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Glossary Index

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Glossary term

Email campaign

Quick definition

An email campaign is the creation, optimization, delivery, measurement, and analysis of an email marketing program, which could be a single email or a multi-step ongoing engagement.

Key takeaways

In spite of new, more instantaneous technology, email is still one of the best ways to reach customers.

Email is most effective when marketers take time to craft creative or personalized email marketing campaigns, rather than sending out generic emails too frequently.

One challenge companies have to overcome is siloed teams in their organization. They should encourage communication between the different teams to align their email strategy with their overall company strategy.


Bridgette Darling is a senior product marketing manager for Adobe Campaign, which is Adobe's B2C email marketing and omnichannel campaign management application. She worked as an Adobe Campaign product manager for five years, and prior to coming to Adobe worked as a product analyst and product marketing manager for Experian Data Quality.

Q: How does an email campaign relate to email marketing?

A: Email marketing encompasses all aspects of email used to engage with customers for the purpose of driving conversions. An email campaign is one methods brands use email to market to customers.

Q: What is a segmented email campaign?

A: A segmented email campaign is an email marketing program sent only to certain members of the list, instead of the whole list. The marketers will divide the list by a specific trait, like gender or loyalty status, or by features like life cycle status or location. The marketer will craft different email content for the different segments based on data about those customers, and this personalization helps make the content relevant to them.

Q: What is a cold email campaign?

A: A “cold email” is similar to a cold call — it’s reaching out to someone without prior consent. In some countries, cold emailing is illegal, so companies should generally stay away from it. In addition to the possible legal problems, companies could get complaints from customers who don’t want to be contacted, which will hurt the brand’s reputation. Companies should acquire customers organically and allow them to opt in to email campaigns, instead of buying email lists.

Q: What do brands misunderstand about email campaigns?

A: Many marketers see email campaigns as a vehicle to communicate nonstop with their customer base and bombard them with information. To be more effective, marketers should adjust their mindset and think of email as a medium to develop a one-to-one connection with the customer. Email campaigns can and should be the conduit for brand experience and bring value to the customer, instead of just being a way for the marketer to get to their goals, meet their KPIs, and hit their sales quotas.

When you start thinking of the really good emails that you get, whether they’re funny or they have a personal connection or they’re useful, chances are the brands who are best at email aren’t emailing you every day. Or, if they are emailing you every day, it’s because you asked them to. And their emails contain elements that are either compelling, personal, relevant, or useful — and sometimes all of the above.

Above all, emails should offer something to the customer. If more brands use email as a way to elevate their brand and add value to their customer experiences or their customer interactions, it would be less misunderstood and it would be thought of less as a batch-and-blast engine.

Q: What challenges do brands face when trying to launch a more personalized campaign?

A: Legacy email marketing services providers that marketers use to create and execute on their email marketing programs are cumbersome and were often built just for the email channel. So when you start thinking of all of the data that you would need to send a personal, relevant, contextual email, it involves a lot of data and data management. A lot of these legacy solutions make it difficult for the email marketer to dedicate enough time to creating personal emails on top of the operational aspects required. And if a marketer doesn’t have a lot of technical knowledge, it’s even harder.

When you spend all your time on the operational aspects of email marketing, like data management and content creation, it can then be very hard just to get your standard day-to-day or business-as-usual emails out the door. And if it’s difficult to send out the emails that are necessary to meet your sales quotas and drive traffic to your commerce site, you may struggle to send extra “surprise and delight” emails because you’re spending so much time worrying about the basics.

And from a data management standpoint, if all of the data you have is from the email channel, you likely don't know enough about your customer and what they're doing outside of the email experience. They're having all these other customer experiences and interactions with you, but you can't incorporate any of that data because your email platform and your email database is so siloed.

One of the biggest challenges companies have is often not with the technology, but with organizational design. As a result of different technologies emerging into the market and into marketing at different times, there wasn't a unified software platform or application suite for marketers to go and have a one-stop shop for all their data and technology. So you would have your email marketing platform and your mobile marketing platform, and you might have your direct mail agency and platform. And your web teams might sit separately, and your analytics teams might sit separately. So what happens is you have all these teams with different goals and their ideas of strategy, and oftentimes they're not aligned.

