The Anatomy of a Perfect Email Campaign

Email-Marketing WordPress

Almost every week there seems to be a new way of communicating with your audience: the internet has made marketing as exciting and fast-moving now as it has ever been.

But there is one tool that has been the most popular for a number of years: people may call retro, but is actually a classic online tool – email marketing.

Just because email marketing has been around for a while doesn’t mean that it is done perfectly by everyone. In fact, most email marketing is of a poor quality and even with low costs, ROI can be disappointing.

So what makes a perfect email campaign? Here are some elements that every email campaign should have:

The recipient:

  • No surprises: Emails that are received as a surprise are rarely welcome. So you should know your audience and they should be expecting to hear from you. You audience should have opted in recently, or even better completed a double opt-in. In terms of frequency, a daily or even weekly email could be too high, it depends on your market – do some research or check your own results

The email:

  • Words and pictures: The email should consist of a mixture of text and images: sounds obvious, but it is important as images do not always display when an email is initially sent. Using a combination will ensure your email is visible (i.e. not all images) and engaging (i.e. not all words)
  • Clear call: You should make it clear what you want the recipient to do. There are lots of emails that don’t make this clear and this is where the recipient gets confused and will most likely delete the email and forget about it. This call to action should include a sense of urgency too, e.g. time pressure of a promotion only being available for one day – but choose your language carefully to avoid the spam filter (see below)
  • Snappy subject line: Avoid emojis or animation in your subject line unless they are very relevant for your audience, and make the subject line enticing. All it needs to do is encourage the person to open the email, no more
  • It’s personal: Being addressed by your name in an email is now an expectation of the recipient. This is so easy to do, there is no excuse!
  • You should be doing everything you can to avoid the spam filter, i.e. your email disappearing into the spam filter with questionable medical and online ‘friendship’ opportunities! So, avoid using block capitals (they just make text harder to read), avoid trigger words like ‘free’, ‘click now’, etc. Most email providers will allow you to test your email for spam. There is a lot more to avoiding the spam filter, but this should give you a flavour of what to avoid.
  • Bad HTML: This is a bit technical, but still important. If you copy your text from Word straight into your HTML email, then I’m afraid you are guilty of this. Run the HTML past an expert if you are in doubt.

The delivery:

  • Get the look: Before you send the email, you should see how it looks on various devices – tablets and smart phones are where a lot of emails are opened, so make sure that your email works on these devices as well as PCs
  • Don’t overwhelm: If you send a large amount of emails all at once, some email providers can use this as a trigger for spam
  • Size is almost everything: The file size of your email is very important. If the file size is too big then email providers will simply not deliver your email, wasting your time and money. Guidelines vary, but I find that a maximum size of 100KB works

The results:

  • You should track these measures as a minimum:
    • Sent
    • Delivered
    • Open
    • Click Through Rate
    • Replies / Forwards
    • Unsubscribe
  • However, you should also invest some time looking at the behaviour of the recipient once they have clicked through to your website – it is likely that this is where the recipient will (hopefully!) turn into a conversion, so this is a key step

Do you have an element that you always look out for before you send an email campaign? What parts of the anatomy have been missed out here? Leave a comment and let me know!

Marketing Personas

marketing personas

marketing personas

There has never been a tougher time to work in marketing. Consumers are becoming more sophisticated and their media consumption is becoming more and more diverse. One generic message to a large audience simply doesn’t work in the age of digital marketing.

But don’t crack out the violins for marketers just yet….! There has never been a more exciting time to be working in marketing – for every complexity there is also an opportunity!

The audiences that you communicate with in a daily basis could be segmented in lots of different ways. But where do you start with this segmentation, and how do I stop before I end up sending individual messages to my audience which will take forever to do? The answer is marketing personas.

The aim of marketing personas is to segment your audience by key demographics, so that you can tailor your communications to the specific audience.

What you should first so is some research. You should identify no more than 5 or so personas to create and they should be differentiated by the key characteristics which are important to your product, service or business – even with a fair amount of marketing automation, 5 is plenty to keep you busy.

You should also consider naming these personas. No this is not fluffy marketing – it is far easier to refer to a persona as ‘Joe’ rather than a 21 year old student, working part time, with concerns over his future employability and the goal of getting a 2:1!

So what demographics should you segment your audience by

  • Age – This can be a big factor when it comes to the medium that you communicate with: SnapChat probably not the best to target over 65s.
  • Location – If you have an international audience, what language should you use, and what time will you send the communication?
  • Gender – Different styles of messages will work better for one gender than another. Also important if you are using an affiliate website to communicate with your audience: does their gender profile match your persona?
  • Income – For a lot of products, this is a key factor as you may need a certain income to be able to purchase a product, e.g. automotive, fashion.
  • Have they bought before – Depending on your product, the audience may spend a significant amount of time in the research phase, so your communication should differ if they are an existing customer or a potential one. You should also consider the reason why they are buying here: is it driven by necessity, status, etc.
  • Personal life – As a dad of a six month old baby boy, it’s fair to say that my priorities have changed over the last year (current aspiration is for a good night’s sleep!). Family life, likes and dislikes for your personas can be tough to draw from data but when they appear, they are particularly useful as many social media adverts can segment by interests.
  • Goals – This may sound a little vague but for some products and services, the aspirations of the persona are very important. What are they looking for in life, and contrasting that, what are their challenges?

Marketing personas may feel like you are getting into the fluffier side of marketing, but you could not be further from the truth. Personas can help make your content strategy, email marketing, social media marketing and any communication you send more effective, driving up your return on investment.

Do you have any persona success stories or tips?

How Not to Use Marketing Automation

Social Media Automation

Social Media Automation

When I am speaking with fellow digital marketers, one of the factors that is often brought up is the lack of time: ‘I spend all of my time updating the website or running reports when I actually want to spend more time developing my marketing’.

Sound familiar?  Well, marketing automation is for you.  It does exactly what it says on the tin (sorry).  For example, you email your prospects informing them of a new product.  For those who click on a link in the email and then go on to download a brochure on your website, you send a thank you email and your sales team get in touch with that prospect.  Doing this manually would be very time consuming, but many email providers offer this automation service.  Remarketing is also an example of a popular marketing automation tool.

But while automation can save you a lot of time and help you to spend time developing your plans, it does need to be handled with caution.  So, what should you avoid when automating your marketing?

Generic Broadcasting – The time that you save with marketing automation should be used to not only improve your content in the first place, but also to personalise through segmentation.  Consumers in all market places are becoming more and more sophisticated, and can spot poorly executed marketing automation.  And their perception is likely to be that you don’t care about the communication.

Being a Spammer – Automated emails are a great way of engaging with recipients who have shown an interest in your email, but you should still spend time focusing on the quality of your communication.  Avoid the usual spam trigger words and don’t go sending an email to thousands of people all at the same time.  Marketing automation can increase the risk of spam, but a good email provider will help you with this.

Bad Time Automating – Automated communications are tricky: you’re writing them at a time where the context of how the communication will be received isn’t known.  Most of the time, this is absolutely fine as you are only scheduling a few hours ahead, but beware of shifting events.  Inappropriate scheduled communications during events can seem very insensitive.  Also, companies that send the same response to all tweets are open to abuse (just ask Bank of America), and quite apart from anything, it is very poor marketing.

Communicating Constantly – With marketing automation, communications with your audience should become a lot easier.  But don’t get carried away.  If it is easier, then the temptation will be to communicate more often, but this is as off-putting for a recipient as communicating poorly.  It can also have a detrimental effect on the size of your audience.

Send and Forget – One of the objectives of most communications is to elicit a response.  Whether that is an open from an email, a click on an advert or a reply / share from a social media post.  So when you are automating, you should always have a process in place for monitoring their impact – you should be able to set this up as an email or smart phone notification.  Ignoring this can result in recipients not talking (positively or negatively) to anyone, something to avoid at all costs.

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Understanding Email Metrics

Email Marketing Metrics

Email Marketing Metrics

In the world of digital marketing, it seems that every week presents a new tool which marketers can use to engage with their audience.  But in all of the excitement surrounding innovation, it is also important to remember your trusted tools which deliver consistently strong results.  For a lot of businesses, this is email marketing.

