Email Optimization

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.


5 Huge Email Marketing Mistakes You Can Fix Now

#1) Making an Unprofitable First Impression
First contact is typically the best opportunity to move the sale/relationship forward and a common email marketing mistake. Here’s the fix…

Create a Welcome Email that Means Business – A well-crafted, automated ‘welcome email’ will set the proper pace and garner a very nice ROI if the marketer doesn’t beat around the bush or blow smoke. This is the time to drive action and set mutual expectations.

Create an Onboarding Series that Tells the Tale – If the offer can support a series of emails, start now. Besides communicating the full value of the product/service an onboarding series will set the stage for putting an email marketing program on autopilot, the Holy Grail for smart marketers.

#2) Not Working Hard Enough Where it Really Matters
Email marketing eats man-hours and brainpower, so we’ve got to prioritize in order to maximize the human capital investment. But often times the best allocation resources and ROI has nothing to do with campaigns…

Invest More into List Growth – Email marketing is largely a numbers game. The bigger the email list, the more revenue that list will produce (assuming that the subscribers are qualified and receptive). Organic email list growth can seem painful and slow but if marketers would only be more strategic, and execute at every appropriate/feasible opportunity, they will see a substantial lift.

#3) Working Too Hard On the Wrong Things
Let’s face facts; it takes time to create a single email marketing campaign, much less a kick-butt email program. Marketers need to automate at every opportunity if they are to focus on the ROI. Here are two huge time savers…

Connect Your Lists and Applications – The exporting and importing of lists is not only a huge waste of time it’s also ripe for human error. Examples of connecting of customer databases, with that of an email service provider, include syncing lists with a CRM system, e-commerce platform or product recommendation engine. Marketers have already paid for these tools; why do they not use them to their fullest? Not only will syncing applications create efficiency, they can also automatically segment lists by activity, product, you name it. Going further, this will help to increase relevance by sending individualized messages, which are based on the subscriber’s actions and attributes. It’s a onetime fix that most of customers tell us was well worth the expense.

Let Automated Emails Do Most of the Work – Once these automated emails (a.k.a. autoresponders, triggered emails) are locked-down marketers need only to review/test their performance periodically. Even the simplest of today’s email marketing delivery tools offer some form of marketing automation. These triggered includes are typically date or user behavior based; examples include product expiration notices, birthdays/anniversaries, appointment reminders, and recommendations based on historical data.

#4) Sending Too Few Campaigns for the Wrong Reasons
Again, email marketing is a numbers game. Send more email, to more people, and more revenue will be generated. Simple stuff right? Yet this is usually the biggest failure. Here’s two fixes…

Consider Outsourcing Production – As we all know, it takes a considerable amount to time and expertise to plan and execute an email program. If an organization doesn’t have the resources for their program to be effective, managed email marketing services might be the best option.

Test the Frequency Tipping Point – Email is not a marketing channel for the timid. Try sending more campaigns, a lot more. Perhaps the list will tolerate, or even appreciate, a considerable increase in campaign frequency. Test it internally or work with a partner, but test it.

#5) Partying Like It’s 1999
The way in which customers interact with emails has forever changed; mobile readership is growing exponentially, inboxes are busy places, and attention spans are plummeting. You’ve got to future-proof your message framework now…

Update those Crusty Email Templates – A template refresh would ensure that all messages are actionable on desktop and mobile devices, today and tomorrow. Recommendations include the addition of pre-header (preview) text in order to further incentivize an open, organic and seamless personalization using known data, as well as a highly skimable approach to content, fingered-sized bulletproof buttons, and compartmentalized, truncated content to aide mobile email readership and ultimately clicks.

Now what? As luck would have it we can fix every mistake outlined above and quite a few more, so let’s talk email marketing!


Make Those Transactional Emails Work Harder!

Are your transactional emails one of the workhorses of your email marketing program? Or just sitting in stalls not helping at all?

“Whoa!” you be thinking right now. “Transactional? Marketing? Aren’t those two different kinds of emails with two very different jobs?”

Your transactional emails aren’t marketing. They’re business, you’re right. But they can do some heavy lifting on behalf of your marketing. They can subtly promote product and build brand without distracting from their primary purpose.

People are very receptive to transactional emails because they are sent in response to an action on the part of the customer or subscriber. It’s therefore an email they anticipate and open. By transactional emails we mean communications like:

  • Welcome emails
  • Order confirmations
  • Receipts
  • Shipping confirmations
  • Billing notices
  • Regular statements

These types of emails are more likely to be opened by the recipient than your regular promotional email marketing messages because they are anticipated and welcomed. That makes them ideal partners to their marketing cohorts.

Transactional emails are an opportunity. The people getting transactional emails from you are already communicating with you and even buying from you, so the trust is there. And they are already opening those transactional emails, so the opportunity is there.

Use your transactional emails for subtle sales by cross-selling and up selling similar products or relevant products or services. Here are some possibilities:

  • Promote products or services that complement what the customer just bought.
  • Drive traffic back to your website for more shopping.
  • Encourage recipients to sign up for email communications.

Ask yourself: Is there targeted selling information that could be included in your transactional emails that’s relevant and useful without distracting from the business nature of the message?

And there’s more. When I say workhorse, I mean workhorse. Selling isn’t the only extra task these emails can tackle. They can be brand builders too. By ensuring the look, feel and voice of the transactional email fits with all your other messaging everywhere else, every message sent is one more brick in the brand you’re building in the customer’s mind.

Review your transactional emails: Do they share the same look and feel as your branded emails? Is the email copywriting written in a voice that matches your brand? Or are they just dry and straightforward business communications? Your transactional emails need not be splashy HTML to reinforce your brand. You can be plenty creative with text only emails. Just make sure the messaging is spot on inline with your brand.

Don’t let your transactional emails munch hay all day when they could be making hay instead. Put them to work promoting product and building brand!

About the Author: Marco Marini is the CEO of ClickMail Marketing and an acknowledged expert in email marketing with over a decade of experience in the field. Follow ClickMail on Twitter: @ClickMail

7 Ways to Lift Email Marketing Response Rates

Mention Facebook in the subject line (e.g. “Favorites of Facebook Fans”).

Use bullets and slash your copy like a serial killer.

Spend 50% of your time on the subject and preview text, other 50% on everything else (including design).

A landing page that features the same primary image of the email that links to it will generate a higher response rate than one that does not use the image.

Repeat yourself on landing pages. It’s redundant, but it gives the recipient the much needed confirmation that they are at the right place.

Create “All in” emails, in which every link except the opt-out goes to the same landing page, rather than multiple calls to action.

Use multiple links and links styles, to the same destination/offer.

Making a Case for Managed Email Marketing

For marketers who want to mine more gold from their email programs; outsourced email marketing is quickly gaining popularity.

Managed email marketing can take many forms, such as the crafting and management of recurring email communications.

It could also involve content development, cross-channel distribution, list growth, as well as untold technical integrations and reporting mechanisms. The list is long.

In any case, when our clients come to us requesting managed email services it’s largely because they’re frustrated and frugal.

Frustrated Marketers

They’re fed up. They can’t find qualified in-house talent or siphon additional production (or ability) from their existing staff, yet they know they could and should be doing so much more.

That’s common. In many ways email marketing is a unique discipline. Email is hard. But in other ways it simply requires talent and tenacity. It’s difficult to find both of those requirements in a single source or an overworked and under-trained team.

Outsourcing works because it allows marketers to tap into the diverse, yet specialized, skillsets of their partner…be they an email marketing agency or an ESP.

Besides creativity, technical skills, and powers of persuasion (all of which are required if you’re going to win the email game), an email marketing partner also brings with them the experiences of working with a varied client base. This is a limitless source for fresh ideas which ensures that the effort does not become a victim of “group think” and that every dollar spent is maximized.

Frugal Marketers

When deciding to outsource their email marketing or keep it in-house, many of our clients first looked at the dollars to see if it makes sense. They’re frugal not stupid.

Let’s face it, email marketing services takes time. So, in one form or another, time is the source of the marketer’s expense.

That’s one of the reasons why outsourcing makes sense; it takes less time.

Because of the experience that your email services partner brings to the table, there is little to no learning curve, as it pertains to their capabilities. They also feel the need to prove their value, every month.

I can’t speak for all agencies but we’ve spent months with our faces buried in almost every ESP’s interface and API. We know their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.  We have crafted thousands of campaigns and provided consulting services to many many B2C and B2B marketers. This creates an efficiency that is only gained through experience. Efficiency means less time, which means less cost.

Besides efficiency, continuing education becomes the expense of the service provider. Payroll expenses, medical, vacation time? Fugetaboutit.

The cost is usually less than that of a full-time staffer, or depending on the requirements, even greater cost savings can be found. Again, it all backs out to time.

If they outsource, what kind of ROI can the marketer expect? There is  only one way to find out: initiate a conversion and choose wisely. It may pay huge dividends to find a partner that can work in concert with them or their in-house teams, or maybe they’d like to outsource the entire email marketing effort, soup to nuts.

The Power of Personalization in Email Marketing

Don't be that guy.I recently took my 9 year old daughter to Justice, a children’s apparel retailer. From the onset the manager bombarded me, at 5 minute intervals, with product recommendations and promotions. This continued for 30 minutes until I was forced to school her on customer insight and preferences.

A bad email program is much like an ineffective sales person. Instead of having to read the disinterest on the faces of your customers, feel the negative impact on sales, or in my case, hear the harshness of their words; email marketing can tell you almost everything you need to know about your customers and help you to sell more.

Going Beyond “Hi FNAME”

The insight required to make your email program more profitable is already at your finger tips and it’s inexpensive. It comes to you in the form of data. I don’t mean open and click data, although that will tell you a lot, I’m talking about data that will allow you to personalize the experience for each of your customers.

