Talk Takeaways: For the Love of All Things Email


Michael Barber, founder of barber&hewitt, adjunct instructor at FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, and public speaker. 


Email has become cancerous. Be benevolent marketers.

Ask not what email can do for you. Ask what email can do for your audience.
Starting with “Why” is more effective than “What.” Ask “Why would these people want this?” and use your answer to write your message. Always be testing.

Design for your audience and their tools.
Make sure your emails are responsive. Use specific CTAs, no “click here” or “learn more” links. Know the capabilities of the email providers and devices your audiences use. I.e.: Outlook doesn’t display images automatically and it doesn’t support gifs; apple watches display emails as plain text; buttons should be at least 44x44px to accommodate thumb size on mobile.

The new marketing P’s:

Portable: Thumb is King
Create mobile and thumb friendly emails. Single column layouts are best. Provide a visual experience and let images do the talking.

Personal: Be Relevant to Individuals
Welcome campaigns increase long-term engagement by ~33%. Segmenting and crafting messages geared for those segments is necessary. Batch and blast should not be a thing anymore. Send people content that’s relevant to them. Try not to be creepy.

“Follow Us Here” links in emails are often ignored. It’s better to get people to take the call to action, which probably leads to somewhere on your website, and make social media options available there. Definitely do not put social share options in emails.

Prescriptive: The Human Experience
You and your email recipients are HUMAN! Write copy as if you are speaking to another human being. Think about your audience’s complete campaign experience: your campaign from beginning to end in context with what’s around them.

The preheader is precious real estate that can help improve your open rates. Don’t waste it with links for your social media, viewing the email in your browser, unsubscribe, or an image alt tag.

Make unsubscribe easy to find. Allowing people to easily unsubscribe reduces your chances of them filing a complaint, which negatively impacts your sender score. You’ll also see improvement in other metrics like open rate and click-to-open rate.

Superlatives matter a lot. The superlatives you use impact how people perceive you. Good superlatives enforce your authenticity, authority, and value. “Latest” is a good example. Bad superlatives sound based in opinion rather than fact, disingenuous, hyperbole, and clickbait-y. Examples include “good,” “perfect,” and “wonderful.”


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