Having worked in marketing for longer than I’d like to admit, I have found the journey of email marketing and its effectiveness over the last 15 years fascinating.

The majority of my career has been spent client side in the travel industry; working in marketing for global brands including P&O, Stena Line and Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

Some of my most successful achievements have involved growing significant business through strong email marketing campaigns. For one of the companies I worked with, I increased bookings over 400% per annum through this channel.

In this series of blogs we'll be covering email marketing strategies that have worked and why. Hopefully the ideas will get you thinking and questioning whether you could be using this cost-effective channel more effectively for your business.

This is a huge topic, so we’ll be breaking it down into more easily manageable pieces of advice. Today we're looking at the first steps to improving your email marketing journey and questions to ask yourself. We tackle the importance of targeting and understanding the data you hold to make considered and effective decisions.

"Email Marketing is NOT rocket science! Marketers are not brain surgeons, nor do we profess to be. BUT a good marketer can look at the data and the facts in front of them, and with a little bit of common sense, and the right knowledge, make informed decisions to create effective email marketing campaigns"

Claire Ralston

Marketing & Events Manager

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The first steps to review, refresh, and start planning your next email marketing strategy

When planning or refining a strategy, as marketers we know it’s essential to ask ourselves lots of questions. If you're embarking on any new email marketing campaign (whether it be a short term or long term journey), do you consider the following:

  • What are my objectives? Are they about engagement, sales, repeat purchases, information? Growing my database with relevant contacts?
  • Have I set targets? What would success look like in open rate percentages? Click thru rate? Response rate? Sales? Number of forwards to maximise the reach of my message?
  • Who is my target audience? With the data I have, what do I know about them? What are the capabilities of the platforms I am using to segment messages?

How these questions can help maximise the effectiveness of your campaigns


By setting SMART objectives and targets, you know exactly what you want to achieve from your email marketing campaigns. Whether it’s about growing your database, encouraging increased website traffic, driving bookings, driving engagement, maximising average order value or taking your customer on a journey to inspire loyalty, your strategy will differ.

The goals you set will help you to build a solid strategy and make sound decisions.

Target audience

It sounds obvious, but we often forget to set the parameters of our target audience. Our Strategy Director Kherrin recently wrote this insightful blog about why 'you are not the target audience - the importance of putting the customer first in creative decision making'. She explains how to distance yourself from judging designs and your brand against personal preference, to put your target audience first when making decisions about web design, branding and advertising.

As soon as you have a complete picture of who you are targeting, make sure you fully understand the data you already hold about your customers and your prospects. Then you can start to create relevant segments to help you send the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

This may all sound obvious information, but I have personally worked for companies who were blindly ‘blanket’ emailing their entire database with the same message and creative and not seeing an improvement in results.

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"From my experience, a great example of this would be within the ferry industry where there are various target audiences. These include families (who book during the peak school holiday weeks) and business trips (which are generally year round, but mostly avoid the peak due to pricing). Then there is the younger generation who will book whenever it’s the cheapest to go travelling / have a mini break, and the older generation (possibly retired / definitely empty nesters) who aren’t governed by taking a trip when the schools are out.”

Claire Ralston

Marketing & Events Manager

If you have multiple audience segments (such as the ferry example above), look back at your historical data for any behavioural similarities and patterns. Tweaking messages based on what has worked in the past could have an enormous effect on the success of your email campaign. Start with the straightforward data and analyse any patterns in purchasing / engagement levels that worked. These could include:

  • Time of year
  • Month
  • Day of week
  • Time of day
  • Lead time

Then you can start to overlay more detail about what messaging has worked in the past including:

  • Was it a promotional message (e.g. free delivery, discounted price, flash deal, limited stock) that drove purchase?
  • Did different messages attract different segments (e.g. a discounted price worked for one market, but a free ‘upgrade’ message was more attractive to another)?
  • Was it a subtle sales message involving user generated content or recommendations with well articulated, believable and relevant copy?

Next, take a look back at the creative that worked in the past. This will help guide your decisions about imagery, copy and tone of voice.

Also take time to review your calls to action. Make sure the recipient of the email is clear about how to take action, and the process is as seamless as possible, whether it be to make a purchase, click on a link, or leave a review.

Don’t forget to consider the impact the pandemic may have had on your data. You might need to look back to 2017 / 2018 / 2019 to make informed decisions for the year ahead.

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We have so much email marketing expertise within the team, we'd love to guide you through your journey to maximise success

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A real life email marketing campaign scenario

Returning to the example of the ferry industry; by reviewing and using the data that was available, it was possible to create an email marketing strategy across the year that targeted the right audiences at the right time and significantly increased bookings. We identified past customer behaviour by analysing every element of their previous booking / bookings including:

  • Age, party size (single, family, couple), mode of travel, product booked, when they booked
  • Message that had attracted the booking
  • Even if they had booked to travel with a pet!

We could then also identify prospects on the database who fitted a similar profile.

The power of an email when you have this data is phenomenal. Imagine this scenario:

“It’s May, and I’m planning an email campaign because my forward bookings for September are down YOY and I still have a lot of inventory to fill. So, I look at the data and can see who to target and what message to send to quickly switch on bookings”

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In summary to part one of this email marketing series; we've identified the importance of data and targeting, and hopefully provided some inspiration of how to use this knowledge to plan an effective email campaign and drive responses.

Next up we will be looking at the holy grail of a Single Customer View (SCV) and plotting a well informed customer journey through data mining. Following this, we'll share some examples of notable email marketing campaigns.

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