 0.30%
Professional Services 19.30% 2.10% 11.10% 0.20%
Real Estate, Design, Construction 21.70% 3.60% 17.20% 0.20%
Retail 17.10% 0.70% 5.80% 0.10%
Travel, Hospitality, Leisure 20.20% 1.40% 8.70% 0.20%
Wellness & Fitness 19.20% 1.20% 6.00% 0.40%
Average Totals 21.5% (+3.5%) 2.3% (-0.3%) 10.5% (-3.6%) 0.1% (-)

Benchmark by Region 2021

Region Open Rate Click-Through Rate Click-to-Open Rate Unsubscribe Rate
AMER 21.00% 2.20% 10.40% 0.10%
UK 22.90% 2.40% 10.60% 0.10%
EU 22.10% 2.20% 10.70% 0.20%
APAC 22.40% 3.00% 13.40% 0.30%


7. Understanding Your Email Subscribers

Gone are the days when having a list of 1 million emails in your database was something to brag about as a business because the competitive landscape has drastically changed. The inbox is a very brutal battleground for attention and you want to ensure that all your email marketing investments pay off. For this purpose it is very important to understand how “healthy” your list is by measuring their level of engagement so that you can build a successful email & list management strategy for them. I usually do this by grouping my users into 4 buckets:

Active Subscribers: 

These are the subscribers who repeatedly open and click on your emails and get to your landing pages/website within a set period of time. They are the most likely to convert into paying customers.

Passive Subscribers: 

These are your subscribers who only read your emails in their inbox without taking any call-to-action. Specifically, they open but they do not click. They give the first real indications of how long it takes for customers to start churning from your brand 

Disengaged Subscribers: 

These are your subscribers who used to open/click but have stopped doing so over a set period of time. They can inform you on what your average Customer Lifetime Value is (CLTV)

Dormant Subscribers: 

These are your subscribers who have never opened your emails since you started sending your communications to them. They create no real value by having them in your lists and actually hurt your email deliverability.

NOTE: To determine which of your subscribers to include into which bucket, you need to take into account your business model because it determines the following:

  1. Average Order Value: Your product vertical determines the repeatability of transactions by a single user based on what they’re buying. If it is too expensive, then perhaps repeat purchases are not as frequent etc.
  2. Frequency of Email Sends: How often do you send emails to this recipient? Daily? Bi-weekly? Weekly? Monthly? Etc. This represents the amount of opportunity the subscriber has had to interact with your email communications
  3. Time Lapse/Duration: When you combine this with the first two, you’re able to make a good judgement on when a user should move from one bucket to the next bucket


8. Email Marketing Strategy & Building an Email Program from Scratch

Choosing an Email Marketing Service Provider/Vendor

We are going to breakdown which things to look for when choosing an email service provider and I am going to put them into two buckets:

  1. General Features: What you get out of the box depending on which vendor you go with. Typically I look at the following:
    • Robust List Management Capabilities: Can we set our own user variables for segmentation and personalization or are we stuck with the options available out of the box?
    • Campaign Management Module: Ease of scheduling campaigns for the primary user.
    • Template Engine: Can we build our own dynamic templates or are we stuck with what is provided out of the box?
    • Transactional Emails / Automation Flows: Is it possible to automate sends, can we build drip campaigns based on what the user does on our website/mobile app?
    • Robust Reporting Capabilities: Can I generate multidimensional  reports on campaign, lists, and engagement performance?
  2. Quality of Life Features: These are additional features that make the work of an email marketer easier when it comes to managing their day to day. These could include but not limited to:
    • Lifecycle Optimization Capabilities: Am I able to use machine learning to send much more intelligent, relevant, and personalised content to individual subscribers?
    • Documentation: In case i need to get under the bonnet to unlock more features, does the platform have public documentation that i can dive into
    • Dedicated Support: Do I have access to an Account Manager that can support incase of technical issues or budgetary constraints?
    • Steepness of the Learning Curve to Mastery: How long will it take me to master how to use the tool to its full features
    • Pricing Model: Some vendors charge by the volume of monthly email sends, some charge by number of subscribers, others charge by both. What works for my business in the current space and time?
    • Sandbox/Staging Account: A dummy account where you can run tests and set up new user flows before you roll them over to live users
  3. Nature & Size of Your Business: The size of your current business from a customer and operational perspective looking at the following criteria:
    • Number of Subscribers: How big is my current list size? Thousands, Hundreds of thousands? Millions?
    • Subscriber Growth Rate: How many new subscribers am I getting month/month?
    • Team Expertise: How skilled are my email marketers? Are they specialists or generalists? Do they have internal tech support or are they doing all the set-up on their own?
    • Budgets Available: How much is the business willing to invest in email as a channel that contributes to the bottom line?

