How to create an effective email marketing campaign

Email is still the most effective marketing channel with some campaigns leading to open rates of more than 90%. Find out how to create an effective email marketing campaign.

What we will cover

If you’ve never run an email marketing campaign before, we understand why the idea might seem strange and perhaps a little outdated. After all, we now have social media marketing and other newer, more exciting technologies.

However, case studies have demonstrated that some email marketing campaigns have produced open rates of 94% and click-through rates of 30% and we all still use emails regularly, don’t we?

In fact, the best way to get familiar with the concept of email marketing is to take a look at some of the emails you receive, especially those that you go to the bother of opening. Compare a promotional email with one you might receive from a friend or relative. How are they similar? How do they differ?

Learning how to create an effective email marketing campaign will offer you a sweet spot between commercial efficiency and personal connection. That’s what you need to aim for to create authentic and profitable interactions.

Before we look into how you can achieve this, let’s start with the basics – getting set up with an email service provider and building your ‘list’.

Getting set up

If you’re not signed up to and using an email service provider you need to start there. Here, we don’t mean your email inbox provider (Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, etc.). We’re talking about a service that enables you to curate a list of subscribers and to create email campaigns to send to them. We use Mailchimp but there are others like Constant Contact and Aweber that you may prefer.

By the way, let’s replace ‘email service provider’ with ESP.

To build your list, you will need to place subscriber signup forms at a variety of customer touchpoints. Your website’s home page and key landing pages are the most obvious places to put these but feel free to be creative. Most ESPs will provide GDPR-compliant forms you can embed into your website or you can do it the other way around by hooking up a form you host to your ESP. Your web developer should be able to help you with this if you need them to.

The other key part of the set up process involves designing an email template (or templates) that you will use for your marketing campaigns. Again, most ESPs streamline this process with intuitive onboarding tutorials and handy ‘drag and drop’ editors. 

Another bonus to using a well-known ESPs is that their email templates will be built using responsive email design (RED) principles. In short, they will look and work great on mobile devices. 

This is vital because over half of email recipients check their inboxes via a smartphone or tablet. Not only that, response rates tend to be four times higher when they do so it is vital that your email can be easily read and clicked in that context.

Once you have your subscriber list and your email templates set up, it’s time to zone in on content. How are you going to write emails that people want to open and engage with?

Adding the personal touch

When you look through the commercial email messages you receive, which ones do you tend to open, read and act upon? Chances are, they are the ones which address you by name and seem to know a bit about you.

Adding that personal touch can lead to a sixfold increase in transactions so it’s well worth looking into. We have written a recent blog post on using custom fields to personalise your emails so please check that out for more details.

Being smart with segmentation

Only one in ten marketers segment their subscriber lists which is surprising given the clear benefits in doing so.

Mailchimp and other ESPs include a segmentation feature as part of their service. You can create segments based on a variety of factors and then set up rules so that subscribers are placed in the right segment, this can be key to creating an effective email marketing campaign because of the relevance of the messaging.

Three popular types of segmentation include by industry type, business size (aka account-based marketing) and by the subscriber’s position on the sales funnel.

Subscribers can also be segmented by demographic (location, age, economic background, etc.), interest and behaviour.

Segmentation enables you to create customised emails that are relevant to every subscriber. Not only does that improve open and click-through rates, it can also prevent you from annoying subscribers with blatantly irrelevant emails (e.g. invitations to conferences in a distant city).

Email optimisation

The top email marketers don’t stop there. In fact, they never stop.

Using A/B (split) testing, you can run never-ending experiments on every aspect of your email marketing, including:

  • Email subject line (a huge factor in itself)
  • Email ‘From’ address (a team member, the company, the company director – who works best?)
  • Message content and length
  • Number and type of custom fields
  • Use of images
  • Plain text only v email template
  • CTA

A/B testing is another feature built into most reputable ESPs although you may need to upgrade your package to access it.

Once you’ve developed some baseline metrics, you can more clearly see how changes impact on your success, bearing in mind there will also be variations based on time of year, market conditions, etc.


Although you shouldn’t (and probably couldn’t) completely take away human input from your email campaigns, you can automate a lot of your email marketing activity.

For example, most ESPs offer several types of trigger emails you can ‘set and forget’. What’s more, activating them tends to increase response rates.

These include emails for welcoming new subscribers, anniversary emails (ideal for birthdays or to reward loyal subscribers) and thank you messages.

You could also create automated campaigns to target shoppers who have abandoned their shopping cart with a special deal, to remind members that renewal is due or to prompt a new subscriber to click their account activation email.

So now you have a handle on how to create an effective email marketing campaign, let us know if you need any creative assistance along the way.

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