The foundations of a good email marketing programme

A social butterfly, with a creative Mum and a technically minded Dad, it’s the combination of creativity and technology, together with the human element that I love about email marketing.

I have a computer science degree, but I didn’t want to work as a programmer (I was too sociable to sit behind a computer all day) so I went into sales initially which I loved for the people element – not to mention the social life! I worked for marketing companies and then went into marketing which brought out my creative side too. Of course, these days I sit in front of a computer all day anyway!

These 3 elements – humanity, creativity and technology – are all needed for a successful email marketing campaign but you ned to start at the right place.


When I developed my 5 step approach to email marketing – as taught in my Email Marketing Essentials Course – I started with the Who and Why.  This is because sending a series of promotional emails about your products aimed at anybody isn’t likely to achieve your goals. You need to start with the people you send to and  understanding why they should care about what you send.

By understanding who your target audience is and how you can help them solve their challenges, you will build long-term relationships with your customers. This modern marketers approach that begins with the people is important because an ongoing relationship is going to be far more valuable in the long term than a series of short-term sales from customers who don’t remember you.  It starts from the outset with your email sign up page where you need to deliver value in exchange for their email address. Oh and please avoid those pop-ups with the guilt option if people aren’t ready or have already subscribed – ‘no I don’t want to get amazing deals’! They are a personal bugbear of mine – like the guy at the bar who says ‘well if don’t go out with me, you’re missing out on a great night!’. My instinct says ‘run’ from such arrogance.

This is a relationship – hopefully a long term one so you want this to start and continue on the right foot – they need to see value in staying on your list! So rather than constantly promoting to them, look at how you’re going to build a relationship build on trust.

Think about how customers want to interact with you at different stages of their journey as well. Early days they may want to find out a little bit more about you, they don’t want to be pushed into doing something they aren’t ready for but will want to find out how they can get the most out of your products and services.  This needs to be an ongoing process – of understanding who your customers are, what their goals are how you can help improve their lives. Use email to do that and to show them how your products / services can do it. Relationships change over time and you need to respond accordingly.

Unless you start with the fundamental questions  ‘Who is my audience (or audiences)?’ and  ‘Why do they want to open my emails?’ the rest of your efforts could be wasted.


Once you know what your audience want and why they will want your emails, you can bring in the technology side. This will be considering what data you have / need and how you can use that to make your emails better and more targeted. Looking at automations that are right for your recipients, technology that can help improve the way emails resonate (such as AI) or targeted newsletters that will include the right elements (AMP is taking emails to the next level).

You will be looking for an email service provider (ESP) who can help you achieve your goals. Thinking about the kind of functionality that you want, not just now but moving forward so they will grow with you. Bear in mind that most people don’t use all the functionality available within their ESP, so it plays to plan ahead and look at how technology can enhance your customer relationships in a way that makes sense for your audience.

You also need to make sure that technology isn’t killing a customer relationship by coming across as too process driven, or not giving customers the chance to engage in conversation with you.  Look at what you can do that is driven by data or behaviour to give you the opportunity to engage with your customers on many different levels.

Choosing the right Email Service Provider (ESP) is important. For micro and small businesses, MailerLite is a great place to start as it has some great functionality, is straightforward to use and has a number of out of the box integrations that enable you to do relatively sophisticated campaigns.  For growing and larger businesses Dotdigital offers an impressive feature set and integration options with a practical, straightforward system.

These are just 2 out of 100’s of great companies (I will do a post on ESP’s soon), but whichever one you work with technology needs to be the enabler and you need to have a play first to see if it meets not just your functional goals but your creative ones too. All providers have quirks, and I always find something I love and another thing I really don’t like so a proper test drive before you commit money or too much time on integrations really helps.

Email has one advantage over other communication channels in so much as it is a channel that you can largely control. Think about how you can use it to enhance your overall brand proposition – from your tone of voice to the images you use.

Even if you are a micro business, there are ESPs with fantastic builders and templates that are responsive. You can use tools like Canva to create images yourself or work with email coders to create templates (but make sure you can change them). There are companies that offer great features like personalised images (such as NiftyImages) or you can enable recipients to purchase from within the email or other awesome functionality  – provided it works for your users. There is no point in fancy functionality for the sake of it!


Which brings us neatly to the creativity side, which is where that connection with your customers comes in. From the style of emails to the copy you use, your creativity is key!   Consider how you talk to your customers, keep it conversational and let the personality of your organisation really come through in your emails.  Think about the kind of real life chats you have with prospects and customers and let that influence your emails. If you’re fun then make your emails fun, if you’re helpful then be helpful in your emails!   What shared values do you have with recipients, how can you demonstrate this?

Look at email designs that meet both your brand personality but are also practical to deliver for your organisation. If you have tight budgets then a simple, nice looking, easy to edit template may be best for you. If the content is good and resonates with your audience, you can still get great results without an all singing all dancing design. It needs to be clean, scannable and have a clear message and call to action above all. 

A couple of dynamic content blocks, where the content changes according to user data (for example an offer for prospects and a testimonial request for clients) can also help improve the effectiveness of an email, even a ‘blast newsletter’ which may be appropriate if you are a niche business.

In summary 

Ultimately, you want your email programme to resemble a real life relationship – using creativity and technology together can help you do this.  But the key is to create emails that enhance the overall customer experience using the technology to connect with the human beings that are at the end of every email address on your list.

And if you’d like to know more about how I can help – drop me a line to 07956 634 330 or email me.

Oh, and as a Thank You for reading this far use the code BOOST30 to save 30% on my Email Marketing Essentials course! 

In the interests of transparency, please know that this blog post contains a couple of affiliate links, but I am affiliated only to companies I would recommend anyway!