Decision Making Tool for Selecting an Email Service Provider:

Criteria: Sender Type Pricing Model Client Support Automation A/B Testing Learning Curve In-house Talent Lifecycle Optimization Analytics/Reports
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Large
  • Trial
  • Starter
  • Fixed
  • Flexible
  • Available
  • Not Available
  • Possible
  • Not Possible
  • Possible
  • Not Possible
  • Friendly
  • Intermediate
  • Difficult
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • Possible
  • Not Possible
  • Novice
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced


9. Setting Up an Email Marketing Program

So now you have settled on which vendor you’re going to go with so what next? The following outlines the template for how you could go about it:

Creating a Roadmap:

It’s going to be most likely that your project is going to involve a number of stakeholders and you will need to manage their expectations because you can not do everything at once:

  • CEO: You will need them to approve the budgets
  • Tech/Product Team: You will need them for technical integrations with your website or mobile app, so you will need to align on when they can add you to their sprint cycles
  • Designers: You will need their help to create email templates that represent your current brand style guides, so that you can code the new templates
  • Your HOD: You will need him/her to buy you time to set things up and to cover you in case of any unforeseen challenges

Once you have rallied all these people, go ahead and create a gantt chart that shows the entire pipeline of project start and finish timelines and what will happen in-between.

Account Configuration:

This is where you configure the account settings for each brand that will be using the tool. Account set-up can be grouped into two criteria:

  • Basic Account Set-up: Here you set up basic information to enable you start sending emails
    • Business Name – Name of Business
    • Billing Details – For Invoices and Payment Processing
    • Account Timezone – Helps with Automated Email Sends
    • Access Control – Who can access what?
  • Advanced Account Set-up: This is mostly done for sender reputation management and is best practice for having high email deliverability. 
  • Create Sending Domains: This is the first important step in setting up your email programs for good reputation. Sending domains reinforce the trust your customers have for your brand and helps email clients understand your sending patterns. When selecting a sending domain, it’s key to select a domain that matches your brand and purpose for the message. A few guidelines for selecting a sending domain include:
    • Use a subdomain of your primary web domain whenever possible.
    • Use a subdomain that makes its purpose clear, for example: newsletter.domain.com; broadcasts.domain.com; alert.domain.com; etc
    • Use different domains for different types of mail, for example: separate newsletters, alerts, and order confirmations into separate domains.

Authenticating Your Sender Domains:

Whenever you draft an email, you usually sign off at the bottom with words like Sincerely, Best, Kind Regards etc. followed by your name. Similarly, email clients need to have a way to understand/know where the email is coming from before even the recipient opens it. 

This is where sender authentication and email signing comes into play. Your website server has a Domain Name Service (DNS) which maintains records that help other devices identify it over the internet. You will therefore need the help of your systems administrator to configure the email authentication records for your email servers. Email clients usually recognize 3 methods of sender verification:

  • DKIM (Domainkeys Identified Mail) Authentication: A standard email authentication method that adds a digital signature to outgoing messages. Receiving mail servers that get messages signed with DKIM can verify messages actually came from the sender, and not someone impersonating the sender.
  • SPF (Sender Policy Framework) Authentication:  SPF specifies the mail servers that are allowed to send email for your domain. Receiving servers can verify that messages appearing to come from a specific domain are sent from servers allowed by the domain owner. This helps to protect your domain against spoofing and prevents your outgoing messages from being marked as spam by receiving servers. 
  • DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) Policy: Spammers can spoof your domain or organization to send fake messages that impersonate your organization. DMARC tells receiving mail servers what to do when they get a message that appears to be from your organization, but doesn’t pass authentication checks, or doesn’t meet the authentication requirements in your DMARC policy record. These can be delivered normally, rejected, or sent to spam

