By Evan Colborne | April 28, 2017

Reading Time: 6 minutes

A colleague of mine asked me the other day if I knew who invented email. I paused for a moment, but quickly realized I hadn’t the slightest clue. If I had to guess, I would have said Bill Gates or someone else at either Microsoft or IBM.

It turns out that there isn’t a universally accepted inventor of email. Some credit Ray Tomlinson, a Computer engineer who is 1971 sent the first known electronic message, albeit to himself. Others credit Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, who as a 14 year old in 1979 wrote software that he called “EMAIL”. Whoever you credit with the invention of email, there is no denying the impact that it has had on our lives.

Now I’m going to venture and guess, and say that in the last 12 months, your organization has engaged in some form of email marketing. If so, join the club (not literally of course, but there probably is an Association of Email Marketers somewhere) as 89% of Marketers say that Email Marketing is their number 1 source of lead generation.

Why do Marketers rely so much on email these days? Well that’s easy; it may have something to do with the fact that email is expected to reach 3 Billion (with a B) users by 2020!

For the amount of collective effort that is put into crafting and developing strong email marketing campaigns, there is unfortunately 10 times as much bad email marketing out there that puts a damper on the whole thing. So, we wanted to share some of our thoughts on how to ensure that your email marketing are part of the good email marketing out there.


Before we dive into the specific tactics, first let’s distinguish between a few different types of email marketing pieces.


A newsletter is an email marketing piece that is sent regularly, typically at defined intervals (Daily, weekly, monthly etc.). These emails typically share announcements about products/services, and general company information. Could also include recent content, promotional offers, reminders about upcoming events and so forth. What differentiates a newsletter from other forms of email marketing is the regularity with which they are sent, and the combination of several different types of content.


These emails are often connected to a marketing automation platform (more on that later) and are designed to be triggered by a certain action a prospect takes. For example, let’s say that a prospect is on your site and downloads your schedule to their calendar. This might prompt a lead nurturing email guiding them along to the next step of the sales process (i.e. purchasing tickets to an event, speaking with a sales person etc.) The trick with lead nurturing emails is that the content and the recipients need to be highly targeted, otherwise the message won’t make sense for the reader.


This type of email closely resembles a newsletter in that it’s focus is to share information that could include invites to an event, product or service announcements etc. Where these emails typically differ from newsletters is that they aren’t sent regularly, instead they are sent on an “as needed” basis, and they are typically sent to a smaller targeted list as opposed to your entire newsletter database.


You guessed it, these emails welcome a new customer/fan, newsletter subscriber etc. These emails are typically triggered by some type of action taken by the reader.


These emails confirm that you’ve received something from the reader and are acknowledging it. In the sports and entertainment business, these would be most common after someone purchases tickets. These emails are typically automated through a ticketing system.


These emails are also triggered but an action taken by a user. Sticking with our example of a fan who downloads your schedule, if they haven’t taken any further action after a period of time, you may want to send a follow up email thanking them again for downloading the schedule and reminding them about what next steps they could take. These emails could also be automated.

Now that we have a sense of the various forms of email marketing, let’s dive into some specific tips and tricks to maximize the effectiveness of your email marketing. For the purposes of this post, we’re not going to focus on the emails that are typically automated; instead we’re going to focus on email newsletters, as they are the format that typically requires the most ongoing work to craft.


If the current iteration of your email newsletter consists of pushing ticketing messaging, than this tip is for you. You may be familiar with the 80/20 Rule, well it applies here as well. Try to aim for 80% of your content to be valuable engaging content that your fans want to receive, and leave only 20% for promotional or sales related content.

Emails with too much promotional content (unless that’s what the reader has signed up for) will typically see high unsubscribe rates (or at the very least low Click through rates and conversion because they’ve been marked as Junk and never being opened).

In this case, strive to be an overachiever and even aim for 90% engagement, 10% promotional.  


In order to maintain a consistent and active readership of your newsletter, it’s best to set the expectations early of what your newsletter will contain.

To continue from Tip #1, if you tell readers on the sign up page that your email newsletter is really just promotional content disguised as a newsletter, than you’ll likely see very few signups. Further to the point of offering valuable content in your newsletter.

Aside from content, let your potential subscribers know how often they can expect to hear from you. Again, if the reader is expecting a monthly newsletter, and all of a sudden hears from you 8 times in the first week, they’re likely to unsubscribe.


Just because someone has subscribed to your newsletter, does not mean that they are necessarily going to read it, or even open it for that matter. Unfortunately, you need to continue to sell your reader on why they should take the time to open and skim your newsletter. This is where Subject lines become your best friend.

Use these valuable characters to grab the attention of the recipient.


As much as we suggest limiting your promotional content to between 10-20% of your newsletter, you still want to make sure that there is a call-to-action.

The key is to focus on one primary call to Action. This is what you ultimately are hoping your readers will do. It’s ok to have other call to actions in your newsletter, but they should be considered secondary.


Keep the design of your emails simple. Especially today when so many people are reading emails on their smartphones, you want to make sure that they can effectively skim your newsletter on a phone.

In a study conducted by Hubspot, they found that emails that were plain text actually saw better open rates than their HTML counterparts. Plain text would be on the minimalist end of the spectrum, but the point is to not over do it with images. Use white space to your favour.


Last but not least, measure the outcomes of your email marketing. Just like any other form of marketing, if it’s not working you either need to fix it, or drop it altogether.

Email marketing has the benefit of being pretty measurable. Through most software providers, you should be able to see things like: Delivery rate, Open rate, Click through Rate, unsubscribes etc. However, you may also want to track things like: list growth, and ultimately conversions.


To sum up, email likely is, and should be a part of your marketing mix. If it isn’t, consider if a monthly email newsletter might be a way to ease into it. If it is, be sure that you’re regularly measuring its impact and iterating to make it more effective for your team/organization.

In some way shape or form, email has now been around for over 30 years; and whether we like it or not, it’s likely going to be sticking around for a while.

Email marketing has a lot of benefits that just don’t come with other forms of marketing.

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