Back to (E-mail) School Tips and Tricks

  |  August 26, 2010   |  Comments

Fifteen back-to-school ideas to ensure you ace your year-end report card.

As I dropped off my oldest child at his first day of kindergarten, I realized before we know it, he will be working on homework, learning some new and amazing things, and asking me questions I have no idea what the answer is. Make sure that new school energy rubs off, as it's common for any marketer to coast as summer fades and fall surfaces.

What? The end of the year is almost here? You may quietly shriek in fear that you haven't even scratched the surface of what you set out to do back in January or made the strides you had hoped to after the off-site team meeting back at the end of 2009.

However, it's never too late in the e-mail world to make immediate progress, challenge the status quo, and deliver inbox goodness with the press of the send button. Let's look at 15 back-to-school ideas on how to ensure you ace your year-end report card:


  1. Break out of the boring old look and feel. Knowing you get 10 seconds or less with your subscribers (if you're lucky), try to stand out with a horizontal e-mail (see a gallery of some excellent side scrollers here), test to see if that increases your response rate, and don't forget to nudge or cue your audience to follow the flow of the design.

  2. Test some reactivation messaging for those pesky non-responders.

  3. Recalibrate your e-mail sign-up form and fight for some better placement to combat attrition.

  4. Goals and Metric Challenges

  5. Compare your year to date metrics to your original 2010 goals.

  6. Measure the value per subscriber and make sure your marketing leadership knows (because I bet they don't).

  7. Ask your e-mail partner what they think is working, what isn't, and what should be addressed to improve a few key metrics. If they're not telling you this anyway or even worse, don't know, it's time to look for a new e-mail partner.

  8. Education

  9. Pick 25 e-mail leaders to follow on Twitter and LinkedIn (or their blogs, e-mail newsletters, etc.). Here's a great list to start with.

  10. Are you signed up for your competition's e-mails? How about your favorite brand's e-mail promotions? Do you have a folder of your favorite e-mails or the elements you want to borrow from?

  11. Have you joined the local interactive and marketing industry groups or national ones like the Email Experience Council? If so, make sure you're getting value from these and attending events. Why not even volunteer to speak or assist with an event on e-mail?

  12. Forward Thinking

  13. Launch an e-mail acquisition-focused effort leveraging your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn presence.

  14. Test video in a campaign.

  15. Consider scrapping your e-mail newsletter. No, not in the way Ben & Jerry's U.K. team did, but evaluate the format that may be laborious to develop and painful for recipients to read. Try a new, simplified version that is built from the ground up with the subscriber in mind. That means, no one cares about the press release on the new Beijing office (unless your audience is China-targeted). Offer choices or deliver content based on click behavior and ensure it's not the same old content available on the home page of your site.

  16. Integrate - don't let your e-mail message be the island but the bridge to your gateways where the value can be extended (and further measured). While social and e-mail make up marketing's new PBJ, don't be lazy and coast on a few simple buttons and call to actions. Truly try to use e-mail as the vehicle for initiating a conversation that extends to a social media platform where your relationship is further strengthened. Social can thank e-mail later.

  17. Take a risk, any risk. Just so long…

    • As it is a calculated one
    • As it is one where you have a clear goal on what you're trying to achieve and how you will measure it
    • As it benefits the subscriber

  18. Last but not least, thank and reward your subscribers for giving you permission to e-mail them. You can never do this enough in my book. Remember, this isn't a media buy, so don't treat it that way. The best e-mail programs are tailoring valuable information for this unique audience and treating subscribers like VIPs.

Good luck and let me know what you have on your homework list.


Simms Jenkins

Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.

Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.

Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.

He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.

Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of and, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.

Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.

Follow and connect with Simms on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, The BrightWave Blog, and his book websites at and

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