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Great email marketing explained

You can create great email marketing

All email marketers start out with the objective to create great email marketing, but creating something that really works is becoming increasingly difficult.  Email is no longer about sending ‘newsletters’.  Email marketing is now about sending effective marketing messages to the right people at the right time to achieve the right results.  And that’s a complicated process that deals with a complex audience, namely how your business deals with and interacts with your customers.

Despite what the internet might be telling you, the bad news is there simply isn’t a magic bullet to hypnotize people to open and react to every email that you send.  But the good news is understanding all the elements that go into creating a great email will help you to get increasingly better results.

So let’s get the lab coat on and get scientific with a marketing email that dropped into my inbox recently.

What’s the objective of this email?

The email is from the shoe retailer ‘Schuh’, it’s a targeted email based on a purchase I’ve made in the past.  At this point it’s important to note that I’m writing this ‘review’ based on our experience of email marketing, and as a customer of Schuh.  I’ve got no idea if Schuh create their email internally, if they use an agency, if so which agency they use or which technology they’ve adopted.  

Let’s break it down…

1: The Subject Line:  How are your Nike measuring up?

The subject line in this case is referencing a brand that I had previously purchased from Schuh.  So I’m presuming the ‘Nike’ bit will be a merge field.   So if I was creating this email for Schuh and I was looking at this in the ‘email editor’ the subject line would look like this…

How are your [brand_name] measuring up?

So for this to work, you’ll need to be passing the brand name data from the purchase I’ve made into your email system or ‘marketing list’

Also note that the sender of the email is  that’s different to the generic schuh email address, and is more representative of the brand that I was engaging with.

2: The header image

Nothing fancy here.  Just a simple branded headline that makes the content of the email very clear.  Schuh want to make sure that my kids shoes still fit.  They are sharing knowledge here, and I’m grateful for it.

So far so good.

[vc_single_image image=”3298″ img_size=”full”]

3 and 4.  Creating specific content relevant to the reader.   

They are referencing a purchase I’ve made, and they are making that clear by putting up the brand name and style that I purchased.

In this case, a pair of Nike Flex Fury.

So if I was creating this email for Schuh and I was looking at this in the ‘email editor’ this section of the email would contain a table with two columns.

In the left column contains one merge field (see point 4).   

[product_image]  >> this would merge in an image of the product purchased.  In this case an image of a Nike Flex Fury.

In the right column contains two merge fields (see point 3).   

[brand_image]  >> this would merge in the Nike brand image

[product_name] >> this would merge in the Product name text, in this case = Nike Flex Fury

So in the email editor it might look like this…

[vc_column_inner width=”1/2″]


[vc_column_inner width=”1/2″]



will merge into these images…[vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3293″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3292″ img_size=”full”]

and (like magic) becomes this in my inbox

creating great email marketing

For this to work, the data for the merge fields needs to be held in your email system.  For this to be effective – the data needs to be correct for each sender!

5: Keep your text clear, concise and focused

Whereas the section above was pretty complicated, the text below will be the same for every ‘version’ of this email that has been sent.

The ‘greatness’ of this is in the clarity of the text.  It’s clear, helpful and when mixed with the ‘clever bit’ in points 3 and 4 that’s already been presented to me, becomes personalised as it’s in context with my previous behaviour.   It passes the ‘head nodding’ test.

“We know that little feet grow quickly (on average kids go up a size every three months) and if your last schuh kids purchase is getting tight, why not pop in to your local schuh store and get your little one measured up? Our trained staff offer a free shoe fitting service and we have all your favourite brands in child-friendly sizes.”

The text also confirms the importance of timing, which is critical to the effectiveness of this email message….

“(on average kids go up a size every three months) and if your last schuh kids purchase is getting tight, why not pop in to your local schuh store and get your little one measured up?”

I purchased that pair of Nike Flex Fury, around three months ago.

Create a compelling and clear call to action

Your reader should be under no illusion to what you want them to do next.  A single call to action is a beautiful thing.  It’s clear to everyone and cuts through the clutter.

In this case, the call to action is crystal clear.  It’s in the text and also on this massive great green button on a red background.

create great email marketing - Create a great and clear call to action

It get it.  It’s time to make sure that my kids shoes still actually fit, and those good folk at Schuh are just the people to help me confirm that.

6: The footer image, and the importance of the Opt In.

This is where things get a bit strange.   

If this is a marketing email and it seems to be – why are they are asking me to sign up to their marketing emails?   

I’ve checked my email history with Schuh and so far I’ve only received this message and an email receipt.

When I’ve checked, my email receipt from Schuh has the same ‘sign up footer’.  It makes sense in that context, as I’ve given Schuh my email to send me a receipt.

But as I’ve only receive these two messages from Schuh (three months apart), it seems clear to me that I’ve not actually ‘explicitly opted in’ to receive email marketing messages from Schuh.

At the moment as this email message is related to a purchase, my feeling is that Schuh can just about get away with it.  However, when the revised data protection changes come into force, without my explicit consent, it would be illegal for Schuh to send me this message.

create great email marketing - remember the unsubscribe link

7: Where is the Unsubscribe

It seems to be a marketing email to me so it should have an unsubscribe link.  It doesn’t.  Naughty Schuh, all that great work undone.  You need to have an unsubscribe link, don’t fear it, embrace it. 

You want to be sending emails that people want to receive, and you need to know those people that don’t want your messages anymore.  


In summary – have they created great email marketing?

Schuh have created a great email in terms of content, context and timing.  They’ve linked their brand personality and the data they’ve collected in a great way to share some important information to the parents of Schuh purchasing kids.   

However, it’s missing some key elements of email marketing best practice, the opt-in policy is debatable and the lack of an unsubscribe link is very naughty.

Now just create great email marketing

So now you know a bit more about the detail involved in creating a seemingly simple email.  I started this blog post with the bad news that behind that no magic bullet exists to hypnotize people to open and react to every email that you send.

So let’s finish on a positive note, the good news is you now understand more about the elements that go into creating a great email and that should help you to get increasingly better results.

The great news is you don’t have to do this alone.  Help is at hand.  You need extra help then we can help.  We’ve created some processes in our marketing automation software that helps remove the complexity of dealing with your business data AND the complex nature of your customer’s behaviour.

It’s not perfect, and it’s not a magic bullet, but is consistently recording results that are +300% above the industry average for traditional email campaigns.

If you want to know more, get in touch and start creating great email marketing by completing the form below or click here to book a call