Best Practices

A Curated Look at 100+ Email Predictions

This is the third year we have collected and curated email marketing predictions. It looks as if it’s the year of the platform, the emails sent, and the details/design of their content.

The top 4 categories for 2018 are emails and ESPs, content, data analysis, and segmentation/personalization. This is the same top 4 categories as 2017, but in a different order. Data analysis slips from 1st to 3rd place and is surpassed by emails and ESPs for the number one slot.  

We have summarized the predictions by category and charted all 3 years on the first tab of this spreadsheet, the second tab provides the prediction details, the prognosticators and links to the references.

Emails and ESPs

It’s the end of ESPs as we knew them. No longer do ESPs just talk about sending newsletters. Over the past year we have seen a multitude of deep data integrations with ecomm store data, Facebook and Google ad serving, the inclusion of web based behavioral triggers, landing pages and native CRMs taking the place of simple email lists.

ESPs are becoming command centers for digital outreach on all levels. We will see omnichannel commerce become unified commerce. And with the barrage of emails and other digital communication at an ecomm cadence, the concern becomes the passive opt-out.

To keep consumers engaged, email content will become shorter, more relevant, and easier to act upon.


Content will be the answer to engaging the consumer in 2018. Every trick in the book will be used to get emails open, including typography, interactive features, video, text only emails, and yes, emojis! 🙂 

In the end, what will really succeed, is speaking (writing) in a natural voice, being sincere and consistent with your message, and sending shorter, one goal communications.

Data Analysis

So why has data analysis slipped to third? We think its because the conversation is switching from analyzing data, to the real world application of making platforms more inclusive, content more relevant and moving us forward toward 1 to 1 communications.

Data analysis will continue to improve how we relate to our customers and predictive analytics will lead customers down paths that are yet to be discovered by them. Machine learning and AI are already beginning to handle more of the complex interaction we are taking for granted.

Chatbots will continue to supplement customer service and support. This year they will begin to evolve beyond the hype of machine learning and actually become useful in helping grow sales.


With all the deep data integrations and use of machine learning, hyper-segmentation is possible on a grand scale. Tying this all together will create better personalization and a deeper understanding of customer evolution. A better understanding of our customer’s behavior will create a longer lifetime value.


Marketing automation evolves beyond just a welcome series or a bunch of emails just to keep the sales funnel full. Automation will be used to keep customers once you get them.

Automation using AI technologies will make emails more human. It will also make automations easier to use for small businesses.  


Brands will continue to use Facebook for advertising, but will need to fine tune their messages for higher quality as Facebook puts priority back on the individual and away from brands. Influencer marketing will gain greater attention within the FB walled garden as an influencer’s profile is closer the a friend’s and may be more prominent in a user’s news feed.

Messenger ad testing will become more prevalent and retargeting spends will be optimized.


Security issues for email lists have been somewhat quelled by instituting SSL certificates on web pages and Captchas on signup forms. The conversation is shifting more towards privacy and personal data protection as the implementation of GDPR nears.


Social influencers will continue to play a significant role in marketing, but we will also see a shift toward a more constrained and thoughtful use of these influencers as the political and behavioral missteps of the past bring light to ramifications of poor choices.   


Mobile purchasing will reach a tipping point. While mobile shopping has already reached a tipping point, in the coming year we will see mobile shopping sales come closer to that of desktop.  


Sales will finally realize the importance of a homepage.

List Growth

List growth didn’t even make the cut this year. It seems the conversation this year will revolve more around how to keep your list fresh and engaged, rather than just the size of your list.


We look forward to seeing how these predictions unfold through the year.  Although blockchain technology and email tokens didn’t enter the picture in this year’s predictions, you can bet your last bitcoin this year will see some innovative attempts of trying to use the technology in email marketing.


The Seven Ducks of Deliverability—and Why You Must Have Them in a Row

When you think marketing, what do you think? Cool logos? Snazzy designs? Compelling copy? Killer offers?

Yes, all of those things are parts of marketing, the kinds of tangible eye candy you can see and react to. But when you’re in the world of email, there’s a hidden side of marketing, the “back end,” if you will. And it’s just as important to put in a stellar effort on the back end that no one sees as the front one that everyone does.