Configuring these will help email clients see you a little different to other bulk email sensors that have not configured the same. Free Tools : https://www.mail-tester.com/spf-dkim-check 

  • Set up a Privacy Policy Page & a User Preference Center: In today’s world, privacy is becoming increasingly important and your customers need to feel like they have control over what information you collect about them and they can choose to opt-in or out of your communications as a result. This is governed by the CAN-SPAM Act (a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations). It is in your very best interest to have this configured correctly. Having these two pages will go a long way in giving email clients a positive signal that you are indeed a reputable sender and not a spam sender.
  • Have an IP Warming Strategy in Place: IP warming is the process of methodically adding campaign volume week-over-week (or dependent on your sending frequency) to a new address to establish a positive sending reputation. The more consistent you are with volume, frequency, complaint and bounce levels, the faster you will establish a positive sending reputation.

If you’re a high-volume sender (>100,000 sends), it will benefit you to have a dedicated IP address for your email sends (liaise with your email vendor to get a dedicated IP). That way, email clients will know exactly what to expect for your sending patterns, and your reputation will not be affected by other senders. 

  • Create a Bounce Domain: Not every email you send will reach the inbox. Failure to deliver is called bouncing and it usually occurs because of two main reasons:
    • Address does not exist: I.e either the subscriber gave you a bogus email address or they added it with a typo
    • The recipient’s mailbox is full: Sometimes your recipient has exhausted his available memory and their mailbox cannot receive any new mail. The email sender will try to deliver the email a number of times after which it will stop sending. 

Just like your sending domain, your bounce domain (also known as the “Return-Path” domain) has a reputation with many email clients. While configuring a separate bounce domain isn’t strictly necessary, it offers many of the same brand and deliverability benefits as establishing your sending domain. It also may give you more flexibility in the future if you need to reconfigure your sending infrastructure.

Resource: Sender Score

  • Create a Custom Tracking Domain: Have you ever wondered how your email service provider is able to detect opens and clicks? They do so via having tracking domains. Basically each email link will be encoded and when the user clicks on it, it will be redirected through a tracking domain (to detect a hit) before it is decoded and forwarded to the right link.  

A recipient is able to see this domain if they mouse over a tracked link in an HTML message or if they receive a plain text message. If correctly branded, it’s also an important signal of trust for your recipients. And, like sending and bounce domains, a tracking domain carries a reputation with many email clients.

  • Maintain an Exclusion/Suppression List: These are  lists of addresses that should not receive your email communications. Suppression

lists generally contain bounced emails, unsubscribers, and subscribers who have marked your emails as spam. Sending emails to subscribers who should be in your suppression list will have an immediate negative impact on your sending reputation and your deliverability. For this purpose, you should consistently maintain this list and update it on the regular. This is especially very important if you want to change vendors.

Database/List Configuration:

Now that you have completed setting up your account. You will need to define your list management criteria. The goal is to do it once so that you can have a clean account and protect the integrity of your lists. These are the things you can look at:

  • Defining a Master List of Variables: This is where you will define what types of information you want to collect about your users. This can be broken down into:
    • Mandatory Variables: The minimum number of fields/variables that must be present and have values in each instance that a new email enters the database. They are great for segmentation
    • Optional Variables: Additional variables that get populated as your subscribers continue to engage with your brand. They are great for personalization
  • Defining List Modification Rules: Now that you have the structure for how subscriber information should be stored in your database, you want to specify how that information will be updated. You will need to specify the following:
  • Tighter Access Control: Who can upload lists? Who can download lists? Who can update and delete lists?
  • Update Rules: Do new inputs override the master or does it only update the missing fields?
  • API & Postbacks: Sometimes you might want to update your subscriber information in real-time/dynamically based on specific actions they take on your website/application. For this purpose you will need your website/application to communicate directly with your email program and for the two systems to relay information between each other so that the data is consistent across both platforms. This is done via APIs & Postbacks. You will need a developer for this so that they can configure the automated scripts for you.
  • Defining Your User Journeys: People subscribe to your email list while they might be at different stages in their buyer/customer journey. As a smart marketer, you want to ensure that you are sending them the relevant information at their stage of the funnel and you’re nurturing them to take actions that have the desired business value. Defining the steps it takes to move from one stage of the funnel to the other and what should trigger an email communication will help you create automated flows/journeys/drip-campaigns that are tailored to a specific subscriber’s behaviour.
  • Uploading Your Lists: This can be two-fold: 
    • If you’re moving from one system to another and you already have them in an export, you want to segment the list by importing your most active and engaged subscribers first, then to the least engaged. Do not import dormant subscribers. This process is called IP warming and it gives email clients an opportunity to recognize you as a reputable sender.
    • If you don’t have a list and you’re starting from scratch, all you need to do is to ensure that your sign-up/subscription forms are submitting registrations onto your database

Setting Up Your Email Template Engine:

Your email template design and structure will largely depend on the type of email campaign that you will be sending. You want to ensure that you maintain consistency with your branding so that your subscribers can know that the emails are coming from you. Depending on the capabilities of your email system, you can either choose to:

  • Code your email templates from scratch
  • Customise the pre-built email templates to your liking

This will ultimately depend on the time you have on your hands in addition to your level of skill. For those who want to build email templates from scratch, here are some free resources that you can use to learn more on how to code good email templates:

After coding your emails/setting them up, you need to ensure that they will display consistently across multiple email clients. For this, you can use simulation tools like:


10. Optimizing Your Email Marketing Campaigns

Like any other marketing field, you want to ensure that you’re sending the right message, to the right recipient, at the right time, for the desired outcomes. This means that you need to continuously test. Here are some areas you can test 

  1. For Deliverability: Compare your list sign-up sources to see which ones are giving you the best quality leads. Put more resources on those ones. 
    • Send using custom authentication
    • Using double rather than single opt-in
    • Make it really easy to unsubscribe
    • Avoid using URL shorteners
    • Don’t send from a no-reply email address
    • Don’t send emails with too many images
    • Don’t send to stale email lists
    • Never use purchased email lists
    • Remove invalid email addresses
    • Use confirmed opt-in
    • Never use free webmail addresses
    • Avoid spammy content
    • Suppress previous bounces
  2. For Opens: You can experiment with send time, subject lines, and from names
    • Improve your subject lines
    • Test subject line length, tone, and content
    • Optimize for previews with preheader text
    • Test sender name and email address (ex. company name vs. CEO’s name)
    • Test send day, send time, and send cadence (ex. daily vs. weekly)
    • Ensure relevant content through personalization and segmentation
  3. For Clicks: You can experiment with send times, content, layouts, formats, and call to actions
    • Create stronger segments so you always send the most relevant content
    • Refresh your templates or start over by building a new a custom template
    • Maintain your brand voice throughout your messaging
    • Improve your calls-to-action through clear copy and better design
    • Offer strong incentives to capture subscribers’ attention
    • Ensure your subject line accurately reflects the content of your emails
    • A/B test what works
  4. For click-to-open rate (CTOR): A measure of message relevance. Make your links, layout, copy, and overall content interesting
    • Make sure your email renders well across devices
    • Collect the right data to segment and personalize
    • Optimize your email design and copy
    • Include an irresistible, easy-to-click call to action
    • A/B test each email element individually
    • Automate your emails to scale what works
  5. Reducing Unsubscribes: Remember that some list churn is normal and healthy
    • Grow a healthy list from the start
    • Ask subscribers why they stopped reading
    • Use automation to build long-term brand engagement
    • Segment your audience to send more relevant emails
    • Re-engage your audience to maintain list hygiene


11. Careers in Email Marketing

Digital marketing is a fairly wide field and most times, and yes, it is very possible to build a career in email marketing but first, we can look at 3 areas based on my experience:

Is Specialization Worth it? 

This question largely depends on your geographical location as well as the number of jobs available to you. In Africa, most companies prefer marketers who are generalists and can do more than one discipline well. In the western world, email marketers are in very high demand. 

How much do Email Marketers earn? 

This is also a question that not only depends on your level of experience but also on your locality and the jobs available to you

Certifications and Cost:

This one depends on your strategy.

  • Hubspot
  • Salesforce
  • Marketo

Ultimately what will depend on the investment you should make is mostly going to be guided by your objectives at that given time. Esther way, we cannot deny that email is one if not THE best marketing channel that a marketing team can invest in.