Think email marketing is dead? Think again…

Written by Tamara Mansfield Kerr on 13th March 2014

(Last updated 11th March 2016)

In recent years there has been so much focus on inbound marketing such as Social Media, that its very easy to forget the more traditional outbound marketing methods, like email.  Email has been around for a long time (over 40 years), but using email for marketing purposes is still, and will continue to be a big part of most organisations marketing mix.  

In 2013 businesses allocated up to 20% of their marketing budget in this discipline, and in 2014, the budget dedicated to email marketing is expected to keep growing by 10%. It’s estimated that around 71% of B2B brands use email marketing and 65% of B2C brands use email marketing.

Email marketing is a huge area to cover, so I’m not planning on tackling the entire subject in one post, but I am going start by targeting one area of email marketing in particular… newsletters.


When you’re planning your email newsletter there are a few things that you need to consider:

  •  Why are you sending it? Make sure that you have a clear reason.
  • What do you want the outcome to be - is it sale/promotion/invitation.
  • Who is your target audience? Existing clients/new customers.
  • Content - what is relevant and interesting to your target audience?
  • Design - ever heard the saying ‘Less is more’? This definitely applies here!


The Obstacles

Having been involved in newsletters in one form or another for years, there are always a handful of things that can and will happen: 

  • The powers that be WILL want you to cram in as much content in as possible.
  • You might be reliant on other people for the content and they just won’t provide you with it.
  • It’s dangerous to ignore what is useful and relevant to reader and just think of what your organisation wants to say e.g promote, promote, promote! 
  • People can get far too precious about newsletters, and this can mean that planned deadlines are missed delaying the distribution of the newsletter.

All of the above can make getting a newsletter out difficult, and ultimately could damage the effectiveness of your newsletter.


Content, design and distribution

I read somewhere that you should make your newsletter content 90% educational and 10% promotional. Why?  Because you need to think about what is in it for the reader. What is going to make them give up their time to read what you written. You also need to make sure that you design it  with you recipient in mind.

Here are are few pointers for the content, design and distribution of your newsletter: 

  • Ensure that you know what you are trying to say and as mentioned earlier, don’t try to throw the kitchen sink at it.
  • Making the newsletter title interesting is a no brainer, this is the hook, this will be the key to people opening your email in the first place.  
  • Ensure its obvious who the email has been sent from. People are generally very cautious about opening emails when they don’t recognise the sender, so you need to make sure that recipient trusts the email source.
  • It’s been proven that people like images so make sure that you break up the newsletter with images that are relevant.  But also bear in mind that not everyone can view images so ensure that you have a contingency  plan for those recipients.
  • More and more people are viewing emails on their mobile devices, so there is an argument to not go for a complex multi column layout, but to keep things simple and to use a single column approach. Also, some email systems might not support your email.  If in doubt keep it simple.
  • Don’t make it too wordy.  Ultimately you want to encourage your reader to your website, a landing page or to contact you. Don’t give them everything in the email itself - give them a reason to click through!
  • Less it more...  Don’t try to overcomplicate the design. Make it clean, simple but consistent with your branding.
  • Make sure you measure each of your campaigns.  So many services provide brilliant reporting, and you need to make sure what works for you, and what your recipients are reading and finding interesting. 
  • Make sure you use a email service that this right for you - see below.


But what should I use? 

With so many different email marketing service providers out there, it can be very difficult to know which one is best for you. We put together a small list of the most popular service providers, and gave them a test ourselves.  Below is the list and our findings:

Campaign Monitor

  • Very easy to use.  
  • Payment is very flexible as you have the choice to either pay monthly or to pay as you go, which is really good news if you only send campaigns out occasionally. 
  • If you are an agency sending clients emails you can sign up to be a partner and get 10% off the cost to send your emails.  
  • It can be linked to Google Analytics, and it uses easy reporting tools, which include social sharing, where you can embed ‘Like’ or Tweet’ buttons in your email. 
  • You can also tie in Surveys, CRM and blogging as the software easily integrates with a number of other products such as Salesforce, Wordpress and Wufoo.  


  • If you have less than 2000 contacts then Mailchimp is free (yes free!) but this doesn’t give you full access and all of the benefits. 
  • They offer a 15% discount for nonprofits and charities.
  • Inexpensive costs for even the heaviest users.  
  • Lots of bells and whistles - which is a pro and a con.  
  • See how your campaign compares to other organisations in the same industry as you. 
  • Ability to set up your campaigns to be automatically tweeted and posted to Facebook. 
  • Customisable templates and a huge selection of pre designed templates.  
  • Easy to use.  
  • If you have a Google Analytics account, you can add Google Analytics tracking to your MailChimp campaigns.
  • After integrating MailChimp with your Google account you can track clicks from your campaigns all the way through purchases on your website.
  • Are very hot on anti spamming, and want to ensure list integrity, which is great, but this does make it very easy to get your email blocked or blacklisted.

Constant Contact -  

  • Customisable templates, including online surveys.  
  • Very easy to use. 
  • Ability to drag and drop. 
  • You always know your costs up front as you pay on a monthly basis, based on how many contacts you have starting from £10 a month for up 500.
  • Very easy to use if you are non technical.
  • Quite basic though compared to some of the other services out there. 

Icontact -  

  • Paid monthly per subscription list (based on how many contacts).
  • You can email your contacts up to six times a month. 
  • Can cost anything from £8.82 for 500 contacts up to £29.61 for 5000 contacts so its a very cheap option. 
  • Easy links to facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. 
  • This is a pro and a con -  we had an account disabled because they wanted to know how we’d accumulated our list. It was condemnable that they wanted to ensure the integrity of the list, but emailing backwards and forwards with the United States delayed the process of setting up the account, which was rather frustrating. 

Benchmark email  -  

  • Incredibly easy to use, straightforward and clear.
  • On the downside there aren’t as many templates as some of the other providers. 
  • When using Benchmark you have three different pricing structures - you can either have it based on number of contacts, number of emails sent and there is also an option for high volume sending. 
  • They have live chat which is very useful - if you have a problem that you can usually get a response there and then. 

dot.mailer -  

  • Simple to send newsletters and emails, Ability to drag and drop which makes building an email very easy.
  • Didn’t find the site that easy to navigate, and found it hard to search for certain information - Eg, pricing.
  • Fewer templates than some of the other email marketing providers.
  • Integrates with lots of CRMs, Such as Salesforce, MS Dynamics, and Saleslog!x.
  • You are able to contact them via live chat and are UK based so easy to rectify issues quickly as you don’t have time delays. 

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought on the topic of email Newsletters, but email marketing as a whole is such a vast topic that I will be following this up with another article with what’s hot at the moment and what's new is the world of email marketing.

by Tamara Mansfield Kerr