What is this mysterious back end, you ask? I’m talking about deliverability. As marketers, it’s easy to get focused on everything that happens up to the point of hitting Send. But to be effective email marketers, we have to make sure hitting Send gets our emails into as many inboxes as we can. And that requires having your ducks in a row as much as it requires that killer offer.

The Seven Ducks of Deliverability

  1. A DMARC policy
    Are you who you say you are? A DMARC policy says so, and it’s a sound way to authenticate your email so that the major ISPs know your email is trustworthy and actually from you.
  2. A quality list
    When building your email list, I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing quality over quantity. Remember: Your deliverability is will dramatically improved by emailing 1,000 people who want to hear from you vs. 10,000 people who don’t!
  3. A segmented list
    And after you’ve built that quality list, you’re still going to have different customer types. Segment your lists so you’re emailing relevant content to targeted lists rather than generic content to everybody, because it’s the relevant content that engages that helps your deliverability. Your segmentation can be as basic as gender, or as sophisticated as you want with a relational database.
  4. A real From name
    The From name that appears on your emails might seem a trivial matter, but here’s how it matters to deliverability: You need engagement to get deliverability. Engagement can’t happen unless an email is opened. Factors that get people to open emails include the From name and the subject line. So use a real name for your From name or one that is at least intriguing.
  5. A compelling subject line
    Speaking of subject lines, to follow up on the From advice above, your subject line also plays a role in deliverability for the same reasons (need the open to get the engagement to get the deliverability). Spend some serious time on the subject lines, and run some A/B split tests to refine them.
  6. A responsive design
    Depending on which study you turn to, mobile open rates are around 50%, with some studies citing them slightly higher and some lower. Still, about 50% is a significant number, and one that must be taken into account. Here’s why responsive design matters to deliverability: If your emails aren’t opened and engaged with, the major ISPs start to assume that the recipient doesn’t want to here from you and your emails become a.k.a. spam. Using responsive design means improving the chances of someone engaging with your email when it’s opened on a mobile device.
  7. A reason to engage
    Finally, after you have all of the first six deliverability ducks in a row, you must give people a reason to engage. Sure, you can have your DMARC policy, your segmented lists and a responsive design template, but if your subject line is promising something your email doesn’t deliver, you’re not going to get the engagement. The major ISPs have differing definitions of engagement, and you should familiarize yourself with them. But it’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s really pretty basic stuff: Deliver awesome content to people who want to get it in a way they can easily access and engagement just comes naturally.

And make sure you have a cool logo too.


scottScott Hardigree is the Founder of Email Industries, the folks behind Indiemark and BlackBox.

All Hallows’ Email


As an email marketer, it’s easy to be narcissistic, sending out self-serving emails rather than subscriber-centric ones. But as it’s Halloween this week, I think it’s a good time to ask yourself if your emails are a trick or a treat. Because, like the kids showing up expectantly at your door, everyone would rather get the treat.

Emails that trick

Your emails are a trick if they are—as mentioned above—self-serving, all about what you want to sell and not about what your subscribers or customers might need/want to buy. They’re a trick if they show up too often. They’re also a trick if you’re using shady “opt in” techniques, adding people to your list without getting an actual opt in. Then they’re a trick because your emails are showing up in the inboxes of people who didn’t even ask for them.

Emails that treat

Your emails are a treat if they are subscriber-centric, moving the emphasis off of what you want to sell and on to what they want to get, to offer useful information anticipated by your audience. They are a really nice treat if they’re targeted and relevant, using segmented lists and other advanced email techniques to make sure you’re doing right message/right time marketing.

Put yourself in your subscriber’s shoes

Put yourself in your subscriber’s shoes for just a few minutes and look at your email program objectively. Look at the From name, subject line, Preview Pane, preheader text, body, call to action, design, the works. And ask yourself, would you want to get emails from your business? Would you want to get them as often—or infrequently—as you do? Would you be intrigued/engaged enough to open emails from your company?

Act like you’re doing this in person

This isn’t just about being nice by handing out treats. There are multiple benefits to this approach beyond making subscribers happy, because any time people want to get your emails, you win in multiple ways, from better engagement to more sales to improved deliverability. But even if there weren’t, remember that I am of the “just act like a decent human being” school of thought, meaning I think you should be putting the subscriber first no matter what. Just because you have the anonymity of email doesn’t mean you should act any differently than you would if you were addressing that person in person.

