By Richard Arneson

In the beginning, the digital marketing gods created email campaigns. It was way, way back in the 1990’s, when smart phones and IoT-enabled doorbells, garage doors, and thermostats were little more than gleams in the eyes of technologists. Email marketing was the primary, nearly exclusive, form of digital marketing back then. It worked, and worked well, which ushered in the evil cousin of email marketing—spam. But we’re not going to talk about the ugly side of email marketing, at least not today.

Rumors of email marketing’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Email marketing is still relevant today, maybe more so than it was when Clinton was roaming the halls of the White House. But like most things, what once worked doesn’t work as well today, if at all. It’s why football coaches no longer run the Wishbone offense. While defenses couldn’t stop it in the late 60’s when it was all the rage, ten years later few ran it because defensive coordinators figured out how to defend against it.

Yes, email marketing is still relevant, provided you adhere to the following if you want to clicks, opens, and sales orders.

Don’t bury the lead; ensure CTAs (Call to Action) are clear and easy to use

We’ve all received an email or looked on an online ad, been interested, then moved on to other things because you couldn’t figure out how to get more information, get somebody to call you, download a paper, or engage in an online chat. People don’t have time to figure out how to engage with your company. The CTA needs to be simple and intuitive. And it better be clear if you want optimal click rates. Don’t occlude the CTA with videos, links, and other things that may confuse the reader. And, of course, all content needs to lead the reader to the CTA. Don’t waver. Think “CTA, CTA…get them to engage with the CTA.”

Have you ever been on a website and can’t find their phone number? It’s infuriating and immediately puts you in a negative frame of mind related to that company. It’s also a branding issue; your first potential, live engagement has gotten off to a bad start. And, potential customers may be left wondering that if the company is that hard to contact, are they going to provide customer service that’s equally frustrating?

Make your CTA clear and easy to find. Find isn’t the right word; that suggests recipients will have to look for it. Don’t make them have to find it. It should be clear as day.

Mobile Friendly is Engagement Friendly

With the majority of emails being viewed on mobile devices, if your email isn’t mobile friendly you may be turning away the majority of recipients. If your email requires the receiver to pinch their screen to make it larger or smaller, your email isn’t mobile friendly. All emails need to be optimized for viewing on any device. Use a preview tool to ensure that readers on mobile devices will be able to easily get the information you’re disseminating. Unfortunately, a lot of emails are looked at while the reader is driving, so if it’s not mobile friendly, they’re gone.

Subject Lines Shouldn’t Deceive, but Must be Enticing

We’ve all seen the click-bait articles that try to lure or sucker you into going to a site to find out why You’ve GOT TO SEE what The Brady Bunch stars look like today! While they actually work well to get opens, if you’ve ever been hooked by click-bait you know that they never deliver what they promise. You don’t want to fall into this trap. No question, it’s not easy to create an enticing Subject Line that both makes readers want to open the email and gives them information that supports that subject line. So, don’t overlook the need for a great Subject Line; don’t think crafting good email content is what’s really important, if not the only thing. If the Subject Line is poor, they’re not going to get to that great content anyway. And, of course, they’re not going to see that all important CTA.

Don’t spray and pray

There’s a certain amount of truth in believing successful email campaigns are a numbers game. They are, in part, but just blasting out to everybody in your database early and often will likely get you a lot of opt-outs and some spam complaints. And if you’re using an email automation program, a single spam will raise red flags with whichever platform vendor you’ve chosen. It’s important to segment your list for not only this reason, but, more importantly, so you can craft content that specifically speaks to the recipient. If you send out an email about upgrading a Cisco server to a company that only uses Dell EMC hardware, your click rates will take a beating and you’ll annoy somebody in your database of customers and/or prospects. If they opt out and it’s time to launch a Dell EMC campaign, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to reach them with messaging that applies to them.

It’s a fear that if you subscribe to an email list, it means you’ll start getting emails daily, if not hourly. Focus on quality and definitely not quantity. You want high open and click rates and a solid, updated database of customers and prospects.

Remember, always protect your brand

If you send out campaigns with misspellings, poor graphics, misleading subject lines, hidden CTAs, et al., your brand will take an immediate hit. While it’s hard to know to what extent, trust that it will be a reflection of your company. If you send out sloppy campaigns, it may stand to reason for many that you do sloppy work for your customers.

For that reason, test your campaigns; look for issues, errors, links that don’t work, etc. Have several people look at them; if you’re writing the content, you may have looked at it so much that issues or errors don’t jump out at you. Get several sets of eyes on it.

Measure with analytics

If you don’t measure your email campaign, how do you know if it’s done well? If you exhibit at a trade show and get several hundred business cards at your booth, you may think that’s great traffic, but what if you attracted the wrong type of visitor? You got a lot of visitors, but they aren’t ones looking for and need your product.

Email metrics can do more than just check the number of open and click rates. For instance, you could measure how particular messaging did in the event your campaign goes to different professional levels, such as manager, directors, VPs, and C-levels. To measure, you’ve got to have goals, and that goal may be more than just open rates. If you get a lot of clicks and opens, but they’re from the wrong target customer, you may have a database segmenting issue, a content issue, or are measuring the wrong metrics. If you’re trying to get customers to bring their bicycles in for a Spring tune-up, fabulous open rates won’t mean a hill of beans if nobody’s lugging their bike into your shop.

Days and Times for sending

Test different days of the week when you send emails. While you may think that trends will jump to the surface immediately, don’t be surprised if results are muddy. While you’ve certainly heard that Monday and Friday is a no-no for email marketing, there are certain audiences that respond well on these days.

Also, test different times of the day for sending emails. Early in the morning may work well for some, not so great for others. Like everything else related to successful email campaigns, a lot of testing will be required. Sorry, there’s no way around it. And what worked in June may not work in July. Email campaigns are a little like fishing; if rainbow trout were biting on salmon eggs last week, but aren’t this week, you have to change bait and maybe the time of day you cast your line.

Questions about email campaigns or your other digital marketing efforts?

Talk to the tenured, highly experienced professionals at d2 Designs. d2 is the most innovative digital marketing agency, creates, executes and manages multi-marketing solutions for customers with a focus on brand engagement that optimizes the digital experience through traditional media, social media, lead gen and key analytics, e-commerce and experiential events. Check us out at, or email us at And please follow us via social media for more great, informative digital marketing tips and suggestions.