i’m sorry to be the one to break it to you… but no one is reading your emails! if you’re not being deliberate about your content, and if you’re not using analytics to inform your content strategy, it’s just not happening!

when done right, however, email is one of the most powerful – and underutilized – tools for growing your business and building your brand. did you know, for example, that email conversion rates are 40 times those of facebook and twitter? 40 times! that makes email one of the best ways to connect with your customer, remind them of your value and drive conversions. so, let’s talk about how you can optimize your email efforts and make email work harder for your brand and your business.

first things first, email is both art and science:

  1. the art part is content and the key is that content is king, but only if you craft it with your goal in mind
  2. the science part is analytics and the key here is that if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it

on the art of content:

like with any other channel, having a solid content plan is the key to success in email marketing. step one, ladies and gentlemen: decide on your goals and build an editorial calendar with a content mix that speaks to those goals.

here are three goals i’d suggest using to shape your content mix: 1. build a connection with your brand, 2. deepen engagement around that connection and 3. drive acquisition. you’ll want a mix of these but it’s up to you to decide how much you’ll weigh each of these types of content. the important part is to always craft your email content with the goal in mind.

  • build the brand. this content is designed to tell the story of your product. it’s great to tie this kind of content to timely, seasonal topics and very important to tie the key message of the email back to your brand and your value proposition. remember your goal: get your customer to read and connect with it!
  • grow the community. this content is designed to generate action around the connection with your brand. that can mean asking them to share something, engage with you on social media, watch a video, and so on. when you want customers to engage with you in some way keep in mind that facts, tips, giveaways and questions are a great way to prompt engagement. remember when drafting these emails – in both content and design – your goal is for them to share it!
  • drive acquisition. this content is designed to drive customers to purchase your product. here it’s important to give them a clear action. but only one! the more you give a reader to do the less likely it is they’ll do it. and remember your goal here: buy it!

on the science of analytics:

with the resources available today, analytics should be an important part of your strategy. if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it, and if you cannot manage it you cannot improve it. the key is to test different elements of your email, measure and adjust your content accordingly. let the data (and not your assumptions about your customer!) inform your decisions.

here are some examples of elements you can test: subject lines, tone, design and layout, use of social media, the action or “ask” of the email, and personalized content for different segments of your list.

and depending on what you’re testing you’ll want to look at: opens, clicks, conversions (whether than means buying a product or engaging with you on facebook) and related engagement on other channels.

in conclusion:

remember that effective email marketing is equal parts art and science:

  1. the art part is content and the key is that content is king, but only if you craft it with your goal in mind
  2. the science part is analytics and the key here is that if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it

this post originally appeared over at the TSBC collective. more here!


and the winner of april fools' day goes to... my friends at fundrise. take a look at their email from last week's april fools' day below. and then do yourself a favor and click through to the full page.

creative brands that have a sense of a humor, a passion for the details and a distinct personality always get an A+ in my branding book. and the level of detail here is truly phenomenal. and it is the perfect play on their product. AND i am sure that while everyone can appreciate this, no one found it funnier than their customer. like i said, A+.

and if you don't know about the awesome work fundrise is doing in the crowdfunding and real estate space you should probably get on that.

more here.


i know you send a lot of emails. and i know some are very important to you. but here's the thing: usually no one reads them. so, here's an example of an email that was well done that i think we can all learn from. these lessons apply to those using e-communications for marketing but they also apply to anyone who wants to get their emails read! generally speaking, if you're writing emails, you can probably be doing a better job at getting your emails read and your messages across. like this awesome email from pandora, this email from harry's is a lesson in simple and effective email design.

from: harry's

subject line: the moustache that changed the world

sent: on a saturday earlier this month at 10am

here's why it's good:

1. timely: the content is seasonal, it ties to what's on people's minds. people are thinking about movember and this email hopes to build on that.

2. simple: self-explanatory subject line, one image, one quote, one block of text, one action, one link. BEAUTIFUL.

3. relevant but different: this isn't usually what readers get from harry's so it stands out. but (this is important) it still ties nicely with what they expect from the brand.

4. thoughtful send time: when are guys likely to spend a couple of minutes reading through an email from harry's? saturday morning sounds about right to me.

click here to learn more about movember (only a couple of hours left!) over at harry's.

and check out my first post on harry's: meet harry! and a note on branded content.


wanna get your emails read? bookmark this!

whether you're a marketer thinking about being more effective via email or you're just thinking about how to get your boss to read your emails, i've got some suggestions. here's a useful (and pretty!) list of email marketing best practices. click through to see the full version - which is pretty AND clickable - and read through all of the tips.

it's a lonnggg article but if you work in email marketing it's very valuable. number two worked on me like a charm when i first signed up for squarespace. four is key and an important reminder to make your data work for and with your marketing. number one is my number one digital marketing mantra.

if you DO NOT work in email marketing, do you send emails to people that matter about things that matter to you? then this is relevant to you too! i can't count how many times i've seen a long email from a friend looking for donations/support, a colleague looking for feedback on something, or been cc'ed on a crazy long email to a senior manager that fell flat. you can apply almost all of these tips to those emails: be smart about highlighting what you want them to do (tip 8), be mindful of pulling out the most important points (12), be strategic about subject lines (10) and so on.

whether you're a marketer or not, we can all be doing a better job of getting our messages across.

more here. and for a great example of effective emailing check out this post about pandora from a couple of weeks ago.


i wanted to share this video from pandora for two reasons: first, the video and the concept are awesome and second, the delivery was spot on.

first, the delivery: i get very few emails from pandora (usually just with station suggestions) so i’ve never bothered to unsubscribe. this week i got the email copied below and was struck by how effective it was. here’s why:

  • the subject line: “wow…” was simple but attention grabbing. it was also unlike most emails i get from them so it captured my attention.
  • the sender: the email was from tim westergren, the founder of pandora. their emails never come from him so again, it captured my attention. see a trend? you need to change things up in your communications in order to get the attention of your users.
  • the content: a one line intro that is personable and to the point, the link, a line about why this is at the heart of the brand’s mission and then an action. it’s basically perfect.

video and concept: when you “thumbs up” (aka “like”) something in pandora it adds it to your favorites and adjusts your station accordingly. but what if it meant something more?

  • the basics: you can “like” or “thumbs up” or virtually high five anything these days. it’s the most basic digital interaction. so, brands need to be thinking about how to make it mean more, and how to make it lead users to engage deeper (rather than just “like” and keep scrolling). this is one of the few places i've seen a brand try to do this.
  • the execution: it’s touching, it’s inspiring, and it takes the concept of pandora - connect with artists you love and fall in love with new artists in a few clicks - to a whole other level.
  • don't forget: give them an action! once someone engages with your brand they need to be given ways to continue to engage.

it will be interesting to see the traction #thumbmoments gets and where pandora takes this but for now, kudos pandora!