Growth Marketing Mini Degree Week #11

Jon Davis
10 min readFeb 22, 2021


This week I took the Email Marketing: From basics to best-in-class course.

Email Marketing: From Basic to Best-in-Market

Email can send direct:

  • At the time that it’s the most relevant to the recipient
  • With the products/content that are personalized
  • Can track individual recipient engagement
  • … and automate your follow up

Email gets delivered:

  • Average email read rate 25–30% (smaller list)
  • Average email read rate 15–20% (3–4M size list)
  • Benchmark report from IBM that can tell you what metrics to expect in your industry
  • List size will affect it
  • List freshness will affect it too
  • You compare that to 2% of organic social and it’s clear, which is better

The Anatomy of an Email:

1. Subject Line — Can be 40% of why someone opens your email or not

2. Pre-Header — The first text in the email that gets pulled into the preview portion of someone’s email client

3. Branded graphic header

4. Main message

5. Call-to-Action

6. Supporting Message

7. Footer

  • Shorter subject lines have been more common in the last few years
  • No text showing in the pre-header is becoming more common, so it shows in the inbox, but it doesn’t show in the email, keeping it looking clean. Example:
  • “Customer Favorites” and “Bestsellers” in email tend to do really well. It provides a level of social proof/validation

Q: How many characters should the subject line have vs. the pre-header

A: 45 character limit for subject line, and 80 for pre-header

  • You should repeat what you say in the pre-header if it’s important, because not everyone sees pre-headers in their email
  • Subject Line That tend to give her trouble:
  • All caps
  • Repeating words
  • Exclamation points
  • Percentage signs

5 Things You Should Always Do:

1. Get Permission

  • Subscribers should opt-in (not be auto-opted in)
  • Set expectations on frequency, value they’re gonna get, and security
  • Saying how frequently you’ll email them
  • What they get from joining your list
  • Security: “We will not share, trade, rent or sell your email address to any third party”
  • Study from Return Path: 77% of valid email marketing makes it through to inbox, 8% goes to the junk folder/spam folder, and then 16% doesn’t go anywhere at all

2. Follow the Law — CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (U.S)

  • Accurately identify the sender
  • Working opt-out mechanism
  • Include a physical address (or P.O. Box)
  • Message and subject line must have clear intent
  • Don’t commit fraud (duh)

2. Follow the Law Continued — CASL (Canda)

  • Explicit permission required
  • Proof of subscriber’s explicit opt-in/consent required
  • Applies to anyone in Canada at the time of open

2. Follow the Law Continued — GDPR (EU beginning 5/25/2019)

  • Explicit permission + proof required
  • (CITE: Concise, Intelligible, Transparent, Easily Accessible)
  • State how all data will be used in your privacy policy
  • Host and transfer customer data responsibly
  • Must be able to completely remove a subscriber and all traces of their data from your database if they request it

3. Have a Plan

  • Integrate with your larger vision content marketing calendar
  • Start with a content marketing plan and make e5. mail one of the channels for distributing content

4. Have a Testing Plan

  • Test & track to learn

Test & Track:

  • Opens
  • Clicks
  • Conversions


  • Subject lines
  • Day of the week
  • Frequency
  • Personalization
  • Discount/Price

Also watch your:

  • Bounces
  • Unsubscribes
  • Complaints

5. Use email’s secret weapon: DATA

  • Personalization
  • Segmentation
  • Automation
  • Optimization

5 Things You Should Never Do

1. Don’t Start From Scratch

  • You can use existing assets to create email
  • Email = blog + social + video +++

2. Don’t Use One Big Image OR a bunch of small ones

  • 25% or more of your audience has images turned off

3. Don’t Buy an Email List

  • House list standard open rate is ~20%

4. Don’t Ignore Mobile

  • Adresta Study at the end of 2016
  • If it doesn’t look good on mobile, lots of people immediately delete or unsubscribe
  • Younger people are especially more prone to unsubscribe
  • Open Rates of mobile/desktop for B2B and B2C:

5. Don’t Send Without a Pre-flight check

  • “Litmus” or “Email on Acid” can help you QA your email sends
  • Question: I know you can calculate statistical significance, but do you have general rules around what list sizes & number of sends do you need to actually test these things effectively?
  • Answer: Don’t to test segments less than 10,000. There’s a statistical significance calculator online. You want to get to 1,000 actions/responses to that item you’re targeting for and then build backwards to how many people that needs to get sent to.

Optimizing Email Marketing List Growth

Be Ready for email list growth

1. Make sure your list quality is up to date:

  • Clean out bad addresses and repeated bounces regularly (and automatically)
  • Remove those who unsubscribe and complain immediately (ant automatically)
  • Consider trimming inactive subscribers (or sending to them less frequently)
  • First, try to re-engage them with your best content (or an explicit invite to “come back”)
  • It’s usually a series of 3-emails before removing them from your general list

2. Welcome and warm up new subscribers, clients, or prospects

  • Send regularly (at least 1x/month)
  • Google, Yahoo among others only have a 30-day window for sender reputation that resets to nothing
  • Deliver relevant, valuable, engaging content
  • Monitor your inbox placement (Return Path of 250ok

The WRONG way to build your list

  • Do not buy, rent, trade, or borrow any email lists
  • Don’t harvest addresses. Scraping emails from web is illegal.
  • Don’t assume permission

Opting in Your Leads: Optimizing the sign-up form with the 4 P’s

1. Prominence — Where you place your signup form

  • Perfectly placed at the end of content consumption
  • TIP: Try lightboxes for 4–8x faster growth. Don’t trigger this immediately though. If it’s time, have it so are well into the article or near the end of the article before popping this. Also try a scroll trigger (if possible)
  • Requested in exchange for larger content offers (webinar, ebooks etc.)
  • At least one invite should be on the home page
  • Good example from ConversionXL:
  • Make sure that your email field is long enough for them to see their entire email when they type into the field.
  • **Register to win can be a way to get new email addresses
  • Also, by giving special offers
  • The biggest thing is to explain the value of your emails

