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5 steps for effective email campaign marketing

In the first part of our ongoing The Building Blocks of Email Campaign Marketing blog series, we examined the four common mistakes agencies make in their email campaign marketing strategy.

In this post (part two), we draw on expert insights to help marketers understand the five key steps to formulate effective email campaigns and the various categories of email messagess for small-and-medium business (SMB) audiences.

Define your target audience

Step #1 - Understand and segment your audience

Whether you are a new or established agency, you will have prospects and existing SMB customers from different industries with varying needs and interests.

In order to target them effectively, Jordie van Rijn, specialist email marketing consultant at Emailmonday, says it’s vital to segment your audience from the get-go.

“Making your email segmentation more sophisticated is one of the ways to make a better match between your email campaigns and your subscribers. The end goal is to bring a plus to the bottom line while retaining ROI. So the segmentation model needs to have enough impact and represent viable groups of sufficient size,” he says.

He illustrates this with a high-level example (see the image below) from customer data management provider Optimove, which highlights that the value of targeting individual audience segments is superior to taking a homogenous approach to your whole email database.

Optimove customer segmentation

The image shows that a segmented marketing approach generates $42 in revenue per customer, compared to $28 for companies that send generic emails to their whole audience. “What you see in this overview of (RFM) segmented groups is that the group VIPs is the most profitable with $150, very different from the ‘recently churned’ group with $3," Rijn says.

In other words, marketers must grasp that sending the same campaigns to everyone on their list would prove ineffective as not all clients and leads are created equal. Therefore, audience segmentation should be one of the first exercises undertaken within email campaign marketing strategies.

Not only will your revenues grow when you segment your audience, but your metrics are likely to increase, as underscored by the following graph from eMarketer. It shows that 39 percent of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced increased open rates, 28 percent saw lower unsubscribe rates, and 24 percent found better deliverability and greater revenue. 

eMarketer segmentation results research
List segmentation does not have to be difficult - and it isn’t. Advances in email marketing technology easily allow marketers to create segments and blast out campaigns to one, multiple or all groups.

Step #2 - Establish your goals

The next step is to think about your goals as these will dictate the types of campaigns you send and their frequency.

Your goals could include:


  • Sending campaigns intended to get SMB prospects to engage with you
  • Up-selling more services to current customers to help them grow
  • Inviting clients in your local area to seminars and events
  • Sending interesting content and thank you emails aimed at retaining and satisfying your current customers


The different types of emails are explained later in this blog, but an illustrative example is provided below.

Illustrative example: Marketing agency XYZ wants to grow, up-sell and retain customers

Marketing agency XYZ, based in Cleveland, Ohio, specializes in building websites and ecommerce solutions for SMBs, and segments its email list into the following groups:

  1. Prospects with no online presence
  2. Customers with a website
  3. Customers with a website and ecommerce solution 


To ensure its marketing is targeted and effective, XYZ only sends emails that are relevant to the circumstances of each group.

Segment Messaging strategy
Prospects with no online presence
  • Nurture emails containing case studies of how XYZ has helped other SMBs grow revenue by supplying website services
  • Promotional offers and discounts for first-time buyers
  • Sales outreach emails aimed at conversion
Customers who only have a website
  • Content marketing emails providing insights on how to improve website rankings and findability
  • Nurture emails and targeted offers on why adding an e-commerce solution to a website can boost sales
High-value customers who have both a website and e-commerce solution
  • Content marketing emails providing insights on how to improve website rankings and optimizing the online shopping experience
  • Invitations for Ohio-based clients to attend local events and workshops aimed at deepening relations with the most valued customers


By having undertaken a segmentation exercise,  XYZ is making a positive impression that it really knows its audience and generating more business than it would have otherwise.

Step #3 - Create sign-up forms and capture the right level of data

It can be hard to segment or send emails if you don’t have many (or any) subscribers. That’s why a crucial part of an effective email campaign marketing strategy is to implement various ways to capture email addresses.

Many marketing agencies have or would already be thinking about importing data from customer relationship management (CRM) systems and sign-up forms, in addition to data they have collected from cold-calling and existing relationships. The important considerations in this context are to capture enough data so that you can segment your mailing list and meet your goals. These could include:


  • Name
  • Location
  • Products/services potential that clients are interested in (or have purchased)
  • Industry
  • Size of business


A great way to juice up your subscriber list could be to create a lead magnet and offer valuable content such as whitepapers, templates, and webinars in exchange for email addresses.