Sure, personalized greetings are often well-received but as I mentioned in a recent Chief Marketer article, this year’s standout Valentine’s Day campaigns were those that used deeper data, such as purchase history and customer profiles, to make their offers more personal and therefore more relevant. In the article, I was speaking largely about retailers but service companies too have a slew of easily accessible data to track (or even predict) the purchase intent of their customers as well as identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

What Do You Have to Work With?

The sources of actionable data are seemingly endless, but here are few categories and specific examples:

Profile: Imagine you run a travel agency and I’m your 65 y/o prospect, do you think I’d respond better to an offer that reflected the most popular senior destinations? Now imagine that the images in the offer were those of the silver-haired persuasion. Or perhaps I’m on west coast time and your webinar is schedule for 1pm eastern, would I be more likely to reserve my seat if the email read 11am pacific?

Purchase History: If I bought gifts in or around today’s date, two years in a row, might I want to buy another again this year? What if the new gift recommendations were in line with my previous purchases of those of other gift buyers? Conversely, what if I’ve already purchased your primary product, do you think that I want to hear about how much money I could have saved, if only I’d waited? Instead, wouldn’t I rather know about your secondary offerings?

Activity: Maybe I’ve downloaded three sequential white papers in 30 days, but I’ve yet to make a purchase, would it be a good idea to invite me into a discussion about my specific needs? Or maybe I haven’t responded to your offers in some time, am I perfect for a reactivation offer or satisfaction survey?

Preferences: Imagine that you have 10 different products but I’m a reseller that’s only interested on products 1-5. Shouldn’t I be put into a segment with other resellers? What if I’m a direct user but I only want to receive educational information, as opposed to promotional, I’m more likely to remain an enthusiast and share your information if I only get what I really want?

It’s Easy and Inexpensive To Execute

I’m always surprised when SMB marketers say that using data at this level is only for the big boys. That may have been true in the years past, but today any ESP that’s worth their salt integrates easily with your CRM or E-commerce solutions and web analytics. All you have to do is integrate it and most importantly test it.

– Scott Hardigree | Indiemark

You Might Need an Email Marketing Agency If…

This post is intended to be a resource for those who, admittedly, know that they could be deriving more value from the email channel. No matter if decide to hire outside professionals, such as an email marketing agency, or in-house talent; this guide will help you to assess and reevaluate your current email marketing efforts.

Let’s Look at the Numbers

Email has been the marketing workhorse for a decade, and that’s unlikely to change in the near future.  It allows targeting because it’s data driven. It drives direct sales. It builds relationships, loyalty and trust. It also supports sales through other direct channels:

  • According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing generated an ROI of $43.62 for every dollar spent on it in 2008, that’s twice that of the first runner-up.
  • A recent summary by MarketingSherpa states, “Those that see the effectiveness of their email programs diminishing are much more likely to have short-sighted organizational attitudes toward the tactic. Organizations with investment-oriented views of email reap the rewards.”
  • The CMO Council’s Marketing Outlook ’08 Report reviewed the plans and opinions of 650 marketers. Email marketing was the top target area for investment.
  • In a 2008 survey of retailers, stated that “E-mail is the most mentioned successful tactic overall”.

Handle Email Marketing In-house?

If you don’t have an existing agency relationship or do have sufficient in-house talent, consider this:

  1. You (meaning you or your team) know your business; are you also well-versed in email marketing?
  2. If yes, do you have time and energy to optimize the effort?
  3. How does your integrated marketing and CRM compare against your competitors?
  4. Does your email marketing drive sales, build loyalty, and reduce marketing costs?
  5. Is your email program founded on research and/or historical data?
  6. Does your in-house work save or cost you money?

Already Have an Expert?

If you already have a marketing agency or other outside help, ask yourself:

  1. Do they specialize in email or are they “full service”?
  2. Do they generate an ROI that’s in-line with the findings above?
  3. Do they think about us without being prodded?
  4. Do they understand our target market and business processes?
  5. Have they explored and monetized all the options?
  6. Is their work for fresh, exciting, and reflective of best practices?

Pieces of the Email Marketing Equation

Email marketing can involve customer acquisition, lead nurturing, client reactivation and retention, and of course direct sales, which means that a host of processes and services are potentially involved, including:

  • Strategy & Research
  • Editorial & Promotional Planning
  • Copy Writing & Content Development
  • Design & Coding
  • List Growth & Community Building
  • List Segmentation & List Enhancement
  • Behavioral & Customer Profiling
  • Message Delivery & Deliverability Monitoring
  • Cross-channel Integration
  • Email Service Provider (ESP) or In-house Mailing Solution Evaluations
  • Lead Nurturing & Direct/Up/Cross Sales
  • Multivariate Testing & Program Optimization

If the list above encompasses more than you’re doing, this may be a strong indicator that you’re under-utilizing this lucrative channel. Perhaps it’s time for a fresh marketing partner or maybe you need to reallocate budgets and/or provide your in-house team with more training?

If you’ve (officially) determined that you need help, stay tuned. In the second and last installment we’ll discuss HOW to find and evaluate qualified talent that fits your unique needs and meets your budgetary restrictions.