How We Taught Our Client to Do Email Marketing and Remained in the Red (It Was Worth It)


For several years straight, we’ve been successfully setting up and launching email campaigns for our clients. But sometimes, we come face to face with unusual tasks where the most reasonable decision is to teach the client’s team all the required details.

In November, the e-learning team of a large cosmetics brand contacted us, asking to prepare them for independent work with emails. They started using their email channel to interact with employees and partners on education and professional development, but the team had no prior experience with emails.

The task was to build a strategy for effective communication with different categories of employees, and also to:

  • understand the principles of creating email
  • learn to regularly add contacts to a database
  • grasp the intricacies of ESPs and learn key email regulations
  • determine criteria to evaluate email campaign performance (the number of clicks on links to internal courses)
  • learn the main features of email design that draw attention and encourage the recipient to click on the “Start the course” button

This was a new experience for us. We created thousands of communication strategies, crafted millions of emails, compiled all kinds of reports, and even recorded an email marketing course for beginners. Yet we had never tried our hand at corporate training with an emphasis on auditing and consulting.

In this article, I’ll talk about how we handled the task and what challenges we encountered along the way.

Getting Started

The client’s employees have already figured out how the ESP works and even began to use it. Yet email production revealed lack of knowledge about:

  • how to draw attention and reach out to different audience segments
  • how to spark interest
  • what kind of visuals and manner of speech to use
  • how to evaluate the effectiveness of emails
  • what they can experiment with

The client wanted to build a rather specific type of communication: internal training for employees and partners with different levels of motivation. The global task of the training team was to create an email channel where:

  • the level of motivation and involvement could be increased
  • the desire to learn was dictated by a high level of loyalty to the brand and its products

This called for precise ideas, inspirational examples, and experienced advice from our side.

Choosing a Format & Creating a Program

Though the goal was long-term, we needed to provide the knowledge quickly. After a brief call with the client, we scrapped the course option and agreed on live training instead. Our team took a couple of days to create a draft training program (its sections and short descriptions) and calculate the required time and the budget.

3 days later, we came up with the following version of the program:

1. Motivating employees and partners through emails: how to involve newcomers in training and make them fall in love with the brand. This section came first because the client didn’t have a strategy and understanding of how emails could encourage employees to undergo training.

The majority of the audience were partners, and our task was to ensure that they would learn more about the products (and become expert consultants for customers). We used our own knowledge of educational communication and similar experiences of other clients.

2. Communication strategy and email scheduling: engagement and reactivation sequences, automation. Here, we discussed the general approach to building a strategy: goals, objects of communication, user profiles and actions, human resources, technical capabilities, and brand principles.

3. Text and design: copywriting and design techniques that influence response, and trends. This section was created since the emails (both the design and email copy) were crafted by the in-house team.

Here, we talked about the email structure, subject lines, preheaders and footers, visual anchors, tone of voice, and how the text depends on the purpose of the email.

4. Deliverability and laws. We recommended including this section since marketing has its rules (and penalties for their violation). Here, we discussed deliverability factors and the legal framework for email campaigns: what is prohibited by email providers, and how emails are regulated by the law.

5. Email campaign analytics and conversions in educational communications. In this section, we discussed how to interpret the main metrics of educational emails (OR, CTR, unsubscribes, complaints, churn) and how to run tests.

6. Mini-audit of emails (in PDF format). By the time the client contacted us, they already set up a number of simple email sequences. We proposed a mini-audit of those emails in terms of email copy, design, and strategy.

The training itself was held as an online meeting.

What Was the Most Challenging for Us

Since the task was rather unconventional, we faced several challenges in the process.

Estimates & Budgeting

One of the biggest challenges was to draw up the estimates and count the hours we would potentially spend on preparation. We were able to come up with the approximate time only for the sections about deliverability and analytics.

Other sections and the audit required diving deep into the client’s project, studying the topic, and doing a little research. As such, they remained uncertain until the last minute. This meant that it was impossible to calculate the exact price for training.

We chose leading digital marketers, a seasoned copywriter, and an HR as speakers. This way, we ensured excellent quality of content but increased our costs (since the hourly rates of high-class expert services are more expensive).

Required Timing

Of all the speakers, no one had previous experience in conducting such events (except for internal ones). The training format was way different from teaching the newcomers in the team about what you do every day. While each speaker was a first-rate expert, they were still nervous.

We decided to pre-run everyone’s speech in order to meet the schedule and remain as helpful as possible. It still took us about 1.5 to 2 hours more than originally estimated: you can’t predict when and how much time exactly would be needed to answer the questions.

Communication With the Client Within the Task Framework

Due to inexperience, the pattern of communication with the client was not completely clear to us. Since this was our first training ever, we had neither a proven scheme nor a ready-made price list for such services.

Everything turned out well in the end. Yet for future assignments of this kind, we’d require more certainty and dedicated resources so as not to distract busy specialists from their current projects.

Bottom Line

Despite all the challenges we faced, our client was very happy with the results. The training gave them not only basic knowledge of email marketing but also ideas that they wanted to implement as soon as possible.

As for our team, we understood that:

1. The most important (and pleasant) part is that we can educate the clients, and do it well. Despite the shortage of resources before Christmas, we were still able to organize and conduct training with satisfying results.

2. We underestimated some stages of preparation and spent more hours than we had expected. But this didn’t upset us much: for a very first experience, the outcome was still impressive. Now we clearly understand where to add hours next time.

3. And finally, we had enormous pleasure from working on a task that was new to us all. This was both a very useful and exciting experience.

We, as a digital marketing agency, can do a lot in terms of communications. And this assignment showed that we can teach our clients everything that’s needed as well.

chris montgomery smgTvepind4 unsplash 600Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash