Tiffany: Why Does Email Marketing Need a Strategy?


Across the pond, the GDPR has presented the world of digital marketing with a unique opportunity to take stock, reflect on our methods, and start afresh with a clean sheet. It’s given us a fantastic insight into the mindset of our audiences, and empowered us to build positive, lasting relationships with our customers.

While initially it may have been a bit of a shock for organisations, it’s becoming apparent that the GDPR’s data-cleanse is actually a fantastic learning moment and with the new California Consumer Privacy act of 2018, it has set a worldwide standard. It’s given customers the opportunity to vote with their feet and tell brands in no uncertain terms what works for them and what does not.

It’s very noticeable that the data haemorrhage affected some brands more than others. With the dust is settling, we can now take stock and assess precisely why this is. What made customers opt in to emails from some brands while they contentedly brushed so many others aside? What sets these brands apart from the rest of us?

Simple. Strategy. 

Brands which have retained their subscriber lists are notable for their strategic approach to email marketing. They pour a lot of resources into crafting well-researched, precisely-targeted, and closely-monitored strategies. Email consistently remains the highest-performing marketing channel with an ROI of 38:1, and are therefore it’s worth getting it absolutely right.

So, the GDPR even outside of Europe has given the marketing world a bit of a reality check. But, in my opinion, this is actually a pretty exciting thing. Following the data-cleanse, we can begin afresh, building new, positive relationships with customers. A blank slate like this gives you an unprecedented opportunity to transform yourself as a brand into the kind of organisation with whom consumers would like to have a relationship. 

However, you can’t do that without a solid, well-researched, all-encompassing strategy. If you’re unsure of where to start, I’ll give you a quick overview of how a good email marketing strategy should look below:

What should a good email marketing strategy look like?

  • It should be all-encompassing. A common bugbear of mine is people who confuse ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’. Tactics are the methods used to execute a strategy. The strategy is everything from goals and objectives to targeting and analysis. Your strategy is the blueprint you use to achieve your goals. It should tell you why you’re doing what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for. Tactics have a big part to play in that, they tell you how you’re going to achieve it. But tactics should be thought about after the strategy has been defined. You should have spent a long time strategizing (working out your goals, aims, objectives, target audiences and so on) before you even start to think about tactics.
  • It should play to email’s strengths. Email remains (as it always has been) the marketing channel with the strongest potential. However, to unlock that potential, you need to play to its strengths. For example, email presents a unique way of communicating with your audience on a direct and personal level - something which other forms of marketing lack. Current insights point to a growing amount of social media fatigue, with average engagement rates on Facebook dropping to 0.09%. As more of us take ‘digital detoxes’ or quit social media altogether, email moves to the fore and remains the steady bedrock of marketing. While email has plenty of other strengths (that’s a whole new article!), I’d highlight its essential difference to social media marketing as something that’s really important in this current climate. If your email marketing is transforming your customers’ inboxes into the kind of intrusive, ad-heavy experience they’re tiring of on social media, you’re doing it wrong. Work it to your advantage, and present your audience with the kind of private, personalised experience which email can offer but social media cannot.
  • It should be brand-consistent. Silo-working is a big problem for modern marketers. The social media team don’t communicate with the email team, and so on. Worse, we sometimes see one another as competition rather than essential parts of the same brand effort. It’s important that we’re all singing from the same sheet, or you could end up with wildly differing brand ‘voices’ and styles on each platform - and that’s confusing for consumers. It’s hard to build a relationship with a brand who doesn’t seem consistent. So, make sure that your email strategy ties in with the wider marketing strategy.
  • It should undergo SWOT analysis. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. As your building your strategy, keep SWOT in your mind at all times. Analyse your email marketing efforts against the competition. Analyse the market you’re entering. Consider the wider national and international picture, and how it could impact upon your strategy. Play to your strengths and be acutely aware of your weaknesses. 
  • It should be competitive. By this, I mean that it’s really important to understand your position relative to that of your competitors. Positioning tools can help you out a lot here, but good old-fashioned market research and analysis still has a lot to be said for it. If you’re lagging behind, consider what you could use as a competitive advantage, and build upon it. All of this will help you to target your campaign. Speaking of which…
  • It should be well-targeted. Targeting is massively important. If you’re not speaking to the right people, you may as well not be speaking at all. To whom can you offer the most value? How will you reach them? Do you really understand them and their needs? Dive deep into your data, analyse your target audience, and strategise accordingly.
  • It should come from a place of self-awareness. A good strategy should be backed up and informed by plentiful brand knowledge. This may involve exhaustively analysing past campaigns to see what worked, what did not, and why. Think about what’s holding your email marketing back. For example, I once had a client who complained that it took up to six weeks to turn an email around. That’s an issue, and it will have an impact - but it’s fixable. Strategising is all about finding these flaws and ironing them out. Similarly, if you’ve got fantastic advantages like a great in-house team or a fantastic content writer, acknowledge them and utilise them to their full potential.

Strategy - and I cannot stress this enough - is THE most important aspect of any marketing campaign. Without a strong strategy, you’ll be flailing in the dark.