How to set up compelling email marketing campaigns to supplement your automations: 6 tips with examples

Profile photo of author Tiffany Regaudie
Email marketing
June 26, 2023
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Email marketing campaigns aren’t going anywhere, but it would be misleading to say they haven’t changed in the last few years.

Marketing leaders are leaning heavily on email marketing, according to Klaviyo’s marketing mix report. In fact, email continues to be the most used marketing channel among respondents, as well as the top ROI generator.

Marketing leaders are leaning heavily on email marketing, according to Klaviyo’s marketing mix report. In fact, email continues to be the most used marketing channel among respondents, as well as the top ROI generator

And while email automation often takes the spotlight in email marketing strategies, email campaigns are still a critical pillar of success. Respondents to Klaviyo’s marketing mix survey said they’re as focused on campaign sends as they are on marketing automation, segmentation, and personalization.

And for good reason. Email campaigns earn an average 58.61% open rate across all industries, according to Klaviyo’s latest email marketing benchmarks—the highest after post-purchase automated email.

@katebour on Twitter:

Before you click “send” on your next email campaign, stop and ask yourself...

Would I *actually* want to read this?

If marketers answered this question honestly, I think we’d all get 80% less email. 

Source: Twitter

But what’s the difference between a successful email campaign and one that increases your unsubscribe rate? That’s what we’ll discuss here, with plenty of examples so you understand what a great email campaign looks like.

Why is email marketing important?

Before we jump into email marketing campaigns specifically, it’s important that we’re on the same page about implementing an email marketing strategy for your ecommerce store in the first place.

Not yet convinced that email marketing is an important focus for your business?

Here are 3 wins you can expect when you invest in email marketing campaigns:

1. Cost-effective marketing

According to Litmus, email marketing earns $36 for every $1 spent. That number increases to $45 when you zero in on the retail, ecommerce, and consumer goods category.

That matters now more than ever. In 2021, Apple’s data privacy changes wiped out much of the audience-targeting parameters that made paid social a viable option for small businesses. Cost per acquisition has since soared, and return on ad spend has plummeted.

It’s not so much that paid social is ineffective—it’s just that it’s no longer affordable for most small DTC businesses. This is why more small businesses are re-investing in email marketing to drive sales.

2. Targeted messaging

Email marketing, and owned marketing in general, is the best way to communicate with people based on how they interact with your brand. Third-party platforms keep a lot of audience data under lock and key, whereas owned marketing keeps audience data and email communication under one roof—meaning you have a lot more control over the relevance of your messaging.

Customer-First Data™ is how you stay relevant to people—because it’s what allows you to send messages based on the needs and preferences of each person after they opt-in to a relationship with your brand.

3. Measurable results

Experienced email marketers are now less concerned with the total size of their list and more focused on improving deeper engagement and revenue attribution metrics through their marketing efforts.

Similar to narrative control, the integration of data and email communication allows brands to better measure the results of their campaigns. That means they can A/B test emails until they optimize results to the nth degree.

Email marketing metrics are signals for your brand. When you invest in email marketing, you can measure:

  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Conversion rate
  • Revenue per recipient (RPR)
  • Deliverability rates
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • List growth rate
  • Return on investment (ROI)

These metrics are all signals of how close potential customers are to buying, where they are in the funnel, and how much they enjoy hearing from you.

And when you gain these insights from email campaigns, you can transfer them to other marketing channels—and, ultimately, refine your marketing strategy as a whole.

What is an email marketing campaign?

An email marketing campaign is a promotional email, or a series of emails, you send to a specific portion of your email list.

Most of the time, the goal of an email marketing campaign is to increase engagement and conversion on a specific offer. Marketers can use email campaign efforts across the lifecycle marketing journey—from brand awareness and acquisition of new customers, to retention and re-engagement of existing customers.

Email campaigns shouldn’t be confused with email automations, which are emails that go out automatically based on specific triggers or actions, like welcome emails or abandoned cart emails.

There’s a lot of overlap between campaigns and automations, but the push-pull distinction is important: Email campaigns are informed by what the brand wants to communicate, whereas email automations are triggered by customer and prospect behavior.