Maybe this week, in addition to handing out candy to kids in costumes on Friday night, you could hand out a little candy to the folks on your email list too, offering them email that’s a treat, not a trick.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is Founder of Email Industries (the folks behind Indiemark, BlackBox and Email Critic). Connect him everywhere, here.

The Truth About Video Email Marketing

Look in your email inbox, and on any given day you’re likely to find several emails that feature videos. They can range from informational/educational to simply entertaining. But what is all the fuss about? Does video email marketing really lift response rates? Can anyone use video in their email marketing? What are the best tactics (or best practices for that matter)? Let’s find out!

Video Email Marketing Statistics and Reports

  • Simply including the word “video” in an email’s subject line saw an increase of 7%-13% in overall click-through rates (CTRs) in 2011, according to Experian’s 2012 Digital Marketer Benchmark and Trend Report. Embedding a video in an email generated an average conversion rate 21% higher than emails containing a static image alone.
  • And reported that using the word “video” in the subject line of helped achieve increases in open rates of up to 20% vs. no “video” in the subject line.
  • The 2010 Video Email Marketing Survey and Industry Trends Report revealed that video was used with email marketing by 50% of survey participants, and an additional 24% were considering the use of video in their email marketing programs.
  • Video in email can increase click-through rates by as much as two times to three times, according to David Daniels, former principal analyst at Forrester Research and current principle at Relevancy Group.
  • Holland America conducted an A/B test with an animated .gif video in email vs. a static image. The video segment resulted in 100% higher click-through rate, reported Liveclicker.
  • According to Marketing Vox, 63.9% of 5,000 people watched to completion a video sent by email.
  • In a Get Response study of 800,000 customer emails, those containing video received, on average, 5.6% higher open rates and 96.38% higher CTRs than non-video emails.

Video Email Marketing Tactics and Examples

Depending on your budget, several options exist for creating videos in emails:

  • Embedded video, which is provided by companies like Bomb Bomb. But keep in mind that embedded video will not work in all email clients.
  • Animated .gif videos. See this example from Style Campaign, which is executed brilliantly but this format also has its limitations.
  • A static callout linking to a web-hosted video, like the examples below, is by far the most common tactic.

The video featured in this Williams-Sonoma email demonstrates how to use a product (and clearly labels it as such):

Video Email Marketing Example

Cosmetics retailer Obagi creates continuity in its emails with a video series that touches the emotions, sharing one woman’s struggle with acne and how she overcame it – in time for her wedding – by using Obagi products.

Using Video in Emails

Video Email Marketing Best Practices

No matter what format you choose, if you decide to take the plunge, you should follow these best practices for video in emails:

  • Video expert Justin Foster, in a webinar for the Email Experience Council titled “Video Email: Why, When and How,” said it’s important to call out the video in the subject line, use a play button in the video player/player image, and highlight in the email what happens when the video is clicked.
  • Make the call to action a text link for subscribers who have blocked images.
  • Keep full video length with audio to less than 3 minutes, animated .gif videos to 30-45 seconds.
  • Make sure the first frame of the video is acceptable for email clients that show static images only.
  • Ensure that the amount of bandwidth required by the subscriber is not more than 150-200kB/second.

The key takeaway to using videos is email

You have to decide whether video in email is right for your brand, your subscribers, and your budget. Video can add a personal element (such as a message from the president), it makes your emails more interactive/engaging, and it can be repurposed for other channels, such as YouTube and social sharing sites.

If fear of the unknown is holding you back, many resources are available to guide you through the process. A few factors to consider before selecting an email video provider include video quality, video storage capacity, mobile video recording and mobile playback.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is Founder of Indiemark. Connect with him everywhere, here.

Important Distinctions Between B2C and B2B Email Marketing

As marketers and humans we always look at others for inspiration.

To innovate we take what others have done and build on those ideas to improve and make more interesting.

That’s the goal anyway.

When it comes to email marketing, though, there is one tricky part of the equation.

There are B2C emails and there are B2B emails.

In this post we’ll look at the differences between B2C email marketing and B2B email marketing. You’ll want to pay attention because while some of the methodologies are the same the differences are important because a strategy for one might not work for the other.

Overview of B2C Email Marketing

B2C email marketing promo example.

Woolrich uses a little urgency with this email. It’s a common element of B2C email marketing.

B2C emails are pretty common for most Internet users. You probably received about 5 to 10 B2C emails just today if you’re an average email user.

