Beyond Blah: Crafting exceptional emails your audience can't ignore


How many emails do you see (and maybe even create) that are “OK”? It’s not enough anymore. This guide equips you with five ways to transform your campaigns from forgettable to phenomenal. Master planning, storytelling, killer content, tech and channel integration.

Rise above the inbox noise, crafting emails that captivate, build relationships, and drive real results. Let's always be extraordinary!

In today's crowded inbox, where gaining attention is increasingly tricky and unsubscribes easier and easier, success requires more than the ability to hit the send button.

The truth is most emails land in the "OK" zone. They exist, they're seen, they're forgotten. But in today's competitive landscape, "OK" simply isn't enough. To truly thrive, your email marketing needs to be exceptional. It needs to be the email your audience eagerly awaits, the one they click, share, and talk about.

Think of your email as an invitation, not an intrusion. It's your opportunity to engage, entertain, and ultimately, win over the hearts and minds of your audience. But achieving "exceptional" requires ditching the tired templates and generic messages. It's about crafting unique, customer-centric content that resonate, spark curiosity, and drive action.

The "OK" Email Epidemic

Statistics from past DMA survey research to both consumers and marketers paint a grim picture. A whopping 60% of marketers believe their skills fall below "good," and a staggering 45% of emails sent are deemed irrelevant by their recipients. Without addressing this your emails are more likely to trigger a groan and a quick scroll-and-delete, than an open and click.

The 2023 DMA email consumer tracker reports that the proportion of consumers who open more than half the marketing messages they receive in their inbox has dropped to less than a third (32%).

02 Crawford 01 2023 DMA email consumer tracker

Consumers are becoming more selective about which emails they pay attention to. If our emails are one of these selected it gives us marketers a massive opportunity to engage with the reader.

This "OK" email epidemic stems from several factors:

  • Misconception of inherent effectiveness: Many businesses see email as a magic bullet, forgetting the need for strategic planning and audience understanding.
  • Reduced priority: Email marketing often gets sidelined, leading to stagnant knowledge and underutilised technology.
  • Lack of training and development: Without dedicated training, email teams fall back on outdated practices, failing to embrace new tools and trends.

The consequences of "OK" email are dire: damaged customer relationships, plummeting brand perception, and vanishing deliverability rates. It's time to ditch the generic and embrace the exceptional.

So, how do you transform your email game from mediocre to magnificent? I’ve identified five key considerations that pave the way to inbox hero status:

1. Strategic Planning: Chess, not checkers

Think of your email campaign as a chess game. Every move (email) needs careful planning based on:

  • Clear goals: What do you want to achieve? Brand awareness? Increased sales? Customer engagement?
  • Audience understanding: Who are you talking to? What are their needs, wants, and pain points?
  • Desired actions: What do you want your audience to do after reading your email? Visit your website? Make a purchase? Sign up for a webinar?

Crafting clear answers to these questions forms the foundation of your email strategy, guiding the tone, content, and call to action.

2. Customer-Centric Storytelling: From facts to feelings

Facts are fine, but feelings are what drive engagement. Forget the sales pitch; focus on telling stories that resonate with your audience. Remember, you're not writing a product manual, you're crafting a captivating novel.

  • Understand the customer journey: Tailor your content to each stage – awareness, consideration, purchase, and beyond.
  • Offer valuable information: Exceptional emails don't just inform, they resonate. For those just discovering your brand why should they consider you. Nurture existing customers with exclusive deals and personalised offers.
  • Showcase real-life examples: Show them how your product or service can fit into their lives, solving problems. Use storytelling to build relationships and drive engagement. JetBlue has some great email copy. Funny, helpful, and full of great puns. Reflecting their commitment to engaging and retaining customers through email.

02 Crawford 01 2023 DMA email consumer tracker

3. Content and Engagement: The deliciously creative cake

Imagine your email as a delectable cake. The base, the informative and valuable content, is essential, but it's the icing of creativity and engagement that makes it truly irresistible. Don't bore your audience.

  • Inject creativity and humour: Don't be afraid to have fun!
  • Create engagement with interaction: Interactive elements like quizzes or polls encourage participation. Grab attention and make your message memorable. This nice example from Milwaukee (below) using interactive hot spots showcases this well. It provides both an opportunity to interact with the email content directly and packs loads of information into a much smaller area of the email real estate.
  • Strike the "give-and-take" balance: Don't just ask for something, offer something in return. Share valuable insights, exclusive content, or helpful tips. Remember, the more you give, the more you'll receive.
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4. Leveraging Technology: From Basics to beyond

Don't just send emails; optimize them. Your email service provider (ESP) is a treasure trove of powerful tools waiting to be unlocked.

As this research from Holistic Email Marketing shows, less than 50%  of marketers report using more than 50% of their email platforms capability.

  • Personalisation: Use data to tailor your emails to individual preferences and interests. Imagine birthday emails that feel like personal notes, not automated blasts.
  • Automation: Automate repetitive tasks like welcome emails and abandoned cart reminders, freeing up your time for strategic initiatives.
  • Segmentation: Group your audience based on demographics, interests, or purchase behaviour to send targeted and relevant messages.

And if your current platform doesn’t provide this, you can add to your tech stack, rather than start again.

Consider integrating with third-party solutions for A/B testing, advanced analytics, and even AI-powered personalisation. Embrace the power of technology to streamline your email operations, improve deliverability, and maximise results.

5. Create a unified customer journey: Build bridges with omnichannel integration

In today's digital landscape, customers journey across various channels throughout their interactions with brands (sometimes simultaneously.) To truly captivate them, your email marketing needs to transcend the siloed inbox and build seamless bridges with other touchpoints.

  • Break the silo’s: Remove email's isolation and connect it with social media, mobile apps, and physical stores. Imagine a customer receiving a targeted email based on their recent in-store visit or completing a mobile purchase with just a click from their email.
  • Data Harmony: Utilize data from various platforms like website visits, social media engagement, and purchase history to gain a holistic view of your customer journey. This symphony of data informs targeted email campaigns, tailoring content based on individual preferences and interactions across channels.
  • Beyond Opens and Clicks: Measuring email success shouldn't stop at opens and clicks. Track how your emails influence conversions across different channels, both online and offline. This deeper understanding provides a clearer picture of ROI and guides strategic optimisation.


Exceptional email marketing is a journey, not a destination. It's about continuous learning, experimentation, and a relentless pursuit of improvement. Stay curious, explore new strategies, and keep your finger on the pulse of the ever-changing digital landscape.

Use these five key considerations to elevate your email game. Stand out in the inbox with emails that captivate your audience and build meaningful relationships whilst driving real business results.

nick fewings pIY6sz texg unsplash 600Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash