Let's not kill off email marketing again | Let's not kill off email marketing again | DMA

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Let's not kill off email marketing again


It seems like only yesterday, we were predicting the death of email marketing. We'd flogged it for all it was worth and it was tired. Overused, ignored, under-resourced and declared uncool. We – as marketers – almost killed a twenty-year-old marketing tool that had been nothing but kind to us.

Then, it miraculously rose from the grave.


Well, it turns out social media marketing isn't all it's cracked up to be. Or search engines. Or any of the other channels we were relying on to drive traffic to our website. The problem with internet marketing is that there are thousands of companies trying to make their voices heard in one place. Sure, there are millions of consumers on the internet too, ready and willing to listen – if they can find you.

While we were all screaming for attention on social media and with our SEO, a few clever marketers realised inboxes were being ignored again. They weren't as busy as they were before. If we revamped our approach to emailing prospects, we might just be able to get their attention.

Welcome in the new age of email marketing

The most important thing was that we didn't repeat past mistakes. The days of the mass-marketed, un-personalised email newsletter was long gone. We needed an email design that told our prospect we were interested in them – JUST THEM – even if we were sending the email to thousands of contacts.

When it came to the messaging...

Email marketers started using dynamic content. I don't just mean putting in people's first names either. No, they were using all the CRM data they had to make tailored email marketing communications. They were using article blocks to send the article that they knew their prospect was interested in, based on their previous email activities and website clicks. They were making their mass-marketing campaign appeal to every individual with the automation tools at their disposal.

And it worked. We're now in the age of mass-personalisation. Where adverts on the website are tailored to what you've searched and your newsfeeds are adapted to your interests, your emails can also be tailored to your needs.

Still, it wasn't enough.

Click-through rates were still in the 3% bracket, and we wanted them to be higher. So we started looking at how people were receiving their emails. It turns out, even in the B2B world, almost 50% of prospects were checking their emails on their mobiles. Which brought up a whole new dilemma. The design of the email.

Email design in the 21st century...

For so long, we thought our contacts wanted pretty email designs. For so long we thought we had to have a banner and our logo to show our brand within email marketing. Make ourselves known through visual elements. But – we did that. We mass-marketed with all those visuals. That look was now old and outdated and screamed spam. So what were we to do now, in the new age of email marketing?

Well, we took it back to basics. We split-tested newsletter styles with e-shots, e-shots with plain-text Outlook styles and we found a winner. Despite the fact that contacts claimed they wanted pretty emails, plain-text style performed much higher. Like 25% higher in open rates alone.

When asked why – we just had to consider our prospect's inbox again. Emails, where HTML images were the first thing they would see, took up previous space in the preview section. Instead of seeing a subject line with an accompanying "Hi so and so, can we talk about...", they saw some HTML coding.

As marketers, we had to ask ourselves were the images really worth it?! What was more important? The brand image or the message? Well, when you considered the fact that 66% of contacts in 2016 said that they didn't download images when opening their emails, it kind of gave us the answer.

The best part about moving to a plain-text, Outlook-style email? It rendered well across all email clients, so we didn't have to worry about responsive templates (although, we did that too – just to cover our bases).

What we saw as a result

So now we had a new style, a more targeted approach to email marketing that aligned with what websites were doing. What was the result? Well, we saw click-through rates jump to anywhere between 15-30%, depending on the campaign. We saw our website traffic improve until our email marketing was responsible for pulling almost 50% of our online traffic. And we saw our lead nurturing start to develop into a more robust machine – aligning the differences between an MQL and a SQL.

But just because our email marketing is once again alive and well, it doesn't mean we can sit back and get lazy, marketers. Soon enough, prospects will catch on to our new and improved methods – and they'll want something different. Marketing is now all about staying ahead of the curve when it comes to your future customers – giving them something they don't know they need yet. That means our messaging, our design and our email marketing always needs to be one step ahead. Otherwise, we'll kill it off again.

I guess, what we're trying to say is don't become complacent with your email open, clicks and click-through rates. Because one day they'll drop and you'll need a new strategy if you want to save your email campaigns.

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