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Email marketing - where to begin?

In today’s world of social media and PPC ads, email marketing can sometimes be an after thought – however as a channel it has a low cost per campaign and the ROI is 4 x higher than any other digital channel, so why wouldn’t you include it?

Look at the way you deal with your own inbox, out of all the emails you receive how many do you read and how many do you delete? Consider the emails you look out for, open and engage with – why? Because they deliver you content and offers that you are interested in and that are relevant to you. 

With 4.1 billion email users forecast to be active by the end of 2021 delivering personalised email campaigns that align with your other marketing activities and channels is the key to creating conversations of your customers and subscribers. 

If you are just getting started, scaling up your email marketing or need a bit of a refresh and boost to your activities, it’s time to get back to basics.

Where to begin

Knowing where to start with email marketing can be a bit tricky and it’s easy to start going round in circles. Subject lines, content, personalisation, what comes first?! Understanding your audience is a great place to begin to help everything else fall into place. 

Gathering information on your audience is essential and creating a customer persona is really useful to build an understanding of customer expectations and experiences. From this customer knowledge, you can determine what content to create and share and the best tone of voice to use in communications. Data can be gathered through a multitude of sources such as Google Analytics, Facebook and Instagram insights to inform persona development and audience segmentation.


When you are designing and building your emails you need to consider how people will receive and view them. Taking a mobile first approach is seen as good practice as is ensuring that the design is responsive to different screen sizes. If you can make an email look good on mobile it will also look good on desktop, but not necessarily the other way around! Testing your email delivery on as many devices and as many different inboxes as possible will help you achieve this – this is important as an email could look fine in Apple mail, but have issues in the Gmail app for example. 

There is also the growing use of dark mode to consider – all colours will invert and the way that images are displayed will change. If you are including logos or icons in your email – using PNGs on transparent background rather than JPEGs will prevent them standing out like a sore thumb. 

The layout of your email depends on what you are sharing with your audience, but using images, colour and effective copy you can lead people down and present them with your calls to action. On this basis the first thing that someone sees when they open an email (‘above the fold’) is really important – it needs to grab their attention and make them want to scroll down. 

There are a few points to remember when you are building an email:

  • Resize your images to max 800px wide to make sure they load quickly 
  • Don’t put all of your CTAs in images in case they don’t load properly
  • If you are center aligning the text be mindful of the paragraph length
  • Spacing should be consistent 
  • If your image:text ratio is too high your email could be flagged as spam

If you need a bit of inspiration, Really Good Emails is a great site to get some layout or design ideas.

Your company voice

Emails are your digital conversations with the customer, whether it is the initial email, one further down the conversion funnel or a post-sale follow up; the way you write and speak to the recipient needs to be considered and tested. This applies to the subject line and preview text as well as the main copy in the email and your CTAs. 

Understanding your audience and your customer journey will help you to word your copy, for example you may want to try more urgent or FOMO CTA wording as you promote a sale or conversion compared to the initial messages.

Personalisation & data

Personalisation has been a growing expectation in marketing for the last few years, and 2021/22 is no different. Personalising copy is easy when you hold customer data such as their first name, but consumers are expecting greater levels of personalisation from companies across all channels (whilst still maintaining their privacy protection). 

There are several really good and inspiring examples of personalisation in email campaign you can check out, such as those by – easyJet, Sephora and GasBuddy.

From images, to links and copy almost everything can be tailored now through dynamic content. But a campaign is only as good as it’s data!! So if you are personalising different aspects of an email make sure you test it with multiple variables and also put in a fall back so that if the data field is empty the recipient will still see something of value to them. 

When it comes to data, you need to make sure you are compliant with how it is obtained and stored. Also be mindful that you may need to correct the case of certain fields so you don’t ‘shout’ at someone in a subject line!

Engagement and performance

Maintaining an awareness of what links are the most clicked and what tone is working the best for you is essential to the continuous improvement of your email marketing. 

As well as the Open Rate and Click Through Rates, you can look at your website interactions through Google Analytics and see how people behave once they leave the email – for example do they stay on a page and read/interact or do you have a high bounce rate?. The easiest way to identify your email recipients on GA is using a UTM string (or query string) and incorporating it into the URLs of your links. Google has a free tool that is easy to use and builds the links for you, you just need to fill in the fields. 

From looking at your email performance and engagement in these ways you can then start to get an understanding of the campaign ROI – which includes brand awareness and exposure as well as monetary returns.

Final thoughts

There are so many things to consider in email marketing and people’s expectations and industry trends are continually evolving. The key things to remember are:

Time for a TEST 

Subject lines, preview text, send times, images, copy, CTAs – anything you can split test, do it. You will learn more about your audience and also get the best possible results out of your campaigns. 

Who is that person?

Understanding your audience and their customer journey with your brand will help you analyse what they are receiving and whether it is the best it could be to get the response and interactions that you want.

Keys, wallet, PHONE 

You don’t leave the house without your mobile, so make sure that your emails can be read by anyone, anywhere.

Privacy or Personalised

You can (and must) maintain customer privacy in line with regulations, but capturing data (in a compliant way) and using it to improve your communications is key.

So with 4.1 billion email users this year – it’s time to get cracking and start connecting with your customers effectively!