Email is a direct way to reach, engage, and convert your audience. A tried and tested method, it often outperforms other channels. According to McKinsey, email is 40 times better at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.

But email doesn’t just get customers over the line. It is also a powerful way to increase their lifetime value. Customers who receive your emails spend 138% more on average than those who don’t subscribe.

So, how do you harness the power of email? The foundation of email marketing success is a solid email marketing strategy.

In this blog post, we explore how to create a winning email marketing strategy. Whether you are starting from scratch or have a strategy that needs refreshing, this post will guide you through the process.

1. Setting a vision

First up, set a vision for your email marketing strategy. Consider your overall business aims and work out how email can help you achieve these.

Try writing some short vision statements to focus your efforts. Rather than going into detail about KPIs at this stage, set top level goals that will guide you. These don’t need to be super specific but should mean something to your business.

Examples include:

  • email will generate a third of online sales
  • email will be our main tool to improve customer retention
  • email will turn 1 in 2 customers into repeat purchasers

2. Defining your audience

Next up, define your audience so you have a clear idea of who would subscribe to your emails and why. This helps you to work out:

  • who to target to build your email list
  • what would entice them to sign up
  • what content would keep them engaged
  • why they would buy from you

Answering key questions about your audience helps you focus your email marketing efforts on engaging the right people.

3. Mapping your customer journey

In the digital age, customer journeys are rarely linear. As people move between multiple devices and channels, email can ease them along in their journey.

Consider key moments in the customer journey that email could enhance. Here are some examples that are relevant to most eCommerce businesses:

  • encouraging new subscribers to make their first purchase
  • enticing those who abandon their basket back to buy
  • upselling or cross-selling to a customer who is about to make a purchase
  • thanking customer for a purchase
  • asking for a review
  • encouraging someone to buy a product again before it runs out

4. Creating personas for segmentation

Next up, create personas for segmentation. Basing these on behaviour rather than demographics allows you to move beyond the basic segmentation tactics to a more intelligent approach.

Personalising your marketing according to your customers online behaviour ensures your messages are contextually relevant, timely, and engaging.

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Behavioural-based segments might include:

  • hesitant first-time buyers
  • browse or basket abandoners
  • repeat purchasers
  • VIP customers
  • lapsed customers

Marketing automation technology allows you to set up various email workflows triggered by each of these behaviours. Tailor your messaging to drive each persona to convert.

5. Creating SMART goals

SMART goals is a way to set targets that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound.

Creating SMART goals helps you to focus your email marketing efforts, ensuring the channel helps you to achieve your business aims.

Here are some examples of email marketing SMART goals:

  • increase email click-through rate from 4 to 8 percent by the end of July 2018
  • increase conversion rates from email from 2 to 4 percent by the end of August 2018
  • reduce unsubscribe rate from 2 to 0.5 percent by end of September 2018

To ensure your goals are achievable, it is a good idea to benchmark where you are at now and consider what increase you could reasonably aim for.

To decide on a reasonable increase, consider the tactics you will use to reach your goals and estimate their potential impact.

6. Defining what you’ll send

Now we come to the most creative part of your email marketing strategy: the content.

You need to decide which messages will resonate with each segment of your audience. Your aim is to entice each audience segment to take the next stage in their journey with you.

Without differentiating content, your approach will not be personalised. Personalised, contextually relevant messaging is your best hope of engaging and converting your audience.

To decide what to send, consider the behaviour-based personas we explored in section 4. Decide how to tailor your messaging to drive the each of these target personas to convert.

For example, you might send a hesitant first-time buyer a discount. In contrast, you might upsell or cross-sell to a frequent customer, with personalised product recommendations based on past purchases

7. Determining frequency

Determining the frequency of your emails is important. Get this wrong as you could risk allowing customers to lapse or, conversely, irritate them with a flurry of messages.

The optimum frequency may vary for different segments of your audience. Try to predict what will work for each segment and then test this. Tweak the frequency according to your results.

8. Growing your list

To make your email marketing sustainable, you need to work out how to continually grow your list. This makes up for those inevitable few unsubscribes and helps you to reach a wider audience.

Think about what you can do onsite to encourage people to subscribe. Unobtrusive popovers with benefit-lead messaging are a good way to entice people to sign-up.

9. Measuring results

To judge the success of your email marketing (and prove to the powers that be what awesome ROI it’s delivering), make sure you measure the metrics that matter.

These may include click-through rates, conversion rates, or unsubscribe rates. The metrics you decide to measure should align with your SMART goals.

Make sure your email marketing technology is set up to measure the metrics you decide on so you can report on them easily.

Work out a weekly or monthly reporting process and continually record and analyse performance. Use what you learn to refine and improve your efforts.

10. Test, refine, and improve

Finally, ensure your email marketing strategy includes a testing plan.

You may know a lot about your audience, but you can’t always predict how they’ll respond to every element of your email marketing.

Putting an email testing plan in place as part of your strategy helps you to test different hypotheses. For example, you might A/B test different send times to find which gets the most opens.

Embedding a test and learn approach allows you to optimise your strategy and improve results.


The ten steps we’ve explored are the foundation of a solid email marketing strategy. Follow them carefully and you will be on your way to email marketing success.

In order to bring your strategy to life, it is important to have the right email marketing technology in place. To see ours in action, click the button below.

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