Email Marketing Success Is About Relevance

Though it may sit in the shadows of today’s shiner marketing techniques, email marketing continues to be an effective, low-cost way for SMB owners to reach out to, inform and retain current customers. In fact, according to new numbers from Forrester Research, email marketing will reach $2 billion by 2014. And that’s a very good thing.

Email marketing is effective for one simple reason: Customers like receiving targeted messages from companies they care about. They like when they’re emailed about things they’ve already shown in an interest in. And that’s where the email thrives.

Email marketing is all about customer retention. It’s about building stronger relationships with customers who already know you and decided that, yes, they want to keep hearing from you. They want to stay up to date on what you’re doing, they want to hear about new products, they want to hear about hot deals, etc. The messages that land in their inbox help keep your company name in their top of mind and force them to constantly be thinking about you. WebProNews took a look at the Forrester Research and quoted an Epilson brand study that said that 84 percent of recipients like receiving emails from companies with whom they’ve subscribed to their newsletter. Eighty four percent. That’s impressive. It’s hard to get 84 percent of people to agree on anything.

But to keep your messages in your customers’ good favor, you have to target them. The study noted that $144 million will be wasted on emails that get lost in inbox clutter due to a lack of relevancy. How do you avoid this?

You have to craft more targeted emails.

Think like your customer: What do your customers want? What’s their mindset? Do they want to hear about upcoming deals and specials? Do they want a reason to head in store? Do they want educational articles to help them deal with a certain task? If you can understand why they subscribed to your newsletter, you can meet their needs and help them to associate positive things with your brand and emailing. Once you know, craft your content around that message. The best newsletters are the ones that are able to inform the reader while also containing subtle sales cues, as well. You want to get your customer out of their inbox and back onto your site. That’s the goal.

Find a good template: The emailing you send should look and feel like your brand. You want a customer to open it up and immediately feel as if the email is just an extension of your site. When you’re designing the template, remember that most people view their email in a preview pane, so make sure all the actionable items are in full view and that it formats properly. Use images and text so that is easy to scan.

Segment your emails: You should already know quite a bit about your customers based on past actions and behavior. Use your analytics program to help you segment and bucket your customers based on those actions. Then, you can create separate emailings with customized content. The more targeted your email is to a customer, the more likely t hey are to act on it.

Find the best day to send: It’s pretty well accepted that emails sent Tuesday-Thursday receive the highest open and click through rate. Things have a habit of getting “lost” on Monday and are ignored Friday and through the weekend. However, there may be a particular day that works especially well for you based on your industry. Test it and see. Most (if not all) email software will offer this kind of tracking information to help you find which days have the higher open rates. Try some sending campaigns on different days and times to see combination provides the best results.

Write good subject lines: This is arguably one of the most important steps to email marketing because the quality of your subject line will determine whether or not your email gets opened. It needs to use a clear call to action that will pique their interest and make them click through to read the rest of it and get the benefit. If no one opens the email, it doesn’t matter what gold is tucked away inside. They’ll never know. Your subject should only be about 6-7 words, but should inform, intrigue, excite and be compelling and actionable enough that they’ll want to know what’s inside.

Know what NOT to do: You absolutely have to make sure that your emails comply with CAN-SPAM regulations. Lucky for all of us, Dawn Rivers Baker gave us all a great refresher course on the CAN-SPAM laws that exist for email marketing and newsletters earlier in the week. I recommend you give those another read.

Has email marketing been successful for you? What are some of your favorite tips?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

43 Reactions
  1. Martin Lindeskog


    Good tips. Regarding the template and your graphical profile. I am using a video email message system called Talk Fusion now and then, in order to send out a personal message that stick out from the regular text message.

  2. Excellent article. Email marketing is definitly important to build relationships on the Internet.

  3. Martin: That’s really interesting and definitely a way to break yourself apart. What has customer reaction been to that? I’m deathly afraid of video but it’s a good differentiator for SMB owners! 🙂

  4. When testing the appearance of your emails make sure you see what they look like in popular web email accounts (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, etc.) as well as desktop clients like Outlook or Thunderbird.

  5. Martin, that’s a great way to keep small-business intimacy with the customer. Great idea!

  6. Excellent tips. I have definitely noticed that there is less traffic to my sites on Fridays than on any other week day. Therefore, I don’t like posting important articles or sending interactive materials on Fridays. I think they get less attention than they deserve.

  7. businessbooster

    Excellent article, so many people get this wrong and i found it a very useful as it there is so much advice about how to do it that some times it is difficult to know what to do!

  8. It is not just email marketing… it is any form of inexpensive marketing. Check out Levin’s Law –

  9. Martin Lindeskog


    I have received great response, including constructive criticism on how I should act in front of the camera! It is a learning process. I want to keep it personal and real in the same manner as my blog “voice” I have been thinking more and more about personal branding after I read Dan Schawbel’s book, Me 2.0.

    Padosa: I agree with your statement. I want to keep in touch with my readers, customers, supporters, business contacts and friends in a “tight” way.

  10. Great article on e-mail marketing Lisa. You did a good job of comparing how we, just like our clients, like to receive targeted e-mails with specials and update. Thanks for the post!

  11. RedHotFranchises

    I would recommend using aweber as your email marketing tool. It’s $20 a month, you can create unlimited email lists, you can set up unlimited auto responders, and set everything on auto and its click of a button easy.
    They have a spam control generator which shows your a color coded spam setting of each email you send out, you simply have to tweak things that get labeled as spam before you send it out, surely worth the monthly fee.

