The Email War (and the individual battles you must win)

Referring to email marketing as a war is dumb for a countless number of reasons. That said, I’m about to do it. And I’m about to do it for good reason, because the way I use the analogy fits.

To win a war, you must win a series of battles. It is in that way that I like the analogy. You can’t win the war without winning the individual battles. And you can’t succeed in email marketing without succeeding at each individual stage.

Here are those stages, or battles, that you must win:

1. The Battle for Subscribers

In order to have an email marketing campaign, you first need people to email. These are your subscribers. And it’s not easy to get them. You need to attract them to your brand, or website. You need to get them to hand over their email address, which is more precious than most email marketers realize.

To win this battle, you must build trust. You must make promises that you are reasonably expected to keep. You must offer an incentive that potential consumers are interested in.

2. The Battle for the Inbox

Once you have the subscribers, you need to be able to get into their inbox. If you don’t win this battle, your emails will never be seen. They will get blocked, or sent to spam.

To win this battle, you must play by the rules. You must not be a spammer. You must work with an email marketing platform that has established trust with email recipients. You must maintain a strong sender score and reputation as an email marketer.

3. The Battle for Opens

After you successfully land in someone’s inbox, you now must work to get someone to open your email. Marketing emails are sitting there begging to be ignored, or worse, deleted. Most people get between 5 and 10 promotional emails each day, and there is no way we open all of them.

To win this battle you must perfect your subject lines. You must offer real value to your subscribers and show them that value before they ever open your email. You do that with consistent testing to find the best subject lines.

4. The Battle for Clickthroughs

If and when people begin to open your emails, the next big step for them to take is to actually read and click on them. Opens are great, but if that is the only action anyone ever takes, your email marketing program is not going to succeed.

To win this battle you have to improve the content in your emails. You need to communicate value to the reader and create a clear call to action. Easy to find links, or easy to tap buttons (mobile!) are crucial to getting more clickthroughs.

5. The Battle for Sales

Most people stop their thinking after the battle for clickthroughs. Unfortunately, if your email marketing program is great at getting people to your website, but those people don’t buy from you, you’re not winning the war. A successful email marketing program grows sales.

To win this battle you must make sure that the page people land on after they click is optimized. Send them to a page that continues where the email left off. The email’s goal should be to get someone to your website. Your website’s goal is now to get someone through the checkout process. Sell at every step of the process.


The email war is won one battle at a time. You have to win the first battle to win the second, and so on and so on.