Email excellence: The top 10 traits of highly effective email marketers

What makes an email marketer truly exceptional? Learn 10 key characteristics behind email marketing mastery.

Anybody can push the “send” button on an email campaign. But good email results depend on more than state-of-the-art technology, beautiful email designs or all the data you want.

What’s missing? People with the kind of personality traits that set them up for success. I’ve worked with some exceptional email marketers over the years and they share 10 personality traits that have helped them excel.

What takes email marketers from good to great?

1. Focus

A focused email marketer envisions email’s roles in the organization’s marketing universe and how the channel contributes to growth and optimization beyond the marketing department. Part of this focus is an insistence on letting strategy lead the way in making decisions. 

Strategic thinking is essential to email success. One of my email mantras is “Strategy before tactics.” This means developing goals and objectives and a plan for achieving them before figuring out how to put that strategy into action. 

Staying on target, keeping your eyes on the prize — however you define it, focus on your email plan and keep distractions at bay to increase your chances of success.  

An example of focused thinking in action is developing an email reactivation program that’s based on strategy, not just when to send a reactivation email. 


2. Service mindset

The best marketers don’t just sell. They help others find solutions. It could be solving a problem, answering a question or helping at the right time. When you give customers what they want, those customers will give you what you want, from the first purchase to long-time loyalty. 

That’s the philosophy behind my concept of helpful email marketing, which defined my approach to email for 26 years: When you help others achieve their goals, they will in turn help you achieve yours.

Service-minded marketers put customers first — who they are, what they want and need, how to make them feel heard and valued — and tune every part of their email program to that customer focus. 

Naturally, the company’s needs and obligations figure into the equation. But the beauty of helpful email marketing is what I said before: When you help your customers, they help you back.


3. Curiosity

Curious marketers want to know everything. What makes our customers buy from us and not someone else? Do they like our emails? What makes them more likely to click through from an email? What can we do to make our emails more persuasive? What are other brands doing? What’s the newest technology? Could it help, or would it distract us from what’s working now?

Testing is in the DNA of curious marketers. They’re willing to do the work required to set up a testing program built on scientific principles and include it in the regular email workflow. They know they can use testing to build extensive knowledge about their customers and what motivates them to engage. They then use what they learned through testing to make more informed choices about improving their email programs. 

This is the basis of what I call “holistic testing,”  which goes beyond basic A/B subject line or copy testing to find deeper insights into customer behavior. Because the email database is your brand’s target market, the insights you gain through holistic testing can be applied across your organization.


4. An open mind

A corollary of curiosity is having an open mind. Open-minded email marketers approach the channel with broad expectations. They take a long view of email’s benefits and don’t buy into the notion that email’s only job is to drive quick sales.

Having an open mind makes marketers more receptive to new information and ways of doing things. Instead of recycling the email playbook from one year to the next, they are eager to try new things as long as they make sense for the program’s goals, objectives, strategies and audiences.

Open-minded marketers embrace learning through testing and are willing to be proved wrong if it reveals more insights or a better way of executing on email. They’re also great additions to your marketing team! 

Further, they’re more likely to use their email data wisely. When on the quest to examine data for truth, they’re on guard against introducing their biases. Truth is revealed when analysis is done with a neutral state of mind.

5. Patience

Email marketing success can be a long haul, from building an active, engaged subscriber database to achieving program goals. Email marketers (and their bosses!) must be willing to invest time and effort in the process.

Instead of focusing solely on short-term gains, such as sending only sales-driven emails, exceptional email marketers adopt the philosophy of “growth by marginal gains.”

A welcome email program is a practical application of this concept. You could wait months while you set up the perfect email series. But think of all the opportunities you’ll miss in the meantime! Instead, start with one strategically designed and tested welcome email and then build on it.

Having patience is an essential part of the testing process, too. You need the patience to build a solid hypothesis, let a test run long enough to gain statistical significance and repeatable results and interpret the results.

6. Efficiency

Marketers, especially email marketers, have historically been short on time, human resources and budget. One thing they don’t lack? Work!

Developing strategy, running tests, launching campaigns, keeping up on industry developments and what the competition is doing — all this can make for long days and the stress of never having time to catch your breath.

