Email Marketing

Can I share a secret?


How do you go about building and sustaining your customer base in the crowded world of email marketing?


Why not let your customers do some of the work for you?

This is where multichannel marketing comes in to play. You can reach your untapped potential through other channels than email, such as your own website or social media to encourage new signups to your brand.

But is there a missed avenue to gain even more signups? Your best advocates may turn out to be your own users – if you’ve created engaging, exciting content then why wouldn’t they want to shout about it? Make it easy for them.

Here’s how we do it…

Share on social media

Through us you have the option to share the whole email on social media, or to specify a URL instead for shareworthy articles. Built in to our platform are direct links to open new posts for Facebook, Google+, Twitter (X), LinkedIn or you can select “Generic” and build a link to any social media platform of your choosing.

From a coding perspective it is a doddle, it’s just adding a link tag into your template. If you want to share the whole email:

<a href="#" social-network="facebook">Share this email on Facebook</a>

<a href="#" social-network="linkedin">Share this email on LinkedIn</a>

Then a click on this links will simply set up the post ready to send:

Share to Facebook Post

Share to  LinkedIn Post

Or to set the post copy as a URL instead of the email image:

<a href="#" social-network="facebook" social-url="”>Share this email on Facebook</a>

For Twitter…excuse me X…you know the one I mean, you have the option to pre-write the tweet:

<a href="#" social-network="twitter" social-tweet="Check out this article:”>Tweet this link</a>

Share on Twitter Post

Share by email

You might also encourage your users to share directly to their friends and family, people they would likely only target if they knew they already had an interest:

<a href="#" social-network="sendtofriend">Click here</a> to share this email with a friend.

This is slightly more involved as your user will have to fill out a few details, but if you’ve got them excited enough to share, that shouldn’t stop them!

Shsre with a Friend Form

Once they’ve filled out the form, their lucky chosen recipient will receive an email with the message from their friend saying why they are receiving this email with just a sneak preview of what the email is and a link to the full thing:

Email Header

Then reassurance that they have not been added against their will to any mailing list and that their data privacy remains well and truly intact:

Email footer

By making it as easy as possible for your users to spread the word and share your content amongst themselves, it’s up to you to give them a reason. This should inspire you to create innovative, eye-catching emails with a great message that might just motivate your users to share, especially if all they have to do is click a link.

Here’s some ideas on adding interactivity to your emails which could be a good place to start! Not only will well designed and captivating emails help sustain your current base and stave off lethargy and loss of engagement, it might also help it grow if word starts getting around.

Email best practice

Deliver the goods with good delivery

Maintaining a decent delivery rate can be hard enough at the best of times in email marketing, but it becomes increasingly difficult when you factor in busy sales periods like Black Friday or the festive period. Black Friday used to be just the one day, then Cyber Monday and you couldn’t do a whole lot of damage to your reputation across two days. But now companies have found to compete in the crowded retail market their campaign needs to span weeks, if not the whole month! That is a lot of emails for one person to get from a company and imagine how many they will get from all the marketing they are signed up to!

Deliverability tips

In a normal state of play, the best way to keep your email hygiene as tip top as possible may include the following:

  • Ensure you have correctly configured SPF, DKIM and DMARC records set up for your domain otherwise your emails may get quarantined or outright rejected and your delivery rate will plummet.
  • Ensure permanent bounces and all unsubscribers are removed.
  • Be willing to remove persistent soft bounces – they will never engage and only do harm to your send reputation.
  • You can sign up to receive the complaints back from such ISPs as Hotmail and Yahoo e.g. people hitting the “This is Spam” button and remove those.
  • Be willing to remove people that haven’t engaged with you for a particular period, e.g. 1 year, as again these emails will only harm your sender reputation and aren’t interacting with your emails. You can always attempt to re-engage them with reactivation campaigns.
  • Ensure you have a regular, steady flow of emails going out for ISPs to recognise the pattern from you which keeps them happy. Sudden changes, like massive volume spikes, may make them suspicious and less inclined to deliver your emails.
  • Targeting your users with personalised content is better than the “spray and pray” method to everyone. The engagement rates will be much higher and keep your sender reputation in good health. AI and data analysis can help you divine much about your users and only send them campaigns about things they actually like.

