Lee Odden

Email Marketing Tips

One of the most effective online marketing services TopRank Online Marketing implements for clients in addition to SEO and public relations is email marketing. Within our direct and email marketing practice there are several, very talented people responsible for this success. This article outlines some of the “whys” and high level “how to’s” of implementing a successful email marketing program.

In today’s ever changing and evolving world of blogs, IM, social networks and consumer disdain towards traditional advertising, it is a wonder how any marketing message reaches its intended audience. After all, each marketing message distributed is competing for the attention of its recipient with a multitude of other communication vehicles every second of the day.

The key to breaking through this communication traffic jam is focus; and in this instance, the focus is on email marketing. While email is reasonably considered a “traditional” digital marketing medium, a focused email marketing effort can break through to an audience and see impressive results.

First, this post will explore 5 reasons why email marketing works and then share several tips and best practices on how to create an email promotion that commands the attention of its audience.

Fast Deployment/Quick to Market – Relatively speaking, email marketing can be deployed from concept to completion within a matter of days, and on occasion (and with a highly productive team) in just hours.

Personalized & Interactive – The ability to personalize your message and interact via clickable keyword rich text links, graphics, etc. your audience has an instantaneous and low resistance you can instantly interact with your audience.

Easy to Digest – When copy has been written with the busy/multi-tasking business person in mind (see tips below) an email can be both read and digested by the recipient very quickly.

Deliverability & Cost Effectiveness -Distribution of a marketing message can be distributed to 100’s to 1000’s of contacts in a matter of minutes. Additionally, when compared to other marketing initiatives, the cost per contact drastically decreases.

Measure of Success – Both reception of, and the results of email marketing campaigns can be tracked; especially when the email is tied closely to a clear call to action which leads to a dedicated landing page supporting the creative and with an inquiry form for prospects to instantly request receipt of the offer.

Now that the “why” email marketing works has been covered – let us look now at “how” email marketing works with the following “how-to” tips to create an effective email that commands the attention of its audience and generate results:

  • First and foremost, know your audience and adjust your messaging to be relevant to their needs
  • Include a clear “Call to Action” and position it close to the top left of the message and “above the fold” of the email.
  • Keep the amount of copy to a minimum and break up long paragraphs to make the message digestible.
  • Balance the white space so as to not make the message look like work to get through.
  • Use bold text to call out important messages/phrases to accommodate the “skimmers”. Be sure to test the campaign by reading the bold text on it’s own to assure that the message makes sense
  • Include a human element to the message via personalization, images of people (ideally the person the email is sent from when applicable), sent “from” the person that has signed the email, etc
  • Use image alt text in the email copy to describe an image for clarification
  • Avoid scrolling by keeping HTML formatted emails to 500 to 650 pixels wide
  • With HTML formatted emails, be sure to tie in elements of corporate identity and the corresponding website
  • Include a link to a web version of the email message. This is especially important for the recipients whose email clients will not render email properly, no matter how carefully the message has been formatted
  • Provide a text-based version of your email available to those who do not want to, or cannot view HTML
  • Manage the bell-curve – Be sure to exhaust the creative concept prior to moving to the next
  • Set clear objectives for the email marketing program and measure results & ROI accordingly

Armed with the above how-to tips, the knowledge of why it works, it is entirely possible to cut through the noise of typical communication traffic jams with email marketing.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Great article! While reading this post I was reminded of this other interesting book call “42 Rules of Marketing”. It has 42 different rules/guidelines that we should all remember. Many of them relate to email marketing too! Have you heard about the 42 Rules of Marketing? I wish I had earlier in my career – it would have saved me a lot of time, money and frustration.

  2. “Lee Odden Reminds Us That Email Marketing Works!”
    http://sphinn.com/story/6755 🙂

  3. Thanks Marty, but it’s Julie Brue that is doing the reminding.

    Judy, I haven’t heard of the 42 Rules book but will check it out.

  4. Lee, To fully reflect the hierarchy of the post, I changed the Sphinn description to:

    Let’s not forget our Roots! Email campaigns deploy to market quickly, personalized & interactive, the reach is huge, costs reasonable, and measuring success is a well honed science. Don’t miss Julie Brue’s article (under Lee Odden’s byline).

  5. Thanks Marty – I need to remember my smilelys 🙂 to show when I’m serious and when I’m half or fully joking.

  6. I’ve always doubted the success of a e-mail marketing, but lately I’ve noticed a big push to re-introduce it. You make some good points Julie, but my concern has always been that the e-mails sent out are perceived as spam. Do you have data that supports the success of an e-mail marketing campaign?

  7. Hey Ayat, unsolicited email and opt-in email marketing are two different things – just to clarify, and TopRank only works with opt-in lists generated through client interactions with prospects.

    Email marketing programs we’ve implemented have the highest conversion rates of any other online marketing tactic we employ. This experience is supported by the 2008 Marketing Sherpa SEM Benchmark Report being announced this week.

  8. Wow Lee, that’s quite impressive. I realize the difference between the two, but if when I receive e-mails from companies I’ve worked with in the past marketing more services or products, it can be a turn off. However, I can see how a personalized e-mail to your clients promoting a new service would be successful. I guess it all depends on the content of the e-mail. Looking forward to view the report :).

  9. Avatar Jason Brailow says

    PPC is one of the most effective and efficient ways to gain traffic and a fairly low cost.

    Jason Brailow

  10. Thank you all for your comments!
    Judy, I will be looking into your recommended read – the “42 Rules of Marketing” looks like a great resource! Who knows, maybe it will be the subject of my next article.
    Marty, thank you for the Sphinn — and the description :-).
    Ayat, I agree, too many email promotions from a company can be a turn off. There is a definite balancing act when it comes to figuring out the number of promotions your audience is interested in receiving.
    Jason, you are correct, PPC can also be an effective solution to traffic and lead generation. I firmly believe that deploying an integrated mix of tactics; including email marketing, PR, SEO, PPC, etc. and subsequently measuring their results, is a great way to determine the best tactics for your business.


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