Is Email Marketing Effective? Three Examples That Prove It Is


Email marketing gets a bad rap. Sure, it’s not quite as embarrassing as direct mail (which is somehow a $12 billion per year industry), but it’s pretty close.

Is email marketing effective bad email

Image via G-Lock Software

Many marketers have been seduced by social media advertising, perceiving it to be not only “cooler,” but also more effective than email marketing. There’s no denying that social media gets a lot more media attention than email marketing. However, claims that email marketing is no longer effective are simply not true (check out these email marketing stats that prove it). Any marketer worth their salt will tell you that email remains a cornerstone of their campaigns.

Not convinced? Then check out these three examples from some of the world’s leading email management companies to see what makes email marketing so effective.

1. Email Newsletters Can Be Awesome

Let’s face it – most email newsletters are crap. Far too many companies see email newsletters as another way to push sales, even though many people who sign up for a newsletter are not looking to actively make a purchase. This can result in low sign-up volumes, high rates of subscriber abandonment, and “newsletters” that are light on news and heavy on pushy sales tactics.

However, as Southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun demonstrated in a case study for email management service Emma, email newsletters can actually be awesome, when handled correctly.

Is email marketing effective Garden & Gun Talk of the South newsletter

Garden & Gun is the country’s leading Southern lifestyle magazine. With a diverse readership and an equally broad editorial focus, Garden & Gun focuses on everything from Southern heritage and culture to fine dining and trends in agriculture.

The magazine and website have attracted a loyal audience thanks to the quality of its journalism, something that Kim Alexander, Garden & Gun’s digital media editor, also wanted the newsletter, Talk of the South, to represent.

“We are at heart a print publication, but we only print six times a year,” Alexander said in an interview on the Emma blog. “So we use email to stay in touch with our readers and drive traffic to our website.”

Garden & Gun has grown its online audience considerably through Talk of the South. According to the Emma blog, the subscriber base of the average email newsletter will shrink by 30% every year, but Garden & Gun has managed to actually increase its newsletter readership by 40% since partnering with Emma three years ago.

Talk of the South is also a source of revenue for Garden & Gun. As you can see in the screenshot above, the newsletter features advertising, just as the print and online editions of the magazine do. However, the ads aren’t intrusive and are highly targeted and relevant to Garden & Gun’s readership. I’d be very interested to see the CTR data of these ads, as I suspect it would be high in comparison to traditional website banners.

Is email marketing effective Garden & Gun magazine

A great example of the kind of articles that appear in Talk of the South

Overall, the quality of Talk of the South is excellent. As a Garden & Gun reader myself, it’s one of the few newsletters I genuinely look forward to reading, and serves as a great example of how email newsletters can make everybody happy if they’re produced to a high standard and serve an editorial purpose.

2. Social Media and Email Marketing Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

As the recent midterm elections demonstrated, virtually everything can be reduced to a zero-sum, adversarial battle. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Just because email marketing might not be as “sexy” as social media doesn’t mean that the two can’t play nice. In fact, combining email marketing with a strong social media strategy can really pay off, as sustainable living blog DIY Natural discovered.

Is email marketing effective DIY Natural homepage

DIY Natural was borne of founder Matt Jabs’ passion for self-reliance and sustainable living. Even in the site’s early days, DIY Natural was attracting a great deal of traffic – a fact that forced Jabs to seriously consider how social media could expand his audience, and how email marketing could help him monetize his burgeoning blog.

In an interview on the AWeber blog, Jabs said that combining social media with email marketing allowed he and his wife Betsy to transition from a passion project into a full-time business.

“As our traffic and email list grows, our social media lists grow organically and consistently,” Jabs said. “At first, our Facebook page was growing like mad. We went up to about 80,000 likes on Facebook.”

Although he might not have intentionally set out to combine social media with email marketing when he launched the site, the fact that Jabs adopted the two strategies in tandem early on allowed DIY Natural to grow incredibly quickly.