@TheElliotScott on Twitter:

Email marketing is built upon 5 core areas:

- Segmentation and data analysis
- Email design
- Copywriting
- Campaign & flow structures
- Customer understanding
Source: Twitter

6 qualities of a good email marketing campaign

Every email marketing campaign should fit snugly inside a sound email marketing strategy. Before you begin drafting your campaign, clarify key components like:

  • Offer: Your offer is the differentiating factor that entices people to engage with your campaign. It answers the question, “What’s in it for the recipient?”The offer doesn’t have to be a discount or coupon, but it does have to be enticing—whether that means relevant content, education, or products.
  • Audience segment: Your audience segment is the subset of your email list that’s most interested in your special offer. We recommend against blasting whole email lists and instead segmenting your target audience based on engagement, demographic, psychographic, or behavioral characteristics that amplify the relevance of the offer.
  • Performance measurement: Your performance measurement is the combination of email marketing metrics you’re using to evaluate the success of your campaign. Click-through rates and conversion rates are the most common metrics for measuring an email campaign, but depending on your offer, you may also want to consider revenue per recipient and unsubscribe rates.

Once you’ve built your foundation, you’re ready to build the email campaign itself. Here are 6 email campaign components that should be part of your strategy:

1. Audience-first segmentation

There’s “batch and blast” email marketing, and then there’s email segmentation.

Batch and blast is when you send emails to your entire list, and we strongly advise against it. At best, batching and blasting means you risk low email deliverability and low engagement. At worst, it could damage your brand perception among audiences who are annoyed about receiving irrelevant emails.

@itsonlydolz on Twitter:

After auditing over 300+ Klaviyo accounts over the last 3 years...

The BIGGEST email campaign mistakes I see that lead to audience fatigue & lost reveneue are: 

1️⃣Poor quality content 
2️⃣No audience content fit
3️⃣No relevant call to action 
4️⃣Constant discounting and promotions
Source: Twitter

“I am always shocked when an ecommerce brand develops an email marketing strategy without utilizing list segmentation,” says Ashley Ismailovski, CRO operations manager, SmartSites. “What consumers want now is personalized messages that keeps them engaged with their favorite brands and allows them to receive only the most relevant content to them.”

What consumers want now is personalized messages that keeps them engaged with their favorite brands and allows them to receive only the most relevant content to them.
Ashley Ismailovski, CRO operations manager

Segmentation is what makes your email campaigns as relevant as possible. With segmentation, you split your audience into groups that share similar characteristics. Some examples of audience segments include:

  • Demographics: location, age, gender
  • Psychographics: interests, lifestyle, values, beliefs
  • Behavior: purchase type, purchase frequency, money spent, product page visits, email engagement, reviews

Your audience segment and your offer play off each other like two instruments in an orchestra. When you customize your offer for the specificity of an audience segment, you increase that offer’s relevance—which is the single most important ingredient for its success.

Here’s a great example from Tracksmith. To reward customer loyalty and promote a strong customer lifetime value (CLV), they give customers who renew their membership a special spike bag—free of charge.

Tracksmith's email marketing campaign rewards customer loyalty and features a professionally photographed image of the spike bag in the email, so subscribers will see the quality of the bag before they place their order. The CTA is clear and direct, announcing a code for redemption along with a “Get Your Bag” button.

2. A relevant, value-packed offer for each audience segment

The email inbox is an effective digital marketing channel, but it’s also a competitive one. In 2019, the world sent 293.6B emails. In 2022, that number shot up to 333.2B.

Our inboxes are overflowing. So it’s safe to say your email offer needs to be one people can’t refuse. Here are some ways you can map an offer to an audience segment for relevance:

Loyal customers → referral exchange

Tap in to a win-win situation by rewarding your most loyal customers for referrals. Check out this imaginative campaign from Recess, a brand that can’t advertise on social media due to regulations—so instead, they asked their most loyal Instagram followers via email to post on their behalf.

Product page visitors → customized offers

Tailor offers to individual preferences by sending personalized product recommendations based on website browsing behavior.

New subscriber → contest or giveaway participation

Capitalize on new subscriber excitement, anticipation, and potential reward by giving them the opportunity to enter a contest, giveaway, or sweepstakes with your brand.

Lifestyle/interest → discounts and promotions

Save money by tailoring discounts and promotions based on lifestyle and interest preferences rather than spending the budget on blanket promotions. With proper testing, you’ll see where the budget for discounts is effective and where it’s wasted.

3. Enticing subject lines that create a curiosity gap

Email subject lines are the first impressions of your campaigns, so it’s important to get them right. Similar to your offer, tailor your subject lines to your audience. But keep them brief while piquing curiosity—and maybe creating some urgency.

