How to Email Smart, Not Hard

We see it all the time.

People get excited about a marketing channel and they go at it full force, pounding people with marketing messages.

This is certainly true with email.

Folks see initial success with discounts and newsletters, so they hit their lists with emails until open rates plateau, click-through rates dwindle, and unsubscribes gradually add up.

Not to mention, it’s a lot more expensive to email this way. Time is money. If someone on your team is spending all of that time putting together daily newsletters, they aren’t spending time on something else. Plus, paying to email people who aren’t buying things through those newsletters is a waste of cash.

Sound familiar? If so, it’s time to work smart, not hard, when it comes to your email marketing.

Here’s how.

1) Email subscribers because of things they do, not just because they exist.

According to Experian, transactional emails have substantially higher click-through rates than marketing emails.


Why? One obvious explanation: People are expecting these emails.

I requested my password to be reset… you’re sending me a link I can click to go do that… it’s simple.

These emails are based on actions that the customer took on the website. They are personalized and familiar, and meet people where they are in the buying journey rather than sending out a mass email that isn’t as relevant.

Imagine an email offering product recommendations based on a customer’s past purchase or an email that re-engages a customer that has not made a purchase recently. This is the kind of reasoning your emails should be based on, not just the fact that the customer subscribed to the list.

2) Automate your email marketing by personalizing it.

Let your email service provider do the work for you.

Set up your campaigns so people get automatically rolled into workflows based on the actions they take on the site. Use auto-responders to send messages to those lists. Let behavioral data “write the campaign for you” and rope in past purchases and related products to customize email content. Rather than getting caught up in over-the-top templates and design, invest time in setting up data tracking. This will help you personalize your emails and pay dividends in the long run, far longer than a one-off pretty campaign.

3) Repeat yourself.

Consistency is important for your marketing campaigns. It reinforces your messages and makes a lasting impression.

The editorial content you develop for blog posts and social media can be repackaged for email newsletters.

Here’s an example from Kate Spade. They shared this content, which educates customers on different ways to wear one of their dresses, on their Facebook page as well as through email.

Here it is on the Facebook page:

Here is the email creative:


4) Kick people off your list.

Ouch, right? Well, hear me out.

You don’t want to waste your time emailing people who don’t want to open your emails or click-through to buy anything.

Most email service providers charge by number of sends or list volume. So if those emails aren’t returning revenue for you, you want to part ways. If you can even make the same amount of money by emailing five people as you were by emailing ten, that’s working smart.

I liked this email from Jive Software. Now, it’s not an eCommerce example. But I liked how simple and to the point their “ask” was. Am I in or out? Do I still want their emails or not?


5) Send less email.

These days, it seems like the general theory is that to stay top-of-mind and top-of-inbox for consumers, you have to send an email every day.

Not only is that a ton of work from a marketing standpoint, as mentioned above, it’s also costly in terms of paying for the systems to support that volume.

Klaviyo customer Top Streetwear used to take this approach as well. But, as sales stagnated and unsubscribes went up, they knew they needed to change up their strategy. By switching to a segmented approach and reducing emails to only a few times a week, they were actually able to drive a 40% increase in revenue.  Less work, better results.


So why doesn’t everyone operate like this? My gut feeling is that it’s because it takes a little more work up front.

You have to think strategically about what data you want to track, then track it. You have to brainstorm the customer segments you want to target, create them, then develop the campaigns specifically for those cohorts.

It’s daunting, but it’s worth it.

Take your time. Invest in the strategy and work smart.


New case study: Taylor Stitch takes segmentation to the next level



Understanding (and improving) subscriber engagement



5 Rules for Using Images in Your Email Templates


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