Industry figures estimate that anywhere between 90-97% of all email is spam, i.e. defined as unsolicited bulk email. Arguably, different organisations will suggest different levels of compliance to avoid being labelled spam, or indeed how they classify spam in the first place. What is clear, however, is that there’s far more to lose than gain by taking a renegade approach to your email marketing.

In the same way that the reputation of your brand is essential, so is your reputation in the world of email. A big difference being that all you need to do is get complained about enough times by people you are emailing and then all trust is lost, often never to return.

Getting blacklisted by Internet gateways – meaning your emails will get blocked – is only half the story. In the social space, people could become very vocal against your brand online. Even worse, your customers or prospects will lose trust in your company because of the way you are communicating.

Ultimately, effective email marketing is about making your message stand out in someone’s in-box and getting a result, i.e. They take an action that benefits your business. So first, let’s look at who you’re talking to in the first place.


Having a quality database is central to email marketing – not just for ongoing campaigns from your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, but also for new business acquisition and lead generation. What’s more, in terms of marketing, it’s important that the people in your database actually want what you have in the first place.

New Business and Lead Generation

When it comes to new business acquisition by email, there are many companies that will sell you a database of names, many offering quality email opt-in lists. This is somewhat of a gamble, not just for the return on investment of your outlay, but also for the relevancy and quality of the contact names.

Always use a trusted source for your data or outsource your email marketing campaigns through a reputed agency. There are also lead generation companies, such as emedia, that publish industry titles to opted-in databases. This has the double benefit of extending your reach to a new audience with no potential damage to your brand and the opportunity to build your own quality email database.

Client Retention and CRM

A quality CRM system will help you break down your audiences and allow you to send targeted messaging to your customer database. The more information you have about your customers, the more refined your messaging can become. More refined = more relevant = more effective.


How you send your email marketing campaigns is just as important as what you say and how you say it. Your email message will need to jump through a lot of hoops after you press the send button, just to make it to the in-box of the recipient.

Each of the people in your database will potentially have a different set-up with regards to the way they accept email. For instance, different corporations will have different policies in place for their email firewalls and ISPs will have policies on recognising emails as spam and what they do to combat it. You could find yourself on the wrong end of one of these policies if you do not follow proper procedures.

Many marketers make the mistake that because it is they who are sending the email, it can’t possibly be spam… after all, aren’t their intentions honourable and their product amazing? Ultimately, spam is what one of these hurdles says is spam, be it the corporate firewall or ISP. If just one link in the chain bounces your campaign, it’s all been for nothing.

Use reputable email delivery software online (Software as a Service) or a desktop application that will guide you through the process of sending your campaign. Do not assume that you can email blast your Outlook address book and hope for the best, you could be damaging your reputation forever. If in doubt, use a recognised email marketing agency.

Many companies prefer to send HTML emails that can be stylised, but this isn’t always the right thing to do, both in terms of deliverability and also of the action you would like the recipient to take. Perhaps text is a better option for your audience? At the very least, a text backup should be sent as an option and this can be automated using a multi-part email, which will determine the best way to send the email for each recipient based on their own network preferences.

When it comes to improving the deliverability of your email campaign, design plays a large role if you are using HTML (graphics and stylised text). But, there are three main points to bear in mind:


When it comes to improving the deliverability of your email campaign, design plays a large role if you are using HTML (graphics and stylised text). But, there are three main points to bear in mind:

How will it look when it gets to the recipient?

If you design a leaflet and get it printed to hand out to your clients, you know exactly what it looks like when you hand it over. Email works in a much more flexible way (and that isn’t necessarily a good thing).

Because the people you are sending your campaign to will no doubt be using an array of different email clients to manage their email, your campaign may end up looking very different for each recipient. Your design will need to be implemented to work across a number of email clients, such as Outlook, Apple Mail, Yahoo, GMail, etc. This often takes someone with a real understanding of HTML compliance to adapt your design to be flexible across multiple platforms.

If your customers or prospects use a mail client you haven’t taken into consideration, the email you spent quite some time designing to look great, may end up being a mess of code at the other end that does not render properly on screen.

Persuasive Creative Design

The other aspect of designing an email for effective delivery is how it looks from an aesthetic point of view. You may have brand guidelines to implement and imagery you need to use but you need to bear in mind what you want someone to do when they open the email. If the aim of your email is to get someone to click on a call-to-action that drives them to your website, then the design needs to be driven towards that goal.

Optimised Design

A final design point that is very relevant to email users (and IT departments) is file size. i.e. How big are the files that make up your email message?

If you have multiple large images or don’t try to optimise your design, you could find that it won’t reach the end-user and will get quarantined at a firewall along the way. Many marketers still make the mistake of including large images or PDF attachments that either clog up the recipients email or encourage the IT department to block all your emails.


The words you use and the way you use them in your email campaigns are essential on two fronts.

Firstly, you need to be persuasive to get the reaction you are looking for. Good copywriters know that by tweaking the wording of headlines and call-to-actions (or any of your copy) you can significantly improve the level of engagement you create with the reader. The more persuasive, the more likely they will take the action you are looking for from your campaign, which is the main point of sending the email.

But, the flipside is that you need to ensure that the words you use aren’t caught by spam filters. There are certain words that will flag your email as potential spam and by making some checks you can avoid this potential roadblock.

There are a number of checks you can run on your campaign before you send it to get a spam quality score or highlight warnings against specific words in your email. This will enable you to change them before you send your campaign.


Remember, computers don’t read emails, people read emails.

It is a person you are trying to engage with in a marketing or sales process. What is it fair for you to ask them to do? What would they be willing to do next after receiving your email message? What would it be like if the boot was on the other foot and you were receiving this email from a potential supplier?

This is where segmentation proves itself to be a key aspect of marketing by email. Your message can be targeted according to the person at the other end. For example;

  • Are they an existing customer or prospect?
  • If they are a already customer, what have they bought from you and is there a specific cross-sell or up-sell opportunity?
  • Can you segment into vertical or horizontal markets with tailored messaging?


Ask many people in business about email and they will no doubt tell you that they are inundated on a daily basis. If you are serious about marketing to these people, it’s not just a nicety that you send your message in a non-intrusive way – it’s essential.

Complying to the technical aspects of deliverability while you still manage to make your email stand out is a challenge, but a very worthwhile one. Creating relevant messages to a relevant audience in an appropriate manger will vastly improve the end result, namely improving your conversion rates.

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