If you’re in marketing, you may be familiar with the term “curiosity gap.” The curiosity gap is the “space between the information we’re given (what we know) and the information that’s initially withheld (what we don’t know),” according to Enchanting Marketing. This is what you want to create with your email subject line‚ because opening your email is how your audience closes that gap for themselves.

Check out this example, also from Recess, which piques email subscribers’ interest with a subject line that reads, “see you in post-apocalyptic Tokyo.” Wait—when did the apocalypse happen? Why would I be there?

4. Tone-optimized email copy

Like your offer and subject line, your email copy should always reflect the mindset of your audience. If you don’t know your audience, you’re not ready to write copy for them. But if you feel you know them well, you’re in a good place to tailor your email campaign copy to their interests, lifestyle, and position in the customer journey.

Most importantly, when you know your customer segments, you can start writing conversational copy that sounds like you’re talking to a friend.

Check out this introduction to Recess’s events round-up email, which sums up what people can expect from the rest of the email. It’s a great example of what you can do when you’re sending an email with more than one call to action (CTA), so people can decide right away what might interest them further down.

5. Compelling, helpful content and email design

On top of hitting the right tone, your campaign content and email design should be just as relevant and compelling as your core offer. Your audience segment should dictate the contours of your email content, but your content should generally fall into one of 4 categories:

  1. Educational: Teach the reader something interesting.
  2. Entertaining: Amuse, delight, and captivate your subscribers.
  3. Engaging: Encourage the reader to interact with your brand or take action in some way.
  4. Inspiring: Use brand storytelling to influence shoppers and motivate them to buy.

No matter which path you choose, the recipient should walk away from your email campaign with a clear understanding of the benefits of your offer.

Check out this example from Jones Road Beauty, which educates people on how to best use their products. The best email design guides readers seamlessly through the different elements of the email, which covers how to apply their foundation for different skin types.

Jones Road Beauty's emails educates people on how to best use their foundation according to different skin types.

6. Clear CTA

Email CTAs give your email campaigns purpose. Whether the action you want your readers to take is to submit feedback, consume a piece of content, or make a purchase, CTAs are designed to grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to interact with the contents of the email.

One of the best ways to improve click-through rates on email CTAs is to create urgency. This example from Good Pair Days demonstrates how a great CTA—“Get yours today”—can complement and reinforce body copy—“…we’re giving all new subscribers $25 off their first box. But it’s ending tomorrow, so don’t waste it.”

Good Pair Days, a wine subscription brand, email promotes the offer "Last Chance For $25 off your first Box."

When it comes to email CTAs, less is more. “Don’t have more than 3 CTAs in your email,” advises Alexa Engelhart, vice president, client strategy at Power Digital. “Not only does this tend to make the email very long—and, therefore, harder to digest—it also increases the likelihood of users actually not clicking anything at all.”

It’s what’s on the inside of your email campaigns that counts

A successful email campaign isn’t just nice to look at—it proves its value to brands in opens, clicks, and attributed revenue.

Study the elements of these high-performing types of email campaigns and your analysis may spark some ideas that you can use in your own email marketing strategy.

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Email marketing campaign FAQs

How do you measure the success of an email marketing campaign?

Measure the success of an email marketing campaign through metrics like click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, revenue per recipient (RPR), deliverability rate, unsubscribe rate, and return on investment (ROI). Which success metrics matter most to your brand depends on the goal of your email marketing strategy, and whether it’s revenue-focused (for conversions) and/or brand-focused (for engagement).

How often should you send email marketing campaigns?

Your email campaign frequency depends on your audience’s preferences and your product category. A good rule of thumb is to start sending emails once a week, then use email open rates and unsubscribe rates to calibrate between staying top of mind and respecting inbox fatigue.

How can you improve the deliverability of your email marketing campaigns?

To improve the deliverability of your email marketing campaigns, maintain a clean and updated email list by removing inactive subscribers on a regular basis. Make sure to get explicit consent to send your emails and include a clear option to unsubscribe. Create engaging and relevant content that people interact with, as high engagement metrics send a signal to email service providers that your emails are valuable to people.

Tiffany Regaudie
Tiffany Regaudie
Tiffany is a writer and content consultant who specializes in marketing, health, and the attention economy. Before devoting herself to freelance writing full-time, she led content teams at various startups and nonprofits in Toronto, Canada.