But how do you know if your email marketing is working well?  You need to have a good knowledge of email analytics, or how you measure your email marketing performance.  Here is a guide to the key metrics and how to improve them.

Delivered Rate:

  • What is it?  If you send your email to 100 people, it is unlikely that all 100 people will receive it.  There are all sorts of reasons for this, but the key one is likely to be your email getting caught in a spam filter.  Not getting very strong deliverability means that your campaign has fallen at the first hurdle.
  • How to improve it?  You should avoid obviously spammy words (“f r e e”, “cheap”, using all capitals, etc.), not send your email to too many recipients at the same time (send in smaller batches instead), and avoid poor quality HTML – these not exhaustive, but a good starting point.

Open Rate:

  • What is it?  Once your email gets delivered, the next stage for the email to go through is to be opened.  Getting your email opened is important, but it doesn’t tell you how long the recipient spent looking at the email or other measures.
  • How to improve it?  There are a couple of factors which influence open rate.  The first is the name of the sender of the email, normally the first thing that the recipient sees.  If this is recognised or welcomed, chances are that the email will be opened.  The next factor is the subject line – the format will depend on your business, market and audience, but it should be short, punchy and enticing enough to encourage opening.

Click Through Rate:

  • What is it?  The point of sending most marketing communications is to encourage the recipient to take some sort of action.  This action may well be to click through to a landing page.  This is a good indicator at the level of engagement in your email, although other measures such as forward rate (the number of people who sent your email onto a contact of theirs) may apply.
  • How to improve it?  This is all about the content of your email, which is dependent on your business and audience.  Ad a general rule, the content should be relevant, personalised where possible, have a clear call to action and be optimised for mobile.

Opt Out Rate:

  • What is it?  This is the rate at which your audience have taken the step to not receive your emails anymore.  This is often a demoralising experience for email marketers, but there are lots of reasons why it could happen: the important question is why.
  • How to improve it?  To find out why someone has unsubscribed from your email marketing, you should ask them!  When they unsubscribe, take them to a page which confirms the action has taken place and ask them to select an option which applies best to the reason for opting out.  Not everyone will answer, but those that do will offer an insight.

In addition to this, you should also measure your on-page analytics: when someone clicks on a link in your email, how do they behave, do they bounce out of the site, etc.  Doing this is a blog post in itself, but spend some time in your analytics package to find out more.

You should also find a means of benchmarking your campaign.  You may be lucky enough to find some research on the web which shows your industry benchmark, but in the absence of that, you should start benchmarking your own campaigns against each other – do bear in mind that the audience group should be similar to have a fair comparison.

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Why You Need a Digital Marketing Audit

Digital Marketing Audit

Digital Marketing AuditSo, 2015 is under-way and you are looking at your plan for the year and working out where to start.  I think that regardless of what your 2015 plan looks like, one of the first tasks of the New Year is to conduct a digital marketing audit.

The reason I think an audit is important is because it is very difficult to find time to devote to reviewing what you already have in place – in digital marketing, there are new tools and techniques available all the time and the focus is often on what will be happening next.

But by spending some time looking at what you have done, you will learn more about how to maximise the opportunities of tomorrow.  So, what should be included in your audit, and what questions should you be asking?

Social Media:
Why?  This is the channel where you can interact with your customer base, and offer a persona for your business – it’s often seen as a customer service line too!

  • Is my profile optimised – i.e. including my URL, keywords, etc.
  • Are editor permissions correct – has anyone left the company who should be removed?
  • What were the best performing posts of the year – what made these posts unique: timing, content, format, etc.