Note: You should only capture enough data as you need and ensure you are in compliance with email and data protection laws.

Step #4 - Consider the frequency of your campaigns

Another critical consideration of your email marketing strategy is understanding how often your clients want to receive emails and your capacity to ideate, create, write, design, and test them.

Helen Holovach, localization manager at Snov Labs, has written extensively about this subject and offers best-practice tips in this blog.

“Email frequency does not get much credit for campaign success or failure, and it should. Sending too often or not often enough can destroy all your email marketing efforts, no matter how good your content, offer, or service is,” she says.

According to research from Marketing Sherpa, very few (15 percent) customers want to receive daily emails. In fact, the most popular email frequency preferences turned out to be: at least monthly (86 percent), at least weekly (61 percent), and weekly (32 percent).

Customer email frequency preferences

In a B2B context, most companies tend to send emails twice a month. A higher frequency risks triggering a surge in unsubscribe rates.

“Here, the old and reliable approach of one monthly update with a couple of relevant articles works just fine – this does not overload the inbox, doesn’t annoy your recipient, provides just enough value for them to appreciate your emails, and keeps you top-of-mind among loyal customers,” Holovach says.

Step #5 - Select the best time to schedule your emails

As the old saying goes "timing is everything", and this is especially true when it comes to email campaign marketing.

Nothing frustrates a marketer more than weak open and click-through rates, which will be discussed in further detail in the next part of  The Building Blocks of Email Campaign Marketing blog series.

So when are the best times to send your campaigns? Finding the magic time for your agency will take experimenting, however, there is data to support initial decision-making for this step.

For instance, a study by Get Response suggests that in the United States and Canada:

  • 4 am is when open rates are at their highest, while 6 am sees the most click-through rates. 
  • Friday is the best day for opening emails, and Tuesday is the top choice for achieving the most click throughs
Best times to send emails US and Canada
Best day to send emails US and Canada
However, Holovach cautions marketers on simply basing their campaign timings on aggregated data. While data serves as a useful starting point, she suggests that agencies take into account other factors such as the industry or industries of their underlying clients and how competitors are marketing to them.

“Best practices, numbers, and stats are useful, but a solution that’s right for your business can only be found by asking yourself the right questions,” she says.

What are the common messages in email campaign marketing?

You have worked hard on building and segmenting an impressive email list. You have also done your homework and know all about personalizing messages and making them mobile-friendly. An important exercise in your email campaign marketing journey will be to understand which emails to blast out and for what purpose.

There are five types of emails to consider for agencies. Let’s take a closer look at how you can use these email types to better communicate to your subscribers.

Email #1 - Autoresponders

These are emails that are automatically triggered when a prospect performs an action on our website; for instance, signing up to your newsletter or downloading gated content. They are designed to acknowledge and thank a potential client for expressing interest in your company.

Best practices to consider

Vendasta’s Director of Content Marketing Dan McLean recommends the following when it comes to autoresponders:


  • Keep them to one or two sentences
  • Provide a link to the report or asset they requested
  • Provide links to other useful assets or the FAQ page for your business


“Autoresponders are really there to confirm that your agency has received a prospect’s request to sign up or download a piece of content from your website, but they do offer the opportunity to provide a bit more value. The key is to keep it very short,” he says.

For instance, see the following example from data solutions company GWI below.

GWI Example

Email #2 - Promotional emails

Promotional emails are exactly what they suggest - a campaign providing a prospect or existing customer with a deal, discount or pricing benefit of some kind.

“What you would do is set up a landing page on your website and launch what would be a promotional email campaign to the offer,” McLean says.

Best practices to consider

McLean suggests keeping promotional offers short and sharp by focussing on one or two products or services so that readers aren’t overwhelmed.

A good example is the following promotional email from the freelance services website Fiverr. Firstly, it's well-designed as it contains a banner image that is easy on the eyes. Secondly, the message is short and provides value to subscribers in the form of a discount code to be used on Fiverr's website. Thirdly, the email's messaging resonates strongly with its clientele by targeting customers and prospects who need help to get work done. Moreover, it drives a sense of urgency among readers given the sale's limited duration.

Fiverr example

Email #3 - Nurture emails

Nurture campaigns play an important role in email campaign marketing as they target leads. They're a series of emails designed to get prospects to move along the sales funnel by providing valuable insights.

“You are serving up resources and content that takes them from that awareness stage to the consideration stage,” McLean says.

