5 ways to optimise your email and social media marketing

There’s a process when I review a clients marketing. 

First I meet the stakeholders, then there is customer research, followed by strategy: 

We segment, we target and then get crystal clear on product positioning before setting clear measurable objectives. 

As the final part of my communications review for a global business-to-business client, I invited my ‘go to’ learned experts in email (Kate Barret) and social media (Simon Preece) to conduct workshops with the client’s key marketing teams.

Both are experts in their field with years of experience under their belts.

Some interesting ‘pain points’ and great insights came out of both sessions: some of our findings can be universally applied to email and social media marketing within larger organisations – so I thought I’d share them here.

1. Only your target audience ‘know what they want’:

As tactical marketing options, email and social media will allow you to test, test and test again.

If you run careful tests, and record and review your results, your target audience will show you what works best for them in email and social media.

It may be that your current format, content strategy and event marketing is the best in your industry. Most likely, there are a myriad of alternative ways to present and optimise your messages.

These can be tested, and depending on the results, implemented as improvements.

What gets the most engagement – dense text, or pithy sentences? Red or blue banners? Elegant design cues to scroll down the screen, or inconsistent layouts that leave the viewer confused as to what they are viewing?

Consider your layout and copy. Consider where you place those all important ‘calls to action’. Try different templates. Consider how your email previews on different mail engines. Then test and compare the results.

For the most useful results, always test only one item at a time, and test at least 3 times before you make any long-term changes. Be prepared to acknowledge that different approaches will work with different audiences.

2. Leave marketing to the marketers:

By all means listen to suggestions and ideas, but leave the creation of emails and posts to your highly-skilled and trained marketing team. Sometimes this is easier said than done – but your team should be aware of best practice and latest trends and be testing both to get the best results.

As such, this often means your team members are better qualified than a senior skilled service practitioner – in this specific area: marketing. Marketers need to push back on occasions, and work methodically through options, validating the results with data and statistics.

Not changing things because “they’ve always been done that way”, or doing things because “it’s what our customers would want to read” doesn’t cut it when testing is always an option. As a marketer, often your job is to get validation for your style of communication so you can defend it.

From our workshop we found some quick wins: typically, in email and social media, the format, design and copy length should be short, of genuine interest to the reader and to the point, often with links to more information on your