That’s why efficiency-minded marketers are so valuable. They can spot redundancies, gaps where errors can sneak in and other time-wasters and build efficient, flexible and repeatable processes for email deployment, testing and strategy development

7. Pragmatism

We usually consider email best practices as generally accepted principles of good email marketing. But they aren’t perfect, they aren’t unanimous and some can even work against the best interests of your email program!

Good email marketers are critical thinkers who operate well within the law but know when a best practice does not serve their email program. This pragmatic attitude doesn’t mean they’ll flout the law or do something that would risk their deliverability or brand equity. But they know when to accept reality and find workable ways of dealing with a problem.

The opposite of a pragmatist marketer is a purist. They follow a best practice without questioning whether it helps or hurts their program or the origins behind the best practice. Success can be harder for purists because they put general concepts ahead of the best interests of their customers or companies.

Take the perpetual hot button of email acquisition. A best practice is not to buy lists of email addresses because they can be problematic regarding deliverability and don’t include permission. But many companies still do it. 

The pragmatic approach might serve the email program better. A pragmatist would say, “I can’t stop the business development team from buying email lists, as it’s legal in my country. But I can manage those addresses so they don’t hurt my sender reputation or email effectiveness. I’ll also improve organic acquisition and build a business case to show the business development team why they’re wasting money on these lists.” 

8. Adventurous outlook

These marketers love to keep up with industry developments and what the competition is doing. The phrase “We’ve always done it this way” is not in their lexicon. They enjoy stepping out of their comfort zone and pushing boundaries but don’t chase the newest shiny toys to fix whatever’s ailing their email results.

This takes open-mindedness and curiosity traits up to another level. Adventurous people want to try a new test, experiment with a new automation or revamp an old one. Pair them with a pragmatic or efficient co-worker, and they could be a formidable force, but they should be one that a focused marketer would still be able to work with.

9. Anthropological inclination

That’s a fancy way of saying they understand why people do what they do, whether because they studied psychology or paid attention to what they’ve learned through testing and observation. 

They ask, “Would customers respond better to an email that promises to save money or one that appeals to their emotions?” or “How can I make my email template irresistible to both impulse shoppers and consideration-minded people?”

This trait is grounded in psychological aspects of persuasion and motivation. These marketers use their knowledge of human behavior and action to design messages that use visual cues or accommodate cognitive quirks and biases to make them appeal to many different audiences. They know one size does not fit all.

If you passed up psych classes when you were at university, you can catch up fast! Start with my MarTech article, “How persuasive email design can influence the ecommerce customer journey.”

10. Devotion

I’ve left this personality trait for the end, but that doesn’t mean it’s the least important. On the contrary! It encompasses all the other traits I’ve already described and applies them to doing everything they can to grow and improve the email channel.

“Good enough” isn’t good enough for devoted email marketers. They understand the channel can deliver more than discounts and sales. They insist on getting email its due share of the credit for driving everything from sales to website traffic to achieving company goals.

They apply the concept of incrementality, which measures business growth that can be attributed to specific marketing efforts, like email campaigns, above and beyond brand equity.

They optimize an email’s sender name, subject line and preheader, not just to drive a one-time open but also because they know the email’s “nudge effect” can move customers to act just by appearing in the inbox, even long after the email was received.

Devotion also reveals how email marketers seek to improve the program. They take pride in delivering reports beyond mere number reporting and instead use that data to provide context and insights.

Those reports then help them create a solid, compelling business case they can take to management to gain more budget for improvements that encourage growth.

Building a well-rounded email marketer

Do you need to have all of these qualities to succeed? No. Finding a marketer with all these qualities would be a tall order. But you should have at least a few of them. If you work with a large team, you might have all these covered.

Plus, you can cultivate any qualities you lack to improve your marketing skills. You might not have a well-developed understanding of email’s unique attribution challenges or why people do what they do. But you can learn!

You might also have noticed that all of the traits I listed here can apply to other professions, not just in marketing. But their application in email or CRM can take your program to a higher level and capitalize on all the benefits implicit in a strong email program.


The post Email excellence: The top 10 traits of highly effective email marketers appeared first on MarTech.


About the author

Kath Pay


Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”