Test Emails Strategically with Purpose and Vision for What You’re Trying to Achieve

Test Emails Strategically with Purpose and Vision for What You’re Trying to Achieve

We don’t know what we don’t know. There needs to be a continual evolution of email marketing and learning from gaining new knowledge to testing. But testing for example, needs to be done strategically – with purpose and vision for what you are trying to achieve.


At mailfloss we’re focused on helping email marketers get the most from their email marketing campaigns. We do this in a few different ways. First, we help email marketers improve their deliverability through the use of our email list verification service. Secondly, we work hard to educate email marketers on the various topics relating to running a successful email marketing campaign.

Today, mailfloss had the opportunity to chat with Kate Barrett, Founder of eFocus Marketing, a consultancy, management & training agency dedicated to helping companies improve the effectiveness of their email marketing campaigns.

mailfloss is lucky to have Kate with us today to share her insights about what it takes to run a successful email marketing campaign with our blog readers!

Without further ado, let’s jump into the interview.

The Interview

Hello and thank you for joining us today to speak about your involvement in the email marketing space with our blog readers. Let’s kick off the interview by having you tell us a little bit more about how eFocus Marketing got started and why you made the decision to focus so heavily on email marketing?

Hi, thanks for inviting me to be a guest on your blog! I started eFocus Marketing back in 2012 after working in email directly for brands and service providers for many years; I love email marketing as a channel and it’s always been the main focus of my career, even when working for brands managing the entire marketing mix. On leaving my last job I decided that I wanted to be able to help more companies to use email more intelligently and started freelancing in the space. Over the last 7 years I have built the business into a boutique agency offering email marketing consultancy, management and training services to clients around the world. And over the years I’ve been lucky enough to work with some fantastic brands including M&S, Nissan, adidas, QVC, Cox & Cox and many more! Email marketing is such a vital part of the marketing mix – it underpins all the other marketing channels and allows you to directly communicate with people who want to hear from you, in a space that they regularly check and rely on for the delivery of information.

You do email strategy audits for eCommerce companies. What are the three biggest mistakes that you see eComm companies make when it comes to creating a strategy for their email marketing campaigns?

I don’t think it’s so much mistakes, as challenges that companies face.

The first would be a lack of innovation in email marketing – now this doesn’t have to be jumping on the bandwagon and using the latest tech! It could simply be that many companies, who have been using email successfully for many years and make a large chunk of revenue, when it comes to budget considerations just keep email running rather than investing in it further. But as we know, email marketing is one of the highest performing in terms of ROI and with a little more knowledge, a solid strategy and support from higher management, email marketing can continue to grow and support your business even further – and we have plenty of new and shiny if that’s what you’re after too!

The second would be that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’. There needs to be a continual evolution of email marketing and learning from gaining new knowledge to testing. But testing for example, needs to be done strategically – with purpose and vision for what you are trying to achieve.

The third would be companies not putting the customer at the heart of everything that they do. If you understand your customer and their needs, wants and desires, when they need this delivered and how they like to be communicated with, you will see much higher results.

This will be part one of a two-part question. Creating an email welcome series is a powerful tool for eCommerce companies. What strategies have you seen prove to be most successful in terms of optimizing for subscribers?

The best strategies come from understanding what your subscribers need from you, when and why. So for example, do you want them to have found out more about your brand or gone on to make their first purchase?

When you understand the end result you are trying to achieve from the series, you can then work backwards to ascertain what needs to take place for the subscriber in order to lead them there. What do they need to know, when and how? This will tell you how many emails you need to send and what the content of each needs to focus on.

The next step is to look at the data you have about your subscribers and can gain along the course of the series, that can be used to better personalise the content you’re sending in subsequent emails. For example, data you collect on sign up about their interests (to show specific categories of products) or gender (to determine if they would like to hear about men’s, women’s or children’s clothes, for example) or behavioural data (what they interact with within your emails or pages they view on your website).

And don’t forget – If someone makes a purchase, stop your welcome series immediately!

These welcome series are only valuable if you have people to send these emails too. What can eCommerce companies do to better their opt-in conversion rate? What opt-in magnets have you seen to be most successful?

In order to increase your opt in conversion rate, the first place to start is to consider where your sign up form is placed and how it is presented. Making sure that it appears at a point that makes what you’re offering relevant to the user and helps them take the next action is important. For example, if you’re using pop ups, consider the timing with which these are shown; don’t display a pop up as soon as they hit a page, instead use a time delayed pop up to serve the content once they’ve had a chance to start browsing, or consider using an on-exit pop up to entice people to sign up before they leave the website.

The wording you use on your forms is also important. Make sure you have an attention grabbing headline and copy that explains ‘what’s in it for them’ – why should they be interested in signing up to receive emails from you, how often will you send them and what are they going to get out of giving you their data.

How much data you ask for also has an important impact on your conversion rate; the more data you ask for, the more you will know about your subscribers and the more qualified they will be, but the fewer people will sign up. Consider what data is business critical to be collected and how you present this – perhaps using a chained signup approach for example (where the sign up is registered after the first form collecting the basic information you need and then further information collected through subsequent forms or progressive profiling).