Why?  This is what is persuading your potential customers to become customers

  • Typos and mistakes – with most CMSs not having a decent spell-check, there is not a quick way of doing this!
  • Changes in policy / promotion – while these are often time-sensitive, they are not always removed from view, so check for these
  • Correct images – as a picture paints a thousand words, make sure that the images that you are displaying are up-to-date

Why?  It is still one of the easiest and most effective communication tools around

  • How has your database performed – is your delivery rate still at an acceptable level?
  • New features from your email provider – most email providers offer new services all the time, so make sure you are exploiting these
  • Are your delivered / open / click rates improving – if not, address this

Pay Per Click:
Why?  When used effectively, PPC is a great way to get onto a search engine’s front page – if not used well, you can spend a lot of money in a short amount of time with very little return.

  • Are you using all of the enhanced features which Google offers – including PPC on mobile
  • Is the way that people are searching your product changing – do you need to review your current keywords?
  • Are there any new affiliate or display opportunities that you should be testing?

Search Engine Optimisation:
Why?  Search engines account for hundreds of millions of searches per day – it differs by industry but it’s likely that SEO will play an important role in your digital plan

  • Are you aware of the latest algorithm updates, and what is your plan for keeping up to date with them throughout the year?
  • Have you written your content plan for the year, with a balance of informative, entertaining and promotional content?
  • Consider new ways of displaying your content, e.g. podcasts?

Competitor Analysis:
Why?  The vast majority of companies operate in a competitive environment, so why wouldn’t you take a look to see what your competition are up to for some ideas.

  • Across all digital channels, which tools are they using and how are they using them?
  • Take a look through your competitor’s website and see how they are using conversion rate optimisation techniques to drive their effectiveness – are any of these relevant to your website?
  • What are they doing differently to you – be honest, is it better than your current offering?

Good luck in 2015, and I hope that you find this check-list useful!

Email Basics

Email Marketing Basics

Email Marketing Basics

Digital marketing is a really exciting place to be a marketer.  Almost every week there are new tools which are being introduced, or new ways of optimising your current digital marketing tools.

In all of this new technology, it is easy to get carried away.  It is still important to remember the basics of your digital marketing, and as email marketing is one of the most popular (and cheapest!) ways of communicating with your customers, here are some tips which will make sure that your email campaigns have a firm foundation to build on.

Get it delivered – This is the most basic of email optimisation, but there are millions of emails every day which are not received from businesses.  One of the reasons why people spend less time on this measure is that there are a number of reason why this number could be high.  Is there an issue with your database?  Is your email size too big?  Is there an issue with the wording that you use (does it contain spam triggers)?  And if your email has been delivered, is it appearing in the ‘Primary’ section of Gmail or in the ‘Promotions’ section – there are 425m Google users so this is well worth considering.

Get it opened – This is where email marketing becomes an art form by wording the subject line well.  There are some tricks that people use to try to drive up opens (e.g. starting with ‘FW’ or ‘RE’ so that it looks like an email that you have already interacted with: this screams out spam), but there is no substitute for a subject line which entices the recipient and gives them a reason to open the email.

Get it read – You need to put yourself in the shows of the recipient here.  If there is a huge image at the start of your email, or if your email is just one big image, then what happens if the user has a ‘do not display images’ default setting?  They will not see your amazing email!  At the other end of the scale, if your email contains lots and lots of words, then how likely is the recipient to read the whole thing – not very!  A good balance of images and text is your best bet.

Get it actioned – Every email should have a call to action.  If not, you need to ask not only why you are sending it, but also how will you measure the success of your email?  It is possible here that you will move the recipient from online to offline, and as long as that is traceable (i.e. it is a designated phone number only used in that email) you will be able to measure success – just make sure that there is someone at the phone when your emails are likely to be read.  And if the call to action is online, make sure that it is mobile-friendly, which is much easier with responsive websites.

Get it measured – Email marketing is fantastic for measurement – almost every step of the process can be measured within most free email marketing providers.  So, you should track your results, or even consider sending two versions of an email to a segmented audience and compare the results – if you change the subject line, does your open rate go up?  You should be continually monitoring this to consistently improve your email marketing.

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5 Simple Digital Marketing Tips

simple digital marketing tips

simple digital marketing tips

Digital Marketing is often misunderstood.  Some people see it as an extension of IT support (“you’re a computer guy, can you try and work out why my PC isn’t showing on this screen?”), some see it you as a member of the Matrix (“when you close your eyes, is there just a series of numbers falling on a black background?”) and some see you as a master of the dark arts (“this whole digital thing is beyond me, I just don’t get it”).

