The 3 Golden Rules of Email Marketing Automation

As we continue to settle into 2018, email marketing will again play a large role in strategic marketing plans for leading brands. Although no longer the trendiest or most buzz-worthy topic, 67% of marketers surveyed deemed email marketing extremely important or very important to their broader strategy1. Even with new tech emerging, email marketing is still one of the leading ways for brands to engage customers and prospects.

However, there is a fine line between engaging and annoying an audience via email. Consumers overwhelmingly indicated that they expect email communications to be personalized and relevant to their needs. Regardless of whether you are a leading Fortune 500 brand or a local establishment, there are a few benchmark rules to email marketing that can help you better engage with your contact list. To get the most out of any email marketing campaign, utilizing these three golden rules will help you engage your contact database and drive the largest ROI from your email marketing investment.

1)    Offer value to your audience. 

If the answer to what value your contacts are getting from your email is ‘none’ or ‘you’re not sure’ then you’re spamming them. If you’re deploying emails to an audience, then you’d better have something relevant or useful to offer. No one wants a pushy and salesy email about your company; believe me. People are busy and receive hundreds of emails a day. The main question that they want to answer is “what’s in it for me?”

If the person receiving your emails does not see the value or clearly understand how it might help them, it’s likely you’ll end up in the trash folder, unsubscribed from, or, in a worst-case scenario, marked as spam.

Before you click send, take a moment to ask yourself why someone would want to click on your CTA as well as how that reason might change from person to person and segment to segment. This is a critical, but often overlooked, question to ask when it comes to email marketing. This leads me nicely to our next golden rule of email marketing...

2)    Personalize or go home. 

Before scheduling that next deployment, ask yourself if your email is personalized to the audience you are communicating with. If the answer is no, stop immediately and do not send those emails. The ‘spray and pray’ method may have worked in the past, but savvy consumers, and even email service providers, are seeing through generic emails more efficiently than ever before.

To get better results and help drive engagement, you need to spend the extra time to ensure that each email is personalized for the contacts in your database. If a lead feels like you spent the time to get to know them, then they are more likely to invest the time in you.

For example, let’s quickly look at the two emails below. Which one would you be more inclined to engage with?

Email 1

Email 2


You’ll notice some differences immediately.

The first email is very XYZ-centric with little focus on what this actually means for the lead. Why should the lead care that you spent two years developing the product? They won’t. They’ll only care about how it will help them do their jobs better. Avoid being too focused on your brand as the focus should always be on the needs of the person you are emailing.

In stark contrast to Email 1, Email 2 is personalized to the recipient and their needs. You can see that the personalization starts in the subject line with the name of my company and how it can help me. The value proposition is clear: you will help me be more productive. The value for me in the first email? Maybe productivity? It’s unclear.

Other details such as my name, my title, and how I have interacted with your brand previously are also included in Email 2. This shows me that you took the time (even though it is an automated email) to get to know me and my company, and might be better positioned to identify and fix my pain points.

As you may have noticed, email personalization goes much further than simply including a contact's first name and company and this brings us to our third and final rule…

3)    Emails must be targeted and data-driven. 

Both example emails above would be terrible to send to a contact that didn’t make widgets. What if the recipients had made gadgets? Delete or, even worse, unsubscribe!

To effectively personalize and offer the most value, you must know the audience you’re targeting. With vast amounts of data available, there is no excuse not to use it. That said, almost all brands that I have advised on their email marketing strategies have listed the same pain points when it comes to this – some of the common obstacles are lack of data integration, lack of trust in the data, or incomplete data.

Utilizing Data Fully

Above, I mentioned some of the common, data-driven, obstacles that are frequently encountered by brands in their email marketing efforts. No need to worry though as each obstacle has a solution that can help you better utilize your data and begin to drive increased engagement, conversions, and learnings. I’ve outlined a few simple approaches below, one for each pain point, that will allow you to gain increased ROI from your email marketing program.

  • No data integration: Simply put, you have the right data but it’s in all the wrong places, making it nearly impossible to source when it comes to your email marketing efforts. For one of our clients, we were able to integrate their internal database, Google Analytics, a third-party pixel, and their email marketing data. In turn, this new integration of data gave the client a complete view of their customers online and offline behavior. Armed with this complete data set, the client was able to personalize their emails more effectively, resulting in a 26% Call-To-Action completion increase.
  • Lack of trust in the data: You have data, but you’re not sure if it’s correct. There’s a lengthy list of factors that can contribute to inaccurate data, to help ensure that the data you have is dependable, consider utilizing a confidence audit. A confidence audit can quickly show you the areas in your marketing program where your data is being mishandled, from missing or incorrect tags to faulty reporting, and how you can begin producing clean and usable data again.
  • Incomplete data: You have some data, but there are significant gaps. This is where a customized implementation might be necessary. With complete data, you’ll be able to transform the way you view your conversions. One of our clients had no visibility into an authentication site that their users landed on before returning to make a purchase. Without a clear view of the entire funnel, it made it difficult to identify and email the potential customers who had abandoned the funnel. By implementing new tagging as part of customized implementation, we were able to appropriately segment users who had exited at the authentication site and email them asking if they needed assistance while also offering a discount.

Connecting experiences and datasets across every available channel is critical as brands continue to adopt a digital mindset. This is where our groundbreaking, new Visitor Stitching methodology can help. Visitor Stitching allows organizations to build a plan that utilizes a pragmatic approach, making use of available data, and optimizing marketing efforts from the gathered insights. By closing the loop on the cross-device consumer experience, leading brands can not only optimize the customer experience while driving more personalized and efficient experiences, they can produce real business results.

To put it another way, based on our earlier examples, if you know that 300 of your clients make widgets, that’s great. However, if you also knew that only 100 of them have purchasing power, that’s where your segmentation practices can begin to add significant value to drive appropriate messaging and ultimately, deliver results.


Every email you deploy comes with an opportunity to build or damage your brand, so make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. By practicing these three ‘golden rules’ of email marketing, you should see enhanced engagement with your email database that will ultimately lead to an improved customer experience. If you feel good about the three rules above when you look back on your email marketing platform, then press that send button!

If not, it may be best to go back and rethink your strategy. Typically, this process will start with re-evaluating your data and ensuring that it is being collected in a uniform and usable format. As brands continue to mature through digital transformation and advance their data integration capabilities, it’s not uncommon to see many struggles to bring their data together across channels into one cohesive view.

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1. Survey by ClickZ 

By Victoria Sawtelle
About the Author:

Victoria Sawtelle is a Senior Analyst, Team Lead at Stratigent.

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