Using a lead magnet can also help to incentivise the opt in. For ecommerce, some of the most popular offers include free delivery, free samples or a % or £ off their first order – these types of offers not only help to increase your conversion rate in a lot of cases, but also to help move people through to actually make a first order with you as well.

Now the second part of the question. What sequencing techniques have you seen provide the best results for eCommerce companies?

Automating your campaigns helps you to meet the 3 main marketing needs for a successful campaign – sending the right message, to the right person at the right time.

When you automate a campaign based on a subscribers action or inaction and send a series of emails you have the chance to build a relationship, nurture and entice your subscribers to take your desired action, building up your messaging overtime so as not to overwhelm them with too much all at once.

Some of the best automated campaigns for eCommerce companies to implement include abandoned basket campaigns (to target people right at the end of the funnel and help them to get over the line to purchase), abandoned browse campaigns (to help them find what they’re looking for and lead to a purchase) and post purchase campaigns to nurture your customers, make their experience fantastic, build loyalty and encourage repeat purchases.

How have you seen eCommerce companies creatively approach designing their “voice” for their email newsletter? How important is “voice” as an optimization tool? What companies are you particularly inspired by when it comes to email voice?

Making sure that your company is speaking in the right tone of voice is important for two reasons.

1. To make sure that your messaging across platforms is cohesive and phrased in the same way so that customers immediately know it’s you.

2. To make sure that you connect with your subscribers in the right way. Depending on who your subscribers are, they may use certain words or phrases that other types of people don’t use, for example. In order to make your marketing stand out, you need to not only have a good creative, offer and the right placement of your messaging, but you also need to understand the people you are talking to, what they need and how to connect with them on their level.

You’ve been involved in the email marketing space for quite some time. What creative changes have you seen evolve over the years? How is the world of creativity evolving within the world of email marketing?

Email marketing is constantly evolving. There are two main creative changes that I’ve seen happen over the last couple of years:

1. The rise of interactive email – as the way people interact online continues to change, as email marketers we have to keep up! People want to be able to take actions quicker and more easily through whichever device they are interacting on. And so, through creative coding and the introduction of AMP at Gmail and Microsoft, we have seen the start of email designs allowing subscribers to interact right there in the email – whether it’s an interactive slider of images that you can scroll through, kinetic design allowing you to toggle through different sections of content, a survey that can be completed and submitted right there in the email or actions that happen when you hover over a button.

2. Increased awareness of the need for accessibility in email. Whether a subscriber has a permanent or situational disability, your emails should be designed to make reading and engaging with them easier for more people. This includes coding so that screen readers can more intelligently read your emails, making sure that your fonts are large and clear enough for people to read, content is spaced out, buttons are large enough to click/tap on different devices and that your colour contrast is enough to be seen.

On a similar note, how have you seen email technology change over the years? What are some new and exciting email technologies you’ve seen help email marketers better reach their audiences?

The biggest shift in technology is the rise in Artificial intelligence making the ability to test, personalise and trigger emails based on your customers individual data, easier, faster and much more intuitive – but of course you have to have the right data in the first place in order for this to be accessible! Artificial intelligence is set to increase over the next few years and opportunities in email could include:

  • Creating ready-made reports in natural language that tell you exactly what the data means that you get back from your campaigns.
  • Automating tasks and sending campaigns based on predictive technology.
  • Analysing content, trending data, user behaviour and more to understand your users and deliver personalised experiences and messaging relevant to them; with personalised subject lines, content blocks, images, links, offers and much more!
  • Sending personalised product / service recommendations based on specific details around the users last purchase – e.g. not just sending more shoe ideas because someone bought a pair of shoes, but specific product recommendations based on the size, colour, shape, heel size, comfort level and other details.
  • Learning what works and what doesn’t faster than a human ever could – speeding up the testing process exponentially.

Do you feel that there is anything on the horizon (either technology, policy, deliverability, strategy etc) that email marketers should be worried about?

I don’t think that marketers should be worried, but we do need to be prepared for changes to legislation such as ePrivacy in the UK and CCPA in the US – these laws will have an impact on how we collect data and what we do with it going forward. We also need to make sure that when we do collect data that we see it intelligently and make sure that our strategy plans put the customer at the heart of everything that we do.

Lastly, if you had the opportunity to sit down with a younger version of yourself today who was just getting started with email marketing, what three pieces of advice would you give yourself?

The three pieces of advice that I would give to my younger self would be to keep…

  1. Learning more about different areas of email marketing to make sure I’m always up to date with the latest developments, technology and legal processes
  2. Testing to improve results strategically
  3. Working to understand my subscribers, what they need, when and how.

Thank you greatly for taking the time to chat with the mailfloss email marketing blog readers today, Kate. We really appreciate you taking the time. To our audience, if you’d like to learn more about Kate and the work she does, you can follow her on Twitter or head over to her website here.