However, digital marketing doesn’t need to be as complicated as this.  Digital marketing is just a channel within the marketing mix – it is just a different means of engaging with your audience rather than billboards, newspapers, TV or direct mail.  So, in the spirit of simplicity, here are five super simple things that you can do to your digital marketing to make it better.

Your Website: This is the cornerstone of your digital marketing offering.  You should already be well aware of what you would like people to do when they are on your website (buy a product; make an enquiry; find your contact details; etc.).  Now, does your website help or hinder people in completing that task?  How about creating a small ‘user journey’ which starts with your most popular landing page, allowing the person to complete the task.  E.g.

  • Your home page with a link to your most popular product
  • Page explaining the product you are selling and its benefits with a link to a ‘buy now’ button
  • Check out process – pricing, quantity, postage, fulfillment

Map this out, and you have just made your potential customer’s day easier.

Social Media: This is the part of digital marketing where you can show a bit of your personality, and interact with your audience in a way that you cannot on your website.  My simple tip here is to complete your profile – add a photo, add your contact details, email address, web address, etc.  You would be amazed at the number of business pages that I see without this basic info on it.

Search Engine Optimisation: Of all of the elements of digital marketing, search engine optimisation is one that can get really technical!  However, doing the basics is pretty easy.  If you complete the meta data for all of your web pages, this will put you in a good position.  Meta data is used by search engines to understand what a web page is all about, so make this as specific as you can.  You should complete the meta title (this will appear in the tab of the browser which is displaying your page) and the meta description, which appears under your URL when your page appears on a search engine.

Email Marketing: One of the great things about email marketing is that you can very quickly work out whether your email campaign has worked – you can check your number of delivered emails, number of opened emails, number of clicks and so on.  So, simply try sending your email campaigns at different times of the day, and different days of the week – over time, this will tell you the best time to send an email to your audience.

Images: For some products, people use search engine images to search for the right product – for example, a friend of mine is moving house and looking for new lighting, so they are typing what they want to see and using Google Images to find the right light and store!  Images are ranked by their relevancy to the search query in the same way that web pages are.  So, you need to tell the search engines what the image contains, and this is done through the image’s title and alternative text or ‘alt text’ – simply describe the image and that’s all you need to do.

These are deliberately very simple tips – if you are advanced in digital marketing, then all of these will be done, and you will be delving into the technicalities of digital.  But implementing all of these simple tasks will (frighteningly!) put you ahead of thousands of digital propositions.

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Avoiding the Spam Folder



For a wide variety of businesses, email is regarded as a very important tool.  If targeted well, it is a great way to drive new business and to retain existing customers.

Email also provides marketers with a wealth of information about how their email has performed – open rate and click through rate are very commonly used, but one factor that is often overlooked is whether the emails have actually been delivered to the recipient, or whether the email has arrived in the Spam folder, condemned to a life surrounded by requests for bank account details and medicine of questionable origin.

So, how can you make sure that your email is being seen by you audience?  Here are my 5 tips:

Get a sending schedule – if you are sending your email out to a large number of recipients, it may make sense to drip-feed the emails rather than sending all at once.  Sending hundreds of thousands of emails at once is classic spamming behaviour and is to be avoided.

Maintain a clean database – sending emails to ‘bad’ email accounts can also trigger a trip to the spam folder.  If you are serious about your email marketing, a clean database is a must – any accounts which have undelivered emails because the account doesn’t exist or is disabled should be removed from your database.  These are not easy to find, but well worth the effort.

Honour unsubscribes – no-one likes unsubscribes, but when someone wants to unsubscribe, you should honour it.  The reason why is that if you continue to send emails to people who don’t want to receive them, you will draw complaints of spamming – and you will end up in the spam folder.

Get a mix of image and text – sending one large image as your email is likely to make for an attractive email (if the picture is downloaded), but for email providers, this screams out spam.  The reason for this is because email providers struggle to see what an image contains – and spammers have used this tactic in the past to send an image which, if it was written with text, would be blocked.

Mind your language – the language that you use will be tracked by the email provider.  There are a number of trigger words which will encourage the provider to put you into spam, and these can include buy; order; clearance; free; fast; cash; ALL CAPS; act now; 100%; best price.  This list can change between email providers, but keep your use of these words to an absolute minimum.

All email providers are different, and some have different rules to others, but bearing these five tips in mind will help your email marketing become more successful.

The Perfect Marketing Email

Email Marketing

Email Marketing

In reviews of marketing campaigns, there is one tool which is consistently used by marketers because it is cheap and effective: email marketing.

However, in my experience, little time is spent working out what makes an effective email campaign – and given the amount of flexibility you can have and how measurable your changes are, I find this crazy!  So, here are the 5 features that the perfect marketing email should have:

Visibility:  Like any marketing, unless it is experienced by the target audience, it is a waste of money.  So, make sure that it gets through Spam filters, and remember that different email providers will have different triggers for dumping your masterpiece in Spam.

Great subject line:  This is a cliché, but I receive so many marketing emails with the subject line ‘Latest News from……’.  So what?!  I don’t care what your latest news is, I want to know what you can do for me!  Simply thinking about the email from the recipient’s perspective can boost your open rate.

Content that means something:  This is a delicate balance…  It kind of depends on the objective of your email, but a mix of words and images is good.  100% words is pretty dry (and does feel a lot like a work email), but 100% pictures would mean that you are more likely to be categorised spam, and what if the pictures are blocked?  I saw a nice trick a while ago where the sender has coded their email pictures to say ‘you are missing out on a great picture of a beautiful guitar’ when the pictures were blocked – highly recommended!

Call to Action:  This may seem obvious, but I have just opened up the last 10 marketing emails that I have received, and 4 didn’t have a call to action.  Let the recipient know what you would like them to do!

Tracking:  If you have segmented your audience (and you should have to know what content the recipient would like to see), you should track which type of recipients have interacted with the email.  Simple custom URLs will track people when they get to your site, and ideally you would have something in place to track them while they are on your site – then you can start linking email with conversions and ROI!

What are your email tips?  Leave and comment and let me know!

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Avoiding Spam



Email marketing is a popular marketing tool for most businesses.  It’s cheap and if done well, it can be an effective direct response channel.  However, this assumes that your recipient receives your email in their inbox.  To do this, you need to keep your email out of the Spam folder which is trickier than you might think.  So, here are my 8 tips to keep your email out of the Spam folder:

  • Watch Your Email Size: This is one of the tests that most email service providers (ESPs) will run.  If your email file size is too big (more than around 50kb) then the recipient may not see it
  • Avoid Random Characters: If you are using ‘!’ instead of ‘I’, or separating words with ‘.’ then it’s difficult to read, and your email is probably going to end up with the rest of the spam
  • Purchased Lists: It is very tempting to buy a list which seems like it is full of your target audience, but not all lists are of a good quality.  Sending your email to a purchased list may result in a large number of unsubscribes or complaints, which will alert the ESP to your email – and make it more likely to be Spam
  • Deceptive subject lines: This not only a challenge the words you use, but also the format.  Starting your email campaign subject line with ‘FW:’ or ‘RE:’ is deceptively encouraging people to open your email.  Classic spammer behaviour
  • Put a SPF on your DNS: Ensuring that your DNS settings have an SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record, as this will indicate that a server can send an email on behalf of your website.  It’s almost a validation of your email
  • Avoid all caps: Overuse of capital letters makes emails tough to read and is spammy.  Also, there are some trigger words that you should avoid, e.g. free, no gimmick, act now
  • Clear Unsubscribe Link: All of your email marketing should offer the recipient a way out of their agreement to receive your emails.  The unsubscribe link should be clearly displayed in your email.
  • Avoid lazy code: ESPs are on the lookout for sloppy code, so make sure that you employ a professional coder to write your email communications.  It will render better on a range of ESPs and is more likely to avoid the Spam filter

Do you have any tips to avoid the Spam filter?  Leave a comment and let me know!