B2C companies tend to be more aggressive with the frequency in which they send messages so the footprint is higher than in the B2B world.

Another aspect of B2C email marketing is the fact that nearly all emails are sales-focused. This means that each email is about getting to a sale quickly. Purchase price tends to be on the small side for B2C products so the sales process is more impulsive and quick.

You might see an email that introduces a new product. The expectation is that you immediately become interested in the item and make the purchase.

Another common scenario is to see an email that puts the pressure on your to purchase. Urgency is a common tool in B2C email marketing. You’ll see a sale that is ending soon and you have to act now otherwise you’ll miss the promotion.

Urgency is actually one of the areas where B2C and B2B are similar. B2B salespeople do try to get urgency attached to a quote or an offer trying to get a person to commit to a deal.

Finally, B2C emails tend to not follow a welcome series. There are instances when it does happen, but the welcome series is usually not longer than one or two emails. This is in contrast to some advanced B2B email marketing campaigns.

Overview of B2B Email Marketing

B2B upsell example

This email from FreshBooks doesn’t focus on sales, exclusively. It’s also about building trust in the B2B world.

B2B sales tend to be large purchases. There are exceptions on both sides of the equation. There are small purchases in B2B and large purchases in B2C, but in general the large purchases lean toward the B2B world.

Because the purchases are larger there is more marketing in B2B email marketing than sales.

What does this mean?

B2B companies know that email marketing mirrors the sales process. The first introduction happens when a new prospect signs up for the marketing newsletter or marketing program. From there the emails work like a salesperson.

Messages are directed at educating the subscriber. The first email might include some recent news happening in the industry along with a point of view from the company perspective.

Subsequent emails often provide additional insight into the industry and eventually the products and services offered by the company.

The entire process is about presenting the state of the industry and the problems that exist and take the subscriber down the path of solving that issue with the solution provided by the company.

By now you probably recognize that B2B email marketing lends itself well to welcome series. It’s true that many B2B companies setup email series to move new subscribers through the sales process until they become a customer.

Final Thoughts

These differences in B2C and B2B email marketing are important. If you understand the differences you can really focus in on what will work best for your company.

On some occasions you can use inspiration from one for the other. It might be a way to get a little edge on the competition.

Now it’s your turn.

What do you think the differences are in B2C and B2B email marketing?

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is Founder of Indiemark and Co-founder of BrightSpeed. You can connect with him everywhere, here.

Zombie Survival Guide for Email Marketers

Email Marketing to ZombiesIf you’ve seen Zombieland or The Walking Dead you know that there are rules for staying alive in the midst of a Zombie plague. I know what you’re thinking, “How can I apply those rules to my email marketing?” No?!

Okay, surviving the (un?)likely event of a post-apocalyptic zombified wasteland might take priority over the success your email marketing efforts but given the season, and my fascination with Zombies, it seems appropriate to share a slightly modified version of these rules with you now.

  1. Cardio. Like outpacing a Zombie hoard you must be able to run your email marketing program for an extended period of time. No sprinters here. If you’re going to survive thrive, endurance is key.
  2. Double Tap. It takes at least two gunshots to safely deal with a Zombie. This is the same when dealing with customers and prospects. You’ve got to tap them again and again and again to demonstrate your value.
  3. Beware of Bathrooms. You are at your most vulnerable to a Zombie sneak attack when you are in a bathroom. If you become comfortable and relax for too long; your email marketing program can run into the same problem. Be vigilant. Keep testing. Always be on the lookout for opportunities and dangers.
  4. Travel Light. It will be harder to out run a Zombie if you’re carrying more than you can handle. No dead weight. This goes for both the objects and people (practices and vendors) you carry with you. If they can’t pull their own, ditch ‘em.
  5. Dress smart. Clothing should be tight-fitting and purposeful, with easily accessible pockets. The same holds true for your emails; tight in their construction, purposeful in their message and accessible across mobile devices and desktops.
  6. Limber Up. When entering a Zombie zone you’ll want to be as limber as possible.  Have everything in order before pushing the “go” button. Your contact strategy. The creative. Landing page. Sales support. Let’s do this!
  7. Know your environment, use it to your advantage. Outside of their apparent supernatural sense of smell, Zombies have limited insight into their surroundings. You’re no Zombie. Observation and information are your most powerful weapons. Previous purchases, subscriber behavior, stated interests, calendar dates. Data is the next best thing to Zombie repellant.
  8. Buddy System. Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances shall you EVER go anywhere alone (yes, this includes the bathroom). You can’t always see a Zombie coming from every direction. Having an email marketing partner can be a huge help, preferably one with extensive Zombie hacking experience. They can be objective to things you may not want to see, try or do; helping you save time and money.
  9. Enjoy The Little Things. When fighting Zombies you’ll need to take time and entertain yourself (and your subscribers) every chance you get. Enjoy getting to know your clients and enjoy testing new ways of selling. Enjoy the added-value (e.g. branding, social sharing) that email marketing can provide. Have fun but never rest.

