Email Marketing 101: What Works and What May Work in the Future

The first guy that used emails for marketing, Gary Thuerk, is known as the “father of spam”. While you may be feeling bad for him, the result of his “spammy” efforts brought in $13 million in revenue for his employer, and this was back in 1978. So it isn’t hard to imagine how things got better for Thuerk, despite getting the sad nickname.

Over four decades later, the world of marketing has evolved incredibly. The web now plays a role in most aspects of life and business. There are several social media platforms offering great entertainment to users and great marketing opportunities to marketers.

One thing that hasn’t changed during this time is the use of email for marketing. In fact, at 3800% ROI (not a typo), email is hands down the most cost-effective marketing channel in existence.

With that said, none of those facts mean that email marketing is not challenging. Just like everything else with a low barrier for entry, email marketing involves overcoming a lot of competition. For instance, on an average, 1 email user receives 121 emails every day.

This means, whether it is a subject line or the body copy or the frequency of your emails or even the time of the day when you send emails, each aspect of your email marketing strategy must be executed with absolute perfection.

Even when you are not necessarily sending marketing emails. When your backlink checker tool tells you to build more links and you reach out to bloggers with guest posting requests, getting your emails right is the key to success.

Here are a few ways that marketers all over the world are currently using to improve the effectiveness of their email marketing efforts:

Make Your Subject Lines Interesting. If It Doesn’t Work, Start Experimenting. (Think Mobile)

Among the hundreds of emails that your prospects receive every day, your subject line is one of the only things that will help your email stand out. Besides the name of the sender, the subject line is also one of the first things that a recipient reads in an email. Naturally, the importance of your subject line is high and it should be written with great diligence.

There are many ways to make your subject line click worthy. From keeping it short and relevant, to using cliffhangers, what may work for your brand might not work for the others. This is because even though modern email marketing involves various tools that help you design and deliver your emails, at the end of the day, you are writing for humans and humans, for the most part, are unique.

That’s why, understanding your audience, their pain points, their motivations, and what makes them ‘click’ is critical to your success in email marketing, and not just in the matter of writing click-worthy subject lines.

With that said, there is one definite thing that most audiences absolutely hate- adding “Re” or “Fwd” at the beginning of your subject line. This might seem like a thrifty and clever idea, but all it does is disappoint your audience.

Step into their shoes and think about it, you receive an email that makes you think you have forgotten or missed out on a conversation and when you open it, it’s just some brand trying to sell their product to you.

Such disappointing experience may even prompt your audience to unsubscribe from your mailing list or mark your email as spam.

However, despite writing clever and interest-inducing subject lines, despite following the best practices, there will be recipients that will not open your email. To minimise the number of people that don’t even look at your emails, you can try sending the same email, with a different (but equally enticing) subject line, to these recipients.

Besides the subject line, you can also try a different time of the day to send your email. While it may not bring in significant results in the first go, when this strategy is applied with care, results will start showing after you figure out the right timing and the right subject lines.

Use The Pre-Header To Your Subject Line’s Advantage

The pre-header is also one of the elements that a recipient looks at before opening any email. In most cases, this space is filled with the first few words of the main email copy.

However, most email marketing software allow users to customise this part of their marketing emails to improve open rates and it only makes sense to use this feature to your advantage.

Since the pre-header appears right next to the subject line, you can use the two in conjunction to create clever combinations.

Whatever you do, make sure you preview your email, it’s subject line, and the pre-header before you send out a mass email.

Remind Yourself Why Users Sign Up To Your Email Lists

In all fairness, the reason you are paying for an email marketing software and using your precious time to craft emails for your clients is to generate more business. After all, that is the ultimate objective of all marketing strategies.

However, while focusing on generating more leads and converting more customers, we often forget one very important thing- the reason someone (anyone) signed up for our emails.

They didn’t not sign up to receive emails selling their products.

Maybe they saw your content, found it helpful, and signed up after looking at your promise of delivering similar content to their inbox. Maybe they signed up to know more about your business. Maybe they signed up to know about the updates you are making to your digital product.

The key to success here is simple, give your users what they want. Provide the value you promised to them when they first signed up for your email list.

This doesn’t mean you should promote your products or services. It just means that the promotion should not be the core focus of your email marketing efforts.

When you add genuine value and create honest engagement, selling to your prospects will become much easier and the same marketing messages and strategies that you currently use will start showing better results.

Be Concise

The value of being concise in email marketing is immense. For starters, when you use concise subject lines, you are ensuring that your subject lines will not be shortened when displayed on a smartphone screen.

When close to 60% of internet users are using mobile devices, this seemingly small advantage can bring in great results.

Similarly, users also love concise, to the point email. Today, most people are more busy than ever before. Even those that are not busy, have an incredibly short attention span.

In such a case, when your reader encounters an email with long blocks of text, many of them will not even make the effort of finding out if the content is interesting. They will simply move on to the next email that is full of colorful graphics and clever, short copy.

Test, Test, And Test Some More

When someone starts with their email marketing efforts, they have to work with certain assumptions about their audience and guess what kind of content will be appreciated. Sure, there are tools that can help you make more calculated guesses, but at the end of the day, that’s all they are, guesses.

However, things change after you have built a healthy email list and have been consistently sending out emails for a while now. At this stage, you can utilise data and testing to eliminate the guesswork from your email marketing efforts.

All you need to do is start testing different email copies against each other, and do it frequently. This way, you can constantly improve your email marketing game, while also ensuring your emails don’t feel stale or boring.

In fact, when you conduct A/B testing, don’t stop at testing the email copy. You can test different subject lines, pre-headers, CTA buttons, and even timings to find what works best for your brand and with your audience.

Keeping Up With The Future Of Email Marketing

While email marketing has managed to stay at the top when it comes to preferred marketing channels, technology has changed how it is done. These days, there are incredibly powerful email clients and email marketing tools that help marketers make the maximum impact with their emails.

While claims about email marketing being ‘dead’ come and go, the marketing channel has stood the test of time and if you ask me, email marketing will continue to thrive in the future.

Naturally, there will be new trends and developments that will influence the results of your email marketing campaigns. That is why keeping up with such trends is important.

Let’s look at some of the email marketing trends and technologies that I think will disrupt the way email marketing is done in 2022:

Newsletters Are Taking Us Back To The Future

In a Content Marketing Institute survey conducted in 2020, 81% of B2B marketers say their most used form of content marketing is email newsletters. At the same time, thanks to the pandemic situation, we saw a lot of publications and journalism organizations suffer. As a result, many journalists started their own (paid) newsletters which several people signed up for, in the hopes of getting news delivered right in their inbox.

Both these instances tell the same story- newsletters are still immensely popular, and there is still time for brands to take advantage of this popularity in 2021.

From creating your own list for a newsletter and in turn, creating engaging newsletter content, to paying for ads on other, already popular niche newsletters, marketers can use these incredible communication tools to their advantage in a number of ways.

Personalization Meets Automation

Anyone with any sort of experience with email marketing will tell you that audiences love personalized emails and this isn’t speculation, numbers support this notion.

Readers are more likely to open an email with a personalized subject line. When a mere subject line can make a difference, imagine how much more effective will entirely personalized emails be!

The great thing is, personalization of emails can be done at a scale now, especially when you are sending transactional emails. Email marketing tools these days allow for incredible personalization at scale.

The best part is, this ability is not limited to transactional emails. Even regular marketing emails can be personalized and automated to a large extent with the help of audience segmentation.

Interactive Emails

Interactive emails have been around for some time but they have started gaining mainstream popularity fairly recently.

Using accelerated mobile pages (AMP) technology, these emails can potentially reduce the number of steps a prospect has to take, after they find an interesting product featured in your newsletter.

While a lot of email marketing software currently don’t support AMP, the effectiveness of this technology will surely prompt them to include relevant features in their products.


It is expected that the number of email users will cross the 4 billion mark in 2023. If you think or have been told that email marketing is dead, think about why most reputable digital marketing services still include email marketing as a part of their service.

Having stood the test of time through ups and downs, through the bursting of several bubbles, email marketing is going to continue generating business for those who are able to use it with finesse.

Author: Samantha Acuna

Samantha Acuna is a writer based in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post,, and Yahoo Small Business.

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