2. Promise -

  • Value (news, education, coupon/s, downloads)
  • Frequency
  • Privacy

3. Proof -

  • Use social proof: “Join over 16,000 people who receive bi-weekly web marketing tips”

4. Progressive Profiling -

  • Not requiring as many steps in the beginning for signup and getting the user to then fill in more details as they go along (address, company they work for, phone number, etc.)
  • Email List Building 2.0


  • Choose a relevant, symbiotic partner who has the attention of your target audience
  • Swap content, not email lists
  • Offer value and entice subscribers to opt in directly for your emails
  • Swapping offers may not always fit
  • Exclusivity of the offer matters

Paid Media

  • Take the top percentage of your list for engagement, purchases, etc. and then create look-a-like custom audiences
  • Custom targeting
  • Make offer good — entice them to opt in, so you don’t have to pay to acquire them again
  • Free report, ebook, coupon for signing up
  • Google, Facebook, Digital ad networks

Paid Placement

  • Test results-driven placement in email (pay per acquisition)
  • Fluent
  • Live Intent
  • Postup — specific news/editorial emails

Retention & List Maintenance:

  • Send to your unengaged subscribers less frequently so as not to burn them out


  • Let subscribers choose the frequency/types of content they receive from you via a Preferences Center
  • Run an annual campaign inviting subscribers to keep their profile up to date, i.e. let us know if you have a new primary email address
  • This can be a part of your re-engagement email series
  • Up to ⅓ of emails in a list turn over every year
  • **Custom audience based on engagers

Optimizing Email Marketing Content

Anatomy of an Email

  • Subject line can be up to 40% of the reason that people click into an email
  • Keep it skimmable (not necessarily short)
  • Clarity Trumps Cleverness in Email Design/Copy

We marketers love clever, but not at the expense of making it perfectly clear of:

  • 1. What the offer is
  • 2. How to use it

What do we want them to do?

  • Read More
  • Order Now Online
  • Print Coupon
  • Watch Video

Email design/style should fit the message

  • Text-only emails work better in sales automation, and B2B or nonprofit marketing automation

Accessibility in Email Design

Make design accessible with images turned off

  • Up to 25% of email subscribers can have images turned off by default (including versions of android and Outlook)
  • Bullet-proof button in case images are turned off:
  • Image blocking, the ultimate guide:
  • The email grid
  • Think in terms of cutting images
  • We have to use straight horizontal lines to cut and don’t want to “split” an image if we don’t have to
  • Background images are finally ok*, but should also be avoided if possible
  • *thanks to a jenky workaround just for Outlook
  • Good emails use LOTS of white space and are fully responsive
  • Mobile Design: 2018 was 60% up in YoY of subscribers reading on phone/tablet

Mobile-Friendly Email Design Quick Tips:

  • Lots of white space between headlines, body copy, and calls to action
  • At least 40px tall/wide buttons
  • Bigger font: Minimum 14pt font size for body copy that sizes up on mobile devices (25–30pt)
  • Limit words in images (which don’t really resize well). Think “headlines” only.
  • Better yet: if possible, keep text out of images so that they can be “true text” which solves for the images off version, too.
  • Email on Acid or Litmus is great software for usability testing
  • Rich Media in Email Design
  • Make it Move with Animation
  • Animation can drive engagement rates through the roof… when they’re RELEVANT

Tips for keeping file size down:

  • Vector art tends to be easier to keep to smaller file size than photos
  • Fewer colors mean simpler files, which saves on file size
  • Trim your GIF to ONLY the portion of the image that is animated, keeping pixel height/width lower
  • Fewer slides/frames and/or layers can save file size

Warning 1: large file sizes will load slowly on poor internet connections and even a fraction of a second delay can make an empty email too easy to delete

  • In fact, in some email platforms, images can’t be larger than a few hundred KB in file size!

Warning 2: Outlook doesn’t show any animation in the inbox. It will default to the first “slide” in an animated GIF, so be sure to think of that as your “default” slide for those that won’t see the animation.

  • For example, if your image “builds,” you’ll want to start with a quick .5 second slide that is complete, and then loop back to the first slide in the build.

Make it Move with “Video in Email”

  • Video can drive engagement rates through the roof… IF:
  • You use accompanying copy to tell readers why to watch
  • The “freeze frame” is alluring
  • The CTA is clear
  • Almost none of the inbox providers will play video inline in the body of the email, so most often, we “fake” it with:
  • A still shot of the video
  • A play button (like the thumbnails that YouTube creates)
  • A link to the video on YouTube/Vimeo/Facebook or our website

Tips on video in email:

  • Some inboxes (Gmail/Hotmail) will find any YouTube links in your email and bring the video to the top/bottom of the email in the reader’s inbox, so they don’t have to leave their inbox to play it
  • Test linking to a youtube video vs. onsite or another video provider to see if a youtube video gets you better engagement
  • You can try using an animated GIF as a “silent video” teaser of the content

Trends to Try

  • Personalization in text
  • Most common is using their first name
  • Last product they used
  • Embed the name into the image (movable ink)
  • Countdown timer to add urgency

Optimizing Email Marketing with Data

  • Using Data for Personalization
  • Make sure if you are using first name, that the message is still clear if there isn’t a name available
  • Personalization goes beyond using their first name, it goes to the type of content you’re going to put in the email for that specific person
  • Using Data for Segmentation
  • Using Data for Automation
  • Using Data for Optimization
  • Getting Set Up for Success with Data in Email



Jon Davis