Is email marketing effective DIY Natural ghee blog post

Of course, the site’s commitment to quality content was a major factor. In fact, I actually signed up for the DIY Natural newsletter as I was researching this article. My wife and I share similar views on self-reliance and sustainability as Matt and Betsy, and we already make our own laundry detergent and other household items (including ghee). As such, DIY Natural’s content is perfect for us, and exactly the type of content I’d like to see in my inbox every week.

Matt and Betsy’s success just goes to show that you don’t need to rob Peter to pay Paul when it comes to email marketing.

3. Email Marketing is PERFECT for Small Businesses

One of the most stubborn misconceptions about email marketing is that you need an entire marketing department to handle running effective email campaigns.

Although a large dedicated team doesn’t hurt, it’s by no means a requirement. Email marketing can be a huge boost for small businesses. Case in point, family-owned business Goat Milk Stuff, a business that sells – you guessed it – products made from goat’s milk.

Is email marketing effective Goat Milk Stuff homepage

Like many small businesses, Goat Milk Stuff wrestled with the desire to grow beyond small craft fairs and trade shows and their commitment to offering outstanding, personalized service to customers.

In a post at the MailChimp blog, Goat Milk Stuff cofounder PJ Jonas said that while she and her husband Jim (and their eight children, who also help run the company) diligently collected emails during trade shows, they wanted to expand without compromising their business’ approachable, family-friendly values. Surprisingly, email marketing allowed them to do both.

“We sent some newsletters where we gave customers a choice of which special they wanted,” said PJ. “Either a 20% discount or free shipping. What we discovered was that some people always choose the discount, and some always choose the shipping—it’s not necessarily which special saves them more money. So we took that information and now we alternate our specials.”

Is email marketing effective goats

Some of the goats that help make the goat milk stuff.

So, despite spending most of their time actually making their products, tending to their herd of goats, and somehow managing to run an eight-child household (seriously, bravo), Jim and PJ also manage to operate highly successful email marketing campaigns that offer their customers genuine value while keeping things simple – all without a formal marketing department in sight.

How Do You Launch an Effective Email Campaign?

So, now that we’ve learned some valuable lessons in how effective email marketing campaigns can impact different types of businesses, how do you go about launching your own?

Obviously every email marketing campaign is different. There are, however, some “rules” that can help you make some headway.

Bonus Tip #1: A/B Test Your Email Marketing Campaigns

You know what they say about assumptions, right? Don’t make an ass out of yourself and tank your campaign in the process – test early, and test often.

Many email management tools include built-in A/B testing functionality, allowing you to test specific aspects of your email marketing campaigns to ensure maximum impact. MailChimp, for example, wrote about the results of several A/B tests from successful campaigns to show how a rigorous approach to testing can yield substantial improvements.

Is email marketing effective MailChimp A/B testing

Image via MailChimp

Bonus Tip #2: Keep Subject Lines Short and Sweet

We’ve written about email subject lines before. Like a good chili recipe, everyone seems to have their own preferred way of doing things, but when it comes to the “perfect” subject line, shorter is best – specifically, between six and 10 words.

Is email marketing effective email open rate data Retention Science

This data from Retention Science indicates that email subject lines between six and 10 words consistently have the best open rates. Compare the open rate of these subject lines with that of subject lines between 21 and 25 words in length and you’re talking a major drop-off.

Of course, there are many other factors that contribute to the success of an email marketing campaign. To read more about how to improve your open rates, check out Retention Science’s full study here.

Bonus Tip #3: Send Emails on Thursday Mornings at 8 a.m.

This is pretty specific advice, right? For sure, but we’ve also covered the best times to send email campaigns in the past, and we’ve found that Thursday mornings between 8-9 a.m. is an ideal window of opportunity to increase your open rates.

Of course, what works for us might not work for you (see Bonus Tip #1), so be sure to experiment with the timing of your email campaigns to discover what times result in higher open rates.

Email Like a Boss

Email marketing can – and often is – highly effective. However, just like anything else worth doing, it takes time, effort, and sometimes, making a lot of mistakes before you discover the secret behind the Colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices.

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas on how to improve your own email marketing campaigns. As always, if something has worked for you that I haven’t covered, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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Matt Jabs
Nov 12, 2014

Thanks for featuring our story Dan. Betsy and I are glad you're enjoying, and more importantly using, the information. Blessings!

Dan Shewan
Nov 13, 2014

Hey Matt,Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I love what you and Betsy are doing. Keep up the great work!Dan

Jason Nelson
Nov 13, 2014

Email marketing works well at scale.  For small businesses with a smaller list, it's more difficult to justify the time and cost involved.  While you can easily send out simple text or template involved, if you want a customized message prepared, it typically costs a couple hundred dollars to produce/send. While it can help build awareness and brand, depending on your type of business, it can make positive ROI challenging.

Dan Shewan
Nov 13, 2014

Hey Jason,While I completely agree about email marketing at scale, two of the three examples I highlighted are of small, family-owned businesses. Sure, not every small business will be able to replicate this kind of success, but they do demonstrate that it's not as difficult as one might think. As you say, it depends on the nature of the business and what they hope to accomplish. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

Nov 13, 2014

Hey Dan, Great article, I think you highlighted the effectiveness of email marketing nicely.  We're sharing this with potential small business clients we have.Have you had a chance to try our email marketing software tool called Mailify?  We'd love to set you up for beta testing and hear your feedback on our product. Best,Shawn 

Dan Shewan
Nov 13, 2014

Hi Shawn,I have to admit, I haven't heard of Mailify, but I'm glad you found the piece useful - hopefully your prospective clients will, too!

كشف تسربات
Dec 10, 2014

Thanks for share

Feb 05, 2015

yes, email marketing is awesome. thanks for the nice article.

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Apr 10, 2015

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the nice tips. I wonder whether email marketing works for a service provider like Doctor? I am an Ayurvedic Doctor struggling to increase my clients. Any suggestions?

Dan Shewan
Apr 10, 2015

Hi Varalakshmi, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. As for your question, I'd avoid the "hard sell" relating to your services, at least initially, as emails directly pitching something will most likely end up being deleted. Instead, try answering questions about your field through content such as blog posts and including this content in a newsletter. Consider what a prospective client would ask you about your practice. For example, what is Ayurvedic medicine? How can it help with "modern" health issues such as stress from overwork? Is it as effective as more conventional medical treatments? An interesting, informational newsletter will probably be more appealing to a prospective client than the email equivalent of a coupon book. I'd also suggest incorporating an email signup process into your social media presence - make it easy for your social followers to sign up to learn more about your practice, then provide them with genuinely interesting content. If they're following you on social media, chances are they're already interested in what you have to offer. Hope this helps!

May 28, 2015

Thank you for sharing these useful tips. It's really useful for people like me who are new to email marketing campaigns.

ایمیل مارکتینگ
Nov 12, 2015

Thank you – this is a very useful blog particularly for anyone who hasn’t tried an email campaign

Rohan Saxena
Nov 07, 2016

First of all, being bored at work does pay well if you have a Smartphone and you browse through blogs.Amazing information with facts thoughtfully incorporated within. Definitely going to come back for more! :)

Mar 23, 2017

Choosing the right way for email marketing can help a lot for your business.

Dec 13, 2017

Thanks for the article Dan. But I still wonder, what type of business best fit using email marketing?

As social media best for trend product (want), and Google adwords for need product.

What do you think about email marketing best suit for what kind of product or business?

Thank you in advance.

Feb 13, 2018

Thanks a lot for an exiting article! For sure, social media and email marketing is a great combination, which helps you to make your biseness more prodactive. In addition to this want to recommend you an awesome service - If you want to spend less time on your email, answering hundreds of messages, this software is definetely for you!

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