Successful email marketing – five vital components


My business Quick Tip newsletter (have a look) is one of the longest running in New Zealand. Started in 1999, I rarely get unsubscribes.

I thought I’d share my experience and outline what I believe are the five vital components of a successful marketing email.

1. Database

2. Content

3. Technical setup/design

4. Distribution

5. Response management

Each component has significant bearing on how well received – or, sadly, if received at all – your email will be, and if action is required it is taken by your recipient.

Because of space allotment, we’ll now look at the first two components, database and content, and follow up with the other three over the next two weeks.


1. Targeted is best. By this I mean ensure your email is relevant to your recipient. For example, if you are promoting something in New Zealand, exclude email delivery to all those outside the country.

If you’re doing something in Auckland, exclude those outside the drivable area. Why? You might in the short term sacrifice a few sales, but in the long term you’ll preserve the asset – the gold your company has worked so hard to acquire.

By gold I mean the trilogy of your marketing database, your permission to email those on it and getting them to actually read your email.

In this day of extreme overload, it is vital to be relevant and spot-on in your targeting.

This is why one of my top database recommendations is to always get as much information as you can – and enter it – into your marketing database.

This leads us to point two, when your email is a selling one.

2. Don’t try to sell the same thing to the same people too many times.

Your first use of the database for a specific offer will get the gold medal.

Your second email on the same subject turns up a few more, a silver medal. Notice bronze is omitted? Your third run is a wipeout. Very little take-up and lots of unsubscribes.

My advice: If possible, don’t be greedy and skip the third email. This leads us to point three.

3. Replenish, replenish, replenish. Continually focus on getting fresh blood in to top up what you’re losing through unsubscribes and mail delivery errors.

It is exceedingly, and I mean exceedingly, hard to get new subscribers in 2012. You have to have good content.


Naturally, this constitutes what you actually say in the email.

1. Wiifthem (what’s in it for them). Short and sweet. The No 1 content rule, and unfortunately where 999 out of 1000 businesses fail is not recognising the simple fact their recipients only care about their own world.

They’re busy. Over messaged. Over inundated. The 999 business emails are written from a me, me, me point of view.

Here’s a few examples from my inbox:

a. A consultant: I’ve just written a new book.

b. A Twitter direct message: We develop easy to use & affordable hosted IT…

c. Speaker: if you missed my webinar.

You can see these are written from the businesses perspective. A simple mind-set change would make all the difference.

What are my problems? My pains? What solutions would interest me? How can I be more successful? How can I save money? 

A simple tweak of your wording will make a huge difference:

a. A consultant: Here’s a new book you’ll be interested in.

b. A Twitter direct message: Do you need easy to use & affordable hosted IT?

c. Speaker: Do you want to know more about x? Here’s a link to my webinar.

2. You must, must, must write for spam filters.

It pays to understand how emails are screened, rejected or accepted. Commercial spam filters intricately examine each email and primarily work on a point scoring system.

The filtering criteria, words as well as technical set-up, is different for every business recipient as their IT department sets the controls. Have a look here to see the rating system of spam assassin

My next column will cover problems and what to be aware of in email template design and the three methods of personalised distribution.

Have a look at the business quick tips newsletter.


# Debbie Mayo-Smith is an international speaker, trainer and bestselling author who works with businesses that want more effective management and staff.

# Her new book, Conquer Your Email Overload, can be bought at any bookstore.