Companies can overcome organizational challenges by creating strong communication between their teams and departments. They can bring in people from across the company to work together to solve marketing problems to make sure everyone is aligned. And when buying technology, marketers can check to see if the new tech is extensible and will integrate with the platforms used by other teams. Making sure that any tech you buy provides a complete view of the customer and can integrate other data will help alleviate many issues.

Q: What mistakes do companies make with email campaigns?

A: There are savvy email marketers out there that know they could be doing more, but they don’t have the resources to invest in a new platform or to invest in other technologies that they can connect with their email platform to enable more dynamic or interactive content. Or they’re battling leadership who sees blast emails as an efficient and inexpensive way to meet sales quotas. In most cases, those blast emails do work, so leadership doesn’t see a need to try anything new.

But there is a cost to not investing in new opportunities and new types of emails, like email newsletters. When we start thinking about list attrition and customer fatigue, and how those things impact your brand, companies do lose out when they don’t create meaningful connections and provide value.

Another issue that comes up with sending blast emails to customers every day, in addition to customers getting tired of the constant communication and unsubscribing, is that you train customers to wait for an email promotion before purchasing. If you send emails every day with different discounts or sales, customers will never pay full price again. Smart, savvy brands, especially some of the newer direct-to-consumer or subscription-based brands, have loyal, galvanized, excited customers because the emails add value and don’t blast. Their customers are brand advocates because they trust the company and weren't trained to wait for a discount.

Many customers also don’t take the time to unsubscribe from emails. Instead, they’ll delete a company’s email every day without reading beyond the subject line or filter it to their junk mail if it doesn’t have value. The company still has permission to communicate with that customer, but if the customer isn’t interested, the company is wasting a resource and doesn’t have a clear view of who they’re reaching. And since it’s harder and more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain a loyal one, there is a significant cost to not making your email campaigns useful and relevant.

Q: How does data help email campaigns?

A: Data helps fuel personalized content, whether that’s the offer, image, copy, or something else. It helps marketers know how to craft the email. Data can also help inform when to send, how often to send, when to stop sending, or when to pull back on sending. It informs relevance, content, timing, delivery, and optimization. Your open rates and click-through rates show how well content resonated with a customer. And data can influence other parts of the customer experience.

For example, a car dealership might send customers an email reminding them of a routine oil check, then link that information to the customer’s mobile app account so all they need to do when they get to the dealership is open the app. The email then improves both the online and offline experience.

Q: How do email campaigns tie into other forms of messaging?

A: It depends on the brand and the products and services you’re offering. People used to say that email would die because of all the new channels emerging, like social media and mobile apps. But email is actually still quite convenient because it's an inbox that we can get all of their offers and all of our communications through, but we can largely shut it down and walk away from it for a while. That’s harder to do with SMS messaging or mobile app push notifications.

If a brand is texting you nonstop, it can get even more annoying or lead to even further fatigue than email ever could — because chances are if you get a text message, you check it. Companies need to ensure that they’re respecting the way that consumers interact. So email serves its purpose in the journey, and then mobile also serves its purpose in the journey. And messaging apps or social messaging apps serve their purpose in the journey.

In the United States, we're pretty mobile first at this point, but we're also still very email centric. The purposes of each of those channels varies from country to country, so brands need to know their market, know their customers, and understand the trends. Speaking from the U.S. consumer standpoint, email messaging tends to be promotional, while SMS messages or push notifications are used for necessary or urgent communications.

For example, a company you bought from online might send you an email to let you know that your package is on the way and will arrive in the next few days, then send a text when the package has been delivered. The email contains helpful information, but it doesn’t need to be acted on immediately, unlike the text. A utility company might send someone a monthly email with their billing information, but a text message if there is an emergency or outage. They don’t want to send an email, because the consumer might not want to or be able to check their email at that moment.

All of these channels are important to the customer journey and the customer experience, and they all serve their purpose and can live harmoniously when used correctly.

Q: What is the future of email campaigns?

A: A lot of organizations are already doing cool things with email, so customers’ expectations are higher than ever. They know what’s possible. And that’s pushing the industry to innovate more and get better at email marketing.

Some innovation we’re seeing from a content perspective is interactive email. It offers customers a full experience within the email without having to leave. It almost mimics an app experience. And some emails serve up different offers based on the time of day a recipient opens the email or their location.

From a data standpoint, marketing platforms will continue evolving and are becoming more sensible. Their abilities to take in more real-time data will improve, and their abilities to take that data and use it to determine where a customer is in their journey will provide more relevant, personalized content.

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