Five Key Concepts for Successful Email Marketing

By: Christine Saunders 

Email marketing remains a vital method for driving engagement and revenue for organizations of all sizes. This is because email best practices continue to evolve.

An expert panel on the future of email marketing convened at the Trillium Network Winter Summit in February 2020. Here’s a framework that shaped some of the best practices panel members see influencing the future of email marketing.

Keys Concepts in Email Marketing
  1. Personalize & Test

These two concepts really go hand-in-hand. Personalization is about getting the right content to the right person – not the same content to everyone. Personalization requires organized access to data about your customers or members: what services do they buy? What have they responded to in the past? Use your data to drive content, and content to drive your data.

Email marketing is a dynamic practice. Building the habit of testing into your organization is essential. Some variables you may want to test are creative/visuals, subject lines, promotional offers, and order and type of content.

Lots of tools are available to make it easy to accomplish this type of personalization and testing – use the support and features available to you and integrate across platforms to make your technology work for you.

  1. Ensure deliverability

When your email report says X number were delivered, what it really means is that X number weren’t rejected. Learn more about authentication, blacklists, spam traps, domain and IP reputation and their abilities to help you maximize your deliverability rates. You don’t want your mail to get lost in the ether.

  1. Go beyond the email

Good email marketing isn’t about self-contained email content. It connects people to websites or digital content, getting them to engage and act: click, download, watch, sign up, register, apply or buy. Calls to action can and should be robustly tracked for insights using available services, such as Google Analytics.

Integrate across platforms to get a full picture of member engagement – your email service provider with your customer relation management tool or your membership manager with your website. Integration tools and partners make this easy.

  1. Understand that privacy is not the same as security

Privacy is a concept that drives respect for your audiences’ personal data through appropriate use based on permissions. A violation of your members’ privacy is not only a possible violation of the law, but also of the trust given to you. Audiences give you their data in exchange for future value. Your role is to respect the terms of that value exchange.

Security is equally important in that it drives the protection of the data against exposure to or access by unintended third parties. This exposure could come through hacking, an internal leak or other types of security breaches. Your organization’s ability to lock down your members’ data and to have commercially reasonable controls over it is an essential part of your brand’s reputation.

  1. Stay within the law and follow best practices

Research shows that trust and transparency are crucial to the customer experience. That’s why it’s important to stay within the law when engaging in email marketing. Your organization needs to ensure compliance with the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) as well as relevant privacy laws, which for most of us is Canada’s federal privacy law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Some organizations might be subject to provincial laws in Quebec, BC or Alberta, or to health or other sector-specific laws, depending on the type kind of association.

While CASL requires consent for sending emails, PIPEDA requires consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information, which includes individuals’ email addresses. When email marketing, you need to pay attention to the rules around third-party email lists and the use of email addresses posted online. And if you’re engaging globally, it’s important to be mindful of international laws you may be subject to, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

You should have a compliance program in place, including policies and procedures to track consents. Check out the Canadian Marketing Association guides, workshops and other resources to help you comply with Canada’s privacy and anti-spam requirements.

Summary & Helpful Resources

The future of email marketing is bright.

In it we see the introduction of new technology platforms and artificial intelligence, capabilities for collecting and using data to drive personalization, and changing policies and legislation both here and abroad. The industry is strong, and customers continue to respond well to good email content.

Here are a few resources to help you evolve your organization’s capacity to use email more effectively to reach, influence and engage your members.

Technology and databases

Guide to Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (Canadian Marketing Association)

Guide to Privacy Compliance (Canadian Marketing Association)

Guide to Transparency for Consumers (Canadian Marketing Association)

Guidance for Businesses Doing E-marketing (Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada)

Best resources for industry updates on email trends and practices

Privacy Essentials for Marketers Workshop – Toronto, April 21, 2020

Subscribe to MyCMA and request our newsletter for weekly updates (membership not required).

This article was prepared in conjunction with the featured panelists at Trillium’s 2020 Winter Summit:

Michael Riehl, Customer Development and Success Lead at

Sara Clodman, Vice-President, Public Affairs and Thought Leadership at the Canadian Marketing Association

Lori Franze, Director of Collector Engagement at AIR MILES

Halmyre President, Christine Saunders, is a marketing consultant to service-based organizations, a strategic advisor to marketing executives and leaders, an entrepreneur and a hobby farmer. Prior to founding Halmyre in 2014, Christine owned a traditional integrated marketing and communications agency specializing in financial services, public services and not-for-profits. Her education is in politics, ethics and philosophy, and she is a proud Maritimer despite living in Upper Canada today.