Theory. The secret weapon unlocking your email marketing success.


I was recently asked to provide a keynote speech at a university. In preparing for this I started to think about the benefits of learning. Drawing on my own experience both sides of the lectern, I know and see how combining theory with real world practical experience, elevates any marketers game. I wanted to explore this through the lens of email, given the constant need to stand out in a very crowded inbox. 

53% of consumers feel too many irrelevant emails are received, cluttering their inboxes with unwanted noise. With over 3 billion emails being sent every single day (that’s 41 emails on average per person globally) standing out and creating engagement with consumers is tough, but when achieved it reaps amazing rewards.

This challenge is worth our key focus. Email remains the preferred channel of choice for consumers. This opportunity to connect and maintain a direct relationship with your customers and prospects is a key component to business success. So why are so many marketers missing the mark?

Well in part it’s because sending marketing emails is easy. Creating copy and adding some images to a template in a platform and hitting send is fast and takes little effort. And as with all channels AI generated copy is making this even easier.

BUT, to stand out and create excellent emails you need skill and expertise. Yet 50% of marketers say they’re not confident in their email marketing skills.

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Why the disconnect?

Why are marketers churning out emails that fall flat, leaving both consumers and themselves feeling frustrated?

The answer lies in the multifaceted nature of great email marketing. It's not just about hitting "send" on a generic message. It requires a unique blend of skills that bridge the gap between the analytical and creative sides of our brains – great email creation truly is the bridge between the art and science of marketing.

Consider for a moment the full scale of skills needed when sending the kind of email campaign that we would all be proud of and that readers will respond to.

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And this lack of a full spectrum skill set and expertise is why many email campaigns fall short. Marketers may focus heavily on technical aspects or data analysis, neglecting the creative elements that capture reader attention. Conversely, some may prioritize crafting catchy subject lines without a clear understanding of their target audience or campaign goals.

In short “Sending emails is easy – sending great marketing emails is not.”

Theory as your bridge to expertise (and confidence)

Why are marketers struggling to create emails that resonate? Often, the core issue is a lack of confidence stemming from a skills gap.  Many marketers haven't bridged the divide between theory and practice. Marketing theory provides a robust framework for understanding key concepts like customer segmentation, targeted messaging, and campaign measurement. These frameworks act as a compass, guiding marketers in navigating the complex email marketing landscape.

The good news is that bridging this gap between theory and practice will help you become a master email marketer.  By embracing a proactive approach built on sound marketing theory, you can transform your email marketing efforts from frustrating to fulfilling.

Let’s put this theory to the test (see what I did there?)

I love a good framework or marketing model. They provide a way of thinking about a task, with guidance and structure. What questions do I need to answer and in what order to reach a solution that will work effectively. This shortcut to how to approach a problem means I can spend far more effort and time on defining the best outcome with far less time burnt working out how I’m going to approach the task in the first place.

As an example. When planning a campaign what are the key areas for consideration and in what sequence. The temptation is to dive straight in and begin creating content based on the key things the business wants to tell its customers, seeking the end goal action e.g. sales, attendance, use etc.

A campaign planning framework gives you the discipline and structured way of working to take a step back first to consider some key elements before you even start creating content.

It provides a deliberate sequence of predefined questions to consider, enabling a solution. With most marketing teams needing to create more with less resource and budget, this time saving is a massive bonus. A better end solution in less time and with less chance of delivery dead ends and repeated steps.

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In this example the model provides a clear starting point:

  1. Defining the link between activity and business success with clear objectives
  2. Who this might be relevant to, why, and how this shapes the proposition

    only then do you move to

  3. Message and content - which is now informed by the previous planning steps

Having both completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Digital Marketing a few years ago and as a lead tutor now across multiple courses, I have experienced and witnessed the power of brining theory and practice together.

Personally, it was a game changer for who I am as a marketer. And seeing within my classes the impact, confidence, speed of delivery, and professional curiosity this learning fosters, something I am deeply passionate about.

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Developing a width and breadth of experience – ‘T’ shaped.

Embracing theory empowers marketers to become proactive instead of reactive.  By actively learning new techniques, adopting best practices, and exploring cutting-edge trends, marketers gain the confidence to experiment and refine their approach.  This continuous learning fosters a "T-shaped" marketer. Someone with deep expertise in their core area like email marketing, combined with a broad knowledge base of related marketing concepts.  This well-roundedness fuels creativity, problem-solving abilities, and ultimately, the ability to craft truly exceptional email campaigns.

Actionable tips for bridging the theory-practice gap

Feeling inspired to elevate your email marketing with a stronger theoretical foundation? Here are some ideas to take (or pass on)

Dive into industry resources: Explore publications from leading marketing organizations. A million bonus points already for being part of the Only Influencers community.

Upskill with courses: Always keep learning. Whether that’s in-depth courses on marketing theory and strategies or more bite sized chunks of learning on specific tactical topics.

Attend industry conferences & events: Network with peers, learn from industry experts, and discover (or remind yourself of) emerging trends at conferences.

A Win-Win-Win for everyone

Developing a well-rounded skillset in email marketing benefits everyone involved.  Businesses experience increased ROI as campaigns become more engaging and effective.  Marketers gain a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment as they see their skills translate into real-world results.  And most importantly, customers receive emails that are relevant, informative, and add value to their inboxes, fostering stronger brand loyalty.

clay banks Hf8n0RUk7g0 unsplash 600Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash