Email is Still Powerful (Even if The Technology is Not)

According to some research, email marketing has a median ROI of 122%. That’s huge. It’s been proven over and over again that email is the most effective digital marketing tool.

But there are so many other digital marketing tactics that are so much more technologically advanced – and so much more fresh and exciting. While web browsers are getting more sophisticated all the time, email clients like Outlook are stuck in the past. And what about all the articles saying that email is dead?

Email’s not dead

We all thought snail mail would die too, but that’s not happening. While Slack messaging is a better way to share memes with your coworkers, we haven’t started slacking our clients proposals or deliverables yet. Email is still the standard for business communication.

In fact, the number of email users worldwide is forecasted to rise to 2.9 billion by 2019. There are whole courses taught on proper business email etiquette. And even though our inboxes are filled with offers and promotions, a solid marketing email still converts.

A generation of computer users have conditioned themselves to keep two tabs open on their browsers the entire work day: one for their business email account and one for personal – constantly checking, never wanting to miss an important message. It’s the communication channel we prefer over phone calls, personal meetings, and all other digital communications.


But the design and development possibilities are so limited with email. If you want to make sure Outlook users see your emails properly, you have to avoid flash, javascript, <iframe>, even background images and custom web fonts.

So how do you get around these limitations and make emails that catch people’s attention?

Let’s see how some of the best do it.

Examples of really great email campaigns


It makes sense that a company selling a portal for design collaboration would have well-designed marketing emails. But even beyond the design, InVision does a great job with content and personality. One great detail is the button text – it really makes you want to click!


Freshbooks has got content down. They blog regularly, and make full use of their thought leadership. Every week, they send out an email with a roundup of their latest posts. But here’s the unique thing – they also include a curated list of links to related third party content. Now that’s offering true value and not being too salesy – great way to build trust and reputation.


This is a brand that’s doing something really unique with their email campaigns. They’re cleaning up their email lists. When it’s flagged that a subscriber hasn’t been opening their last few emails, they send them an email giving them a chance to stay on the list or be automatically removed within three days. It sounds like a counterintuitive move, but it’s actually smart for a couple reasons: low open rates hurt email deliverability, while opt-in requests add a personalized quality, and they’re a way to get uninterested prospects interested again.

The takeaway from these examples: Make your emails valuable, and human. Add personality. And make sure your call-to-action is apparent – and appealing.

Hang in there

So while email’s technological limitations can be frustrating, there are ways to make great marketing emails that are worth the work! And hopefully one day email clients will catch up – or something better will finally come along.