The above are a must for good delivery rates and list hygiene. But you may need to go a little further to survive busy sales periods unscathed.

A delivery tightrope walk

To ensure you get the best out of your sales campaigns whilst maintaining the health of your mailing list is no doubt a perilous balancing act. The temptation could be to send to as many people as many times as possible through fear of missing someone, but this method could have a disastrous effect on your sender reputation if complaints and unsubscribes come in their droves.

If you stop delivering to everyone, you are going to start missing out.

So what can be done?

Step 1: Warm up your IPs

The best thing you can do in the lead up to big sales events and an anticipated rise in email volume is to gradually increase your normal volumes and/or frequencies so there are no big spikes when the big push comes. If you want to know more about how this works, see our Black Friday-specific tips.

Step 2: Get your user preferences

Ask your users what they want! You will save a percentage of the data you would otherwise have lost if you provide a preference centre (even a temporary one) so your users can say how often they want to hear from you and on what topics (or even if they want to at all during the sales frenzy that is Black Friday). You may end up sending to fewer recipients as a result, but you should be sending them stuff they want which should increase engagement, reduce opt-outs and give your sender reputation a boost to keep your delivery rates ticking over.

Step 3: Stand out from the crowd

If people are receiving email after email that’s just piling up in their inbox, you need to stand out and be relevant to them. Getting people to engage with your emails is one of the best ways of maintaining a solid sender reputation and increase the chances of getting your email into the inbox, and not sidelined to a secondary tab, or worse, the dreaded spam folder. This will involve well crafted subject lines and as many tricks as you can rustle up, for example, why not check out Gmail’s promotion tools?

Step 4: Resend to non-engagers

With the aforementioned ever-growing pile of emails in people’s inboxes, even if you’ve done your best to get your customer’s attention you still may get missed. There is no harm in a second bite of the cherry by way of a resend to non-engagers, perhaps with a shiny new subject line, but this may well be a juggling act once again. You will inevitably pick up more unsubscribers for every send you make, which is an unavoidable hard truth in the art of email marketing, so you need to weigh up acceptable losses versus potential gains to work out the best strategy for you.

Forewarned is forearmed – you know how customers will feel throughout intense sales periods so make sure you do everything you can to keep them happy and nurture your relationship with them. Even if it feels like your strategies lead you to sending less than the maximum number of emails, the quality will be better and should produce better results whislt maintaining your list hygiene and see you through unscathed.

Email Marketing

Planning and implementing your email marketing strategy

Email marketing strategy

Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should! It’s an old adage and one many email marketers would do well to consider before embarking on their email marketing strategy.

If we start from what is possible the prospect of drawing up an email marketing strategy, budget, resource and timelines is daunting. I like to start from the other end, not what is possible but what does the business need. It sounds simple and the oft flippant response is more sales but that doesn’t always hold true. So start with a blank canvas and decide your business’s short, medium and long term goals. They may all turn out to be the same – sales, sales and more sales.

If that’s the case your email marketing strategy is a fairly simple one. Build product led emails and send them to everyone on your list as often as you can. Automate basket and browse abandonment, cross sell in sales notifications and dispatch notices. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But in truth this approach, even if your end goal is more sales, tends to be a short term solution. Data apathy, data churn, price marginalisation, stock management, all tend to make this approach, in isolation, one that’s unsustainable long term.

Email drives sales

So what to do, as in truth the ultimate goal of any marketing comes down to sales. We dress it up as brand awareness, customer retention, brand engagement, social media presence – but ultimately all marketing has one goal and that’s to drive long term revenues. So, if we accept that we need to plan our email marketing to fulfil long term revenue targets. This is done using a combination of sales and value-added content which engages the customer as well as sells to them. In essence you need to become the trusted source in the inbox. This has its challenges because marketers have an irrational fear of being seen as spammers. In his book, “Fear and Self-Loathing in Email Marketing”, Dela Quist says: “It is time, for legitimate email marketers – who bend over backwards not to be seen as spammers – to stop feeling so guilty about something they don’t even do”. It really is okay to send an email a day, or even two if you have something new and interesting to say.

In order to understand how best to use email we first need to look at how the long term goal is achieved.

List growth

New customer acquisition, grow the number of people you can realistically sell your products and services to. The more people on your list who look like the other people on your list the better.

Buildfires email list growth blog

List retention

This is like the silver bullet. Grow your list using customer acquisition tools and reduce the churn in your database. Increase the time someone stays a customer then the return on your initial CPA becomes exponential.


Automate touchpoints to deliver relevant and timely content. Keep your user engaged, recognise special life events and deliver new purchase user guides/vlogs/updates.

display block email automation workflow
Example email automation workflow

Loyalty and incentive programs

Make your user feel special, make them part of your inner circle.

Targeted communications

Segmentation in the data based on generic product offerings. Utilising the one-to-one marketing tools available to you to customise your one-to-many emails.

One too many sales emails

Don’t be frightened of emailing everyone in your base every time you have something to say. The idea of one-to-one marketing is in truth not achievable because you’re just not sure what I want next. It’s okay to assume I want something I looked at, just don’t assume I don’t want something else as well or instead.

Next, we will look at how we utilise the strategies outlined above to maximise our customer relationship and ultimately drive higher, long term revenues.

Let’s take a look at how you go about implementing some of the ideas mentioned. It’s time to flesh out the opportunities afforded by the medium of email marketing.

List growth

How do you go about growing your list? You can do this in many different ways, each one having their own level of effectiveness. The standard tools available are:

Newsletter sign-ups:

Have a clear and obvious way of letting people sign up for emails, hiding your newsletter sign up at the bottom of the contact page is almost apologetic. You’ve paid for the eyeballs, now try and capture them. Place the sign up somewhere obvious. Also, look at using downstream popups to incentivise sign up.

White paper downloads:

Put your valuable content behind a simple sign up to access a download page. In old fashioned sales you’re always taught to get a name for a name. No difference here, you have valuable content, the price of which is an email address.


Run competitions on your site, and in your existing email encourage people to sign up to be entered. If possible, give away experiential prizes rather than material ones. People are much more likely to enter a money can’t buy competition.


Incentivise your base to refer people like them to sign up for the newsletter or sales emails. Remember, people know people like them, if they enjoy your emails so will some of their friends.

display block email capture form
Example sign-up page

Point of purchase:

Be it on or offline, when someone makes a purchase it is the perfect time to ask permission to market to them via email. Make sure your staff do this routinely if on the phone or face to face in store. Make sure your site has a very obvious sign up tick box available when checking out. If at all possible also advertise text to email gateways in store and incentivise those.

Rented lists:

As long as you manage your expectations, renting lists can still be an effective way of building your database.

List retention

List retention for me is the silver bullet, if you can reduce your churn while at the same time growing your list you should be looking at exponential growth in revenues. Email on Acid believe in a “70/20/10” rule for brand emails. This means 70% of emails should be educational demos, tips, storytelling or advisory information. 20% should “centre on content from thought leaders, creating a feeling across your list that your brand is giving them exclusive access to content” and the remaining 10% should be product-focused. This rule is said to establish valuable relationships with your customers making them feel important, which they are! The more important they feel, the more engaged with the brand they will be.


Take some of the workload away and automate as many of your emails as possible. There are many tools available to help you collect site side data, send an API call to your email platform and subsequently trigger a timely email reminder. These types of communication tend to have the greatest open and click rates and the highest ROI.

The sort of things you can try are…


Welcome programs work best when they come as a series of emails which lead the recipient down various paths of action dependent on whether they open and click a particular email or take a specific site side action.

display block workflow
display block workflow

Basket abandonment:

Someone has put a product in their basket on your site but not completed the purchase in a timely fashion. Post that data to your email automation tool, most of those on the market (ours included) can handle this easily. This data will then populate a predefined template and trigger an email to the recipient encouraging them to complete their purchase. Fresh Relevance in their Rip Curl case study show in excess of 10% of those customers receiving a basket abandonment email go back to purchase the item.

Basket abandonment statistics
basket abandonment uplift from Fresh Relevance

Browse abandonment:

Almost identical to Basket Abandonment, Browse Abandonment happens when you implement business rules such as “identified email address has viewed a product 3+ times without going further, trigger this template with this personalisation in it”. These type of emails are seen to generate in excess of 3% increase in sales.

Event led:

Birthdays, anniversaries, insurance renewals, these type of emails just sit there in the background and trigger daily depending on when someone matches the criteria. This is a simple but effective way of increasing your brand loyalty and triggering clicks back to your site. In their birthday email, Audit Experian said birthday emails out perform promotional emails in nearly all KPIs

Birthday email campaigns audit
Experian Birthday Emails Campaign Audit KPI’s

Cross Sell:

Not only should you cross sell in your order confirmation emails but also dispatch notifications, delivery confirmation and in truth, any other order point of contact. Forrester Research found a 10% increase in AOV on purchases where a recommendation was clicked on.

I am just scratching the surface of what’s possible with automation, essentially, if you can whiteboard the process we can implement an automation program that will sit in the background and increase your revenues from email.

Loyalty and Incentive programs:

This is just an extension of the Nectar, Clubcard, MyWaitrose (other loyalty cards are available) card you have in your wallet but in an online format. Richer Sounds do this very well at point of sign up. You’re encouraged to be a VIP and you’re told what you’ll get by becoming one. It helps with both list growth and list retention.

Targeted communications:

Your email platform will almost certainly have the functionality to segment based on any data held within your database. You can then send targeted communications to people based on the products they’ve previously bought, those they’ve browsed, those that compliment previously purchased products, the list is almost endless. You can do many different targeted emails or if you can code using the dynamic tags, or outsource that bit to an agency like us, you can build one email that dynamically inserts the relevant targeted element based on the data. It is also possible to use some of the personalisation tools out there to scrape in particular offers from your website in real time and drop them into the dynamic personalised section of the email.

The takeaway

The possibilities and the opportunities afforded to you by utilising the tools available and the skills of a professional email marketing company can have a material effect on your bottom line. It is no coincidence that the companies who have fared better in the current pandemic are the ones whose online presence and email marketing programs are constantly pushing the boundaries, whereas the ones that have struggled were slower to embrace the opportunities afforded them by the technologies available.


Fill the gap

Through our extensive travels around multiple email platforms we have noticed that whilst they all do the basics really well, sometimes there is just that missing bit of key functionality that you long for, or it just doesn’t quite work how you want. So, you find yourself doing things the hard way and dreaming of a day where all you need to do is push a button and it all magically happens. But how can you fill the gap?

Well, we thought “why not do something about it?” and came up with our own solutions that anybody can take advantage of. Fortunately, most email platforms provide their own API integrations so these solutions, where required, should be adjustable to suit each platform.

Fill the gap scenario 1: list splitting

You may have a list held in your platform and for whatever reason you need to split it into 2 or more chunks. In theory this is possible with A/B testing but not if you need it for some other purpose.

The hard way: download the data, stick it into a database, run some SQL on it to output however many chunks you want, reimport.

The easy way: use a tool which lets you enter a list identifier, what you want to call the new lists and how many splits you want and it will run the downloading, SQL and reimporting for you whilst you eat that biscuit.

List Splitting


Here’s a demo of how a tool to split files could work (since it’s a demo we’re restricting to a 1 column file, txt or csv only, and we’ll only split out 100 records):

File to Upload:

No Splits:

Fill the gap scenario 2: list limiting

It could be possible that you have a list held in your platform, but for now you only need to send a small amount from it.

The hard way: you download your list, recreate it to the size you want and reimport.

The easy way: use a tool which lets you enter a list identifier, what you want to call it and how many rows and it will run the downloading, limiting and reimporting whilst you sit back with that cup of tea.

List Limiting

Fill the gap scenario 3: campaign send going slow?

It could be that something seems to be going slightly awry with a campaign send and it’s being very slow or stopped delivering entirely.

The hard way: you download all that should be sent and check the send status, then run some group counts on the domains of the unsent emails using Excel or SQL.

The easy way: use a tool that lets you identify a campaign send by its ID that will download all the unsent emails and run the count for you before displaying the results to you so you can see where the roadblock is whilst you get some darts practice in.

Queued Domains

Fill the gap scenario 4: campaign send delivered poorly?

If your campaign didn’t perform as well as you hoped and you suffered a lot of soft bounces, and you want to try a resend down different IPs for example then you will want to pull them into a new list.

The hard way: you may have to go into the campaign send, download all the soft bounces and reimport into a new list. Not so bad…assuming it’s just the one campaign…

The easy way: use a tool that can let you input one or more, campaign ID that will identify just the soft bounced records and reimport that into a new list for you whilst you put your feet up and think about your next holiday.

SB Resends

I’m sure there are countless other niggling little things that a simple solution using API can be found for that will save you time and frustration – we’re always looking to innovate where we can, so why not ask us if you have a problem, and let’s see if we can come up with a solution. You can always check out some more information on ways we’ve tried to solve other development problems here.

Email best practice

How to figure out when is the best time to send your email campaign

It’s a question that comes across our desk almost weekly, “When should we send out the email, when is the best time?” – The answer as with so much in email marketing is… “it depends”. Working out when you should send an email is really unique not only to the company sending it but even unique to the content of the email itself. If your goal is to increase your engagement rates then you are going to need to work out when is the best time to send emails.

We have been sending out emails for quite a few years now and to say ‘we’ve seen it all’ would be a bit of an understatement. With over 5 million emails sent every month by myself alone. Therefore we can say with a great degree of certainty that there is no one perfect time to send an email. The best time really does vary from industry to industry, business to business as well email to email. Unfortunately for you dear reader there is no singular time that is best for all emails to be sent. Although that would make all our lives a lot easier.

The main goal of any email is to drive traffic to a website. This email engagement can only be improved if every part of the email is carefully designed to suit the audience. This includes everything from the pre-subject line, copy, design, email length, buttons and even the send time.

Test, test, and test again

Getting email engagement to increase really does require quite a lot of different tests. This includes testing the send time, subject lines, copy, design, and other key elements of the email. Ideally each aspect of the email is tested one part at a time as to not cloud the results from any specific test.

Having so many things to test and evaluate may seem daunting at first but by systematically working through each with a number of A/B tests you should start seeing patterns of engagement. Make sure to test one aspect at a time and also try run 1-3 A/B tests per item so you are sure of the results. Employing other tools like our subject line creator tool can also assist with this process.

1. Divide your list into segments

The first step is to divide you database into smaller segments. Ideally the divisions are not arbitrary but based upon matching characteristics such as, purchase history, geographic location, age, gender or as many matching characteristics that seem relevant. Hopefully by grouping similar subscribers together they will produce less random results and make testing to those segments more accurate.

Most email marketing platforms have segmenting tools built in and if not we can assist with any data segmentation you might require.

2. Create your tests

With your newly created segments it’s time to start testing. It is important to be able to measure the success of each test so try not to test multiple things at once. Always be goal orientated with each test. For example, “Does placing high value products near the top of emails result in higher sales for these item?” Make sure you tests are also based on some real world knowledge, for example people will always spend more closer to pay day. So this might skew some results if you’re testing close to those days. Try and isolate your tests as much as possible.

It is also important to also build on the findings of your tests. So for example if your Sales email is always the most profitable email and you know people spend more on payday. You should certainly then test if your Sales email is more effective if sent closer to payday.

3. Divide each segment into control and test groups

Once you have decided what you are going to test divide each segment into two equal numbered sub-segments. Your ESP should be able to do this for you. It is important to ensure each sub-segment is large enough to produce meaningful test results. If you think the segments are too small you might want to adjust what you are testing or add more data. The final option would be to run more tests to remove and randomness from the results. There is also a useful calculator you can use to calculate a good size

4. Create two versions of the email

To make the test create the email as you normally would then create a version that will test your hypothesis. This can be anything such as reordering of content, subject line, overall design, button placement.

5. Measure the results

Ideally your ESP has a robust reporting suite or heat-map capability. This should allow you to easily see which email generates more engagement as well as allowing you to see what element of the email is generating all the clicks. To really make sure of the results you could run 1-3 additional tests, testing the same thing to remove and randomness from a one off test. For evaluating send times make sure that you’re getting the same type of engagement you would expect regardless of when you send the email. Then choose the send time that gets the most engagement.

Build on the wins

Now that you have established the best time to send or any other aspect you have been testing implement these results on the main database sends. As long as the results are replicated in the main sends you are good to begin at the beginning of your testing cycle again. Testing should be a consistent practice that you continuously include into you marketing calendar. Remember also that just because a Sale email might perform well close to pay day doesn’t mean you should send your welcome emails out then to. You might find Welcome emails perform better if sent only 30 minutes after sign-up.

The key point with trying to improve engagement through email testing is to remember to constantly tailor your tests and ultimately your approach to your audience. Use your educated guesses to guide your questions and then make decisions based on the real data you get back from tests.

Email coding

Tips from a Junior Email Developer

As a fresh media graduate looking to make a start in my career, I did not expect to join the email development industry. I was familiar with web development, but had little knowledge of how an email developer works.

Joining this new and unfamiliar industry was a challenge, there was a lot of information to learn quickly since email development is a fast paced and busy industry.

From my own experience, here are some tips that I can share from my brief time as a junior email developer.

Ask for help

Chances are, you are going to get stuck or confused. It’s always better to ask a quick question to someone with more experience instead of struggling for hours on end because you’re too stubborn to ask for help. It’s also a great learning opportunity to figure out how you can improve in different areas and also learn new skills.

Once you get started building emails and developing campaigns by yourself, it is a good idea to ask your colleagues to check your work and give feedback on what you have been doing well, as well as any mistakes that they have noticed.

Juggling multiple projects at a time can be stressful and you may start to feel overwhelmed sometimes, so it’s more than acceptable to ask a colleague to cover a task you may not have time to complete. There is no shame in admitting you have too much on your plate as a beginner, and overall it will benefit your mental health by not being over-stressed whilst you are still trying to get the hang of things.

Skills to succeed as an email developer

Starting in email development, you need a dynamic set of skills that will help you succeed in your new role. From more obvious skills such as knowledge of HTML and CSS, to more personal skills such as understanding your client’s needs. Being able to pick up new software and learning new skills quickly will benefit you greatly. There are a number of different tools that I have had to learn since starting and I expect to keep learning many more as I carry on my career in email development.

Having a keen eye and attention to detail is integral to producing high quality campaigns for your client, so it is important to take your time and make sure that you double check your work before finalising anything. Yes, you will make mistakes but it’s all part of the learning process and developing your skills as an email developer.

Discovering how to properly format my code was something I had to learn how to do from starting as a junior email developer. It’s definitely something I have not mastered yet, but having a clean HTML file allows not only yourself to notice mistakes more easily, but if a colleague needs to check your work, your code will be legible compared to a jumbled mess.

Understand job priority and manage your time wisely. You may have several briefs come in at once so making sure you know what is important will help you stay on top of deadlines. Once you have been working for a while, you will understand the average time it takes to build certain emails so you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

Working Environment

Making sure you have a work environment that works for you is essential to not only your work efficiency but your physical and mental health. Investing in good quality hardware will ultimately save you time and money, as well as help improve your comfort whilst working. Personally, I use a wireless keyboard and mouse so my workstation can be dynamic.

Additionally, using a secondary monitor can help spread your workload so you don’t feel claustrophobic whilst working with multiple programs. Having a neat and clean desk helps to minimise distractions whilst working, it’s also just nicer to not be working in a cluttered mess for hours a day!

As an email developer, you’re classed as a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) User, so make sure to take breaks every so often to minimise repetitive strain injury. Prolonged activity sitting down and looking at a screen will not be beneficial to your health so it’s recommended to take short breaks every so often.

Additional Tips

When you’re just getting started there is a lot of information to remember, if you struggle at first then you can make physical notes to keep. Having something to refer back to when you are struggling to remember key details will save you time and help you feel less stressed, especially if you have a deadline coming up. You could take notes of shortcuts or tasks you have left to do, anything you feel is necessary that you may struggle to remember.

Take advantage of making checklists, these are extremely useful for when you are finishing up a project so you can go through and make sure you have not missed any crucial information.

If you can find a way, use different tools to help you get simple tasks done faster. Utilising different snippets and shortcuts will save you heaps of time as well as stop you from typing the same blocks of code, when all you really need is a line. However, remember to keep these updated and always check the code is correct after using, you don’t want to end up with outdated elements!

Within reason, take you time with your projects. Sure, you may be able to rush through five email builds but there is a high chance you will make many mistakes compared to taking your time through two. Remember, you’re creating emails that could be seen by thousands of people so you don’t want to make the company you work for and the client you are representing look bad with huge mistakes often.

Be resilient and persevere, it will take some time to learn but once you have the basics of email development down it will be smooth sailing… at least until the holiday seasons come around.