This list is intended to be a living document, designed to be passed from survivor to survivor. Please comment so that we can add, edit or consolidate these rules. Our future depends on it.

Scott Hardigree | Indiemark | @indiescott |

Email Autoresponders: The Lazy Marketer’s Best Friend

We found this great post on, which was written by Sonia Simone. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

No one loves blogs more than I do. They’re a great way to build your authority, attract an engaged audience, develop trust and rapport, attract links, and stake your claim in search engines.

I love blogs. But like babies and kittens, two other things I love, they’re also a lot of responsibility.

Blogs take time. You’ve got to write terrific content that stands out from the general noise, promote it intelligently, and cultivate reader relationships. And that’s in addition to everything else you do in your business, from producing your product to getting your taxes filed.

That’s why there’s another content marketing tool that I always recommend having in place — ideally before you write your first blog post.

It’s the email autoresponder.

What is an email autoresponder and why do I want one?

An autoresponder is just a sequence of email marketing messages that gets sent to subscribers in the order and frequency that you decide.

Let’s say you have a seven-part autoresponder that delivers a great tutorial for your potential customers — something that they’ll find beneficial and valuable, and that lays the groundwork for you to make a sale.

That autoresponder creates a great experience for your first subscriber. And it creates the same great experience for your 100,000th subscriber.

It never gets tired. It never needs the weekend off for Father’s Day or Mother’s Day (or Email Autoresponder’s Day).

It never gets bored with your marketing message. It never gets snarky. It never gets sick of newbies.

It delivers your best content, in the best possible order and frequency, to every new reader who finds you. Forever.

That’s why I say it’s the lazy marketer’s friend. Whether you want a day off to head to the beach or a month off for a life-changing adventure, your autoresponder is back home taking care of business.

What goes into a really good autoresponder?

Most autoresponder sequences aren’t all that good, because most of them are about the marketer.

Your autoresponder needs to be about the reader.

The autoresponder’s most important function is to take people who are curious about what you do and turn them into raving fans.

That means an autoresponder needs your best content — the kind of content that makes readers glad every time they click through.

It doesn’t have to be funny, witty, charming, or poetically written.

It has to be damned useful.

It has to solve problems your readers need to solve. It has to give them small, quick wins toward what they want to achieve. And if it can show you’re a nice, relatable, trustworthy person — not just an expert but a likable expert — that’s even better.

Autoresponders make your case for you

You can use autoresponders for anything you need to educate prospects about before they buy.

Explore the pain and problems they’re facing today. Paint the picture of what their life will look like with that problem solved. Address and overcome objections, build trust, outline features and benefits, and create intense desire for what you have to offer.

And if your prospect isn’t ready to buy right now, great email content will keep her “parked” until she is ready … whether that takes her six months, a year, or ten years. As long as you keep adding to the sequence, you can keep prospects engaged and interested until the time is right for them.

Build it first

There’s no such thing as free traffic.

You either pay for web traffic with money — with advertising or affiliate commissions — or you pay with time and creativity.

Blogging is particularly demanding of that time and creativity. So you want to make sure you capture each and every true fan you attract, from the very first days of your blog.

That’s why if you’re starting from zero in a new topic, I recommend you build your autoresponder first, before you start blogging or doing any other social media marketing.

And if you already have a blog going, the second best time to build your autoresponder is today.

How about it?

  • Do you have an autoresponder in place right now?
  • If so, does it have the kind of content that’s going to turn your readers into raving fans?
  • Are you happy with the number of messages in your sequence, or do you think you could extend it a little and deliver even more value?

If the answer to any of these is No, let us know in the comments when you’re going to fix that. You have my permission to be as lazy as you like after you get it done. :)

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on twitter. See the original post here.