  12. Good article on the basics of getting email right, especially thinking like the customer and their needs and staying out of the spam folders.


  13. Excellent. Based on my own metrics analysis, I have found email signatures are very important. People will click to view your website, when you include it in the signature, and, if you have a proper benefits statements and call to action in your website, then likelihood of a sale increases. So it is worth your time to develop a good email signature.

  14. Good tips for small retailers to follow. I see many that are very well done, that are a clear extension of the brand and customer experience. Some of the best have little to do with product, rather they are structured around the animating passion between retailer and customer.

  15. I could not agree more. It is hard to believe that email newsletters are “old school,” but they are cost-efficient and effective. Provide good info and they will help keep customers and build your business.

  16. Martin – I have been blogging – and vlogging – about video presentation skills and how to improve your performance. You might want to check out some of my entries…
    Lisa – excellent information and not only for businesses. I’m working with nonprofits to launch Internet video marketing campaigns, and emails will be a big part. These tips are excellent for nonprofits as well.

  17. Jeff Machado | Internet Marketing For Coaches

    Email marketing is the best way to tie everything together especially.

    If you’re blogging, doing videos, hosting webinars, writing a free e-book, or any other marketing tactic – there’s just no good way to get those in front of everybody who wants them that’s as efficient.

    But as long as you’re relevant, you can send out emails to this content and it’s getting in front of people who really want it.

    Plus, it fits the need of being measurable. It’s a little bit harder to do that with Twitter.

  18. Great summary, I also think this is how to engage with your customers in social networking as well. One thing people forget is timing and what not to do, be patient and focus on message with the most impact will do wonders when it comes to conversions.

  19. Martin Lindeskog

    Catie Foertsch: I will check out your site for tips on how to create video messages. I will read your white paper, “The Secret to GREAT Video Content.” Talk to you soon again.

  20. Very interesting a useful information, Thank you !

  21. Hey Lisa,
    Great tips. I used to be a customer and an affiliate of MarketingSherpa (never made a dime on my sales), but I genuinely have found their research useful. I wrote a couple of posts about their reports (several that I purchased) and you’re work is spot on here.

    In several customer projects, one of the key things I’ve found is subject lines that are real and genuine. And not using fancy, heavy-load time, email templates and designs. My best click through came from a simple text-based email that offered something valuable and a hyperlink or two. I realize that some businesses are more intense and complicated and product-rich or what-have-you, but I think,

    I’ve found, that people like brevity and appreciate it when you deliver something of real value that helps them in their lives. Now, that can be argued and discussed ad-nauseum, but almost all businesses, if they have a good customer database, has something of real value they can offer and they frequently do not. They send something glitzy, flashy, useless and people hit delete.

  22. One interesting thing we have discovered regarding the day to send email is the difference between end customers and partners.

    As a technology vendor, our goal is to create awareness and interest in our solutions and then when purchase occurs, it can be purchased through our network of channel partners (as well as directly from us).

    We send emails both to end users and our partners (channel vendors who sell our solutions)… we have found that end users respond well in the T2T days (Tuesday to Thursday), while the email to our channel partners is best on Friday. Friday seems to be the best time for these channel partners to have time to read and learn.

    As an interesting reversal, our UK team finds that sending emails to end users on Friday is the best day and the VARs (or channel partner) is sent during the T2T days…

  23. Miles Technologies

    Great points! Also, setting up tracking URLs can help you to determine the success of your email marketing efforts. The email marketing services provided by Miles Technologies provide businesses with targeted, relevant email marketing campaigns for maximum Return On Investment.

  24. I send personalized emails to our email list. We have them sign up both when they come into the restaurant and online. I do not use a template. I have gotten positive feedback from guests who say they love my email. We try and keep our restaurant the same way. We offer fine dining with an at home feel. We like to try and treat each and every guest like our family and friends, and I think I’ve managed to carry that over to my emails. I also try to keep the number of emails I send out very limited because I know I don’t like getting a lot of emails all of the time!

  25. Robert Ratcliff


    Excellent article and will try what you suggest. I alwasys subscribe to my own list to check for spelling and appearance!

  26. Good thing found at your blog about email marketing! Welldone! You have placed a good information on your blog. But, I want to talk something more about email marketing. Actually, it is not too easy as it seems. Most of the people are under misconception that collecting email IDs and using a bulk email sender can make you successful. But it is not. What do you think? Actually, most of the businesses these days are not selling one product. They are selling different products for diff. niches and for the different markets. So, in this case they should have the different lists of bulk email IDs. Email Marketing is being difficult in these days. But still experiments are being done by a lot of people and companies. I usually keep on trying the products of the different companies. Now a days, some wonderful products are coming in the market that can give you great earning opportunities. I do not want my comment considered as spam here so will not discuss about my blog, but if you visit my blog then you will find, how I am using different products for my email marketing these days and making a lot Really! When I found your blog about email marketing, It was great one and I could not stop myself writing comment? But, last thing, I want to ask, Do you offer newsletter to your visitors or not? Do you know any kind of program to make effective newsletter? Waiting for reply – Thanks – Regards

  27. Very useful information. Thanks

  28. great info and i’ll try this out…thanks for sharing

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    great tips…thanks