For instance, the below email from TrustedHousesitters uses content and a call to action to address a frequently asked question prospects have about the service.

Trusted house sitters

Best practices to consider

These emails are designed to provide value and should not be sales-oriented. McLean suggests:


  • Creating a sequence of messages that provide different resources, tools, and case studies outlining how your agency has helped other clients
  • Keeping an educational tone in the emails


Email #4 - Sales outreach email

Sales outreach emails are typically sent to prospects who have undergone your nurture campaign and are hopefully ready for a sales conversation.

“They are looking for a solution. They are at a point where they are likely ready to buy something. It comes from a sales professional typically and it entices them to want to reach out to them,” McLean says.

Best practices to consider

These emails and subsequent conversations should be framed around the “Why You Now?” model which McLean explains in detail in this blog.

Sales outreach emails should entail a two or three paragraph email that explains:


  • Why you? The conversation begins by establishing the reasons behind your connecting with a prospect at this time. 
  • Why now? This speaks to timeliness and urgency and explains why they need to act now. 
  • Why us? This part declares your value proposition and differentiation. Here you talk about your offerings, but rather than focusing on features and functions, you tie back to the business outcomes that can be achieved.


“The idea is that you are sending a short emailing explaining that you have looked at their company or are interacting with them based on earlier sales touchpoints, putting urgency behind why it’s important for the business owner to address the challenge they are facing, and how you have created a solution that can solve that problem,” McLean says.

He adds that marketers should ensure their outreach email includes an action point to try and set up an interaction such as a meeting or call.

Valuable resource: You can access sales outreach email templates we’ve created for agencies by clicking on the banner below.


Email #5 - Engagement and re-engagement emails

A challenge that nearly all marketers face is dealing with subscribers who stop opening their emails. Hence, engagement and re-engagement campaigns are becoming more commonplace as a means to reignite readers' interest in the sender's business.

A re-engagement email can go by a few different names:


  • Reactivation email
  • Win-back email campaign


“A re-engagement campaign is a sequence of emails sent to inactive subscribers. The goal of a re-engagement email is to get people to interact with your emails,” McLean says.

Re-engagement emails can include promotions, re-state the value of your business, offer the opportunity for readers to ask questions or let them know they can change their email preferences to receive different or fewer messages.

If you’re interested in developing a re-engagement campaign, check out this blog from ActiveCampaign.


Email #6 - Content marketing newsletters

Last but by no means the least is content marketing newsletters. These are generally weekly or monthly newsletters that provide agencies an invaluable opportunity to:


  • Showcase valuable content they have  produced
  • Improve your authority and credibility in the audience's eyes
  • Share industry news and any upcoming events or webinars
  • Communicate important business updates


The key to success with content marketing newsletters is to not stuff them with content, and not make promotions the primary focus.

“A lot of companies send newsletters which are too big and have too much content. Keep it tight - provide a few great pieces of content and don’t be heavy-handed with the marketing. Remember to offer value first. If it’s just a blatant marketing exercise, recipients are going to unsubscribe. So if you want to pitch something, put it at the bottom,” McLean says.


The key to success in email campaign marketing is for agencies and marketers to put customers at the center of their strategy.


  • Segment your audience and take the time to understand the needs of and relevant messages for each subcluster
  • Less is more. Resist the temptation to bombard customers with messages - once a month is a sensible starting point
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with different send times to see what works best with your audience
  • Understand the different types of emails at your disposal and what makes sense to send to various segments within your customer journey


By following these steps, your SMB customers and prospects will more likely deal with you as your agency has invested the effort in understanding their needs.


Stay tuned for more

This article was the second in our ongoing The Building Blocks of Email Campaign Marketing series.

  • Access part one here.
  • Subscribe to our blog by clicking on the image below so that you get notified when we publish part three, where we discuss the overlooked but crucial considerations in email marketing including performance tracking and compliance with spam laws.
  • You can also check out Vendasta’s email marketing solutions here.

About the Author

Vishal Teckchandani is a Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta. A newcomer to Canada, he spent the last 14 years of his career in Australia as a financial services reporter and TV host. He has written extensively about how technology companies are transforming business processes and lives, and interviewed the CEOs of global banking, payments, SAAS, and cloud storage providers including Afterpay, ELMO Software, Macquarie Group, National Australia Bank, NextDC, and Zip Co. When he’s not creating content, Vishal loves to cook, explore Saskatchewan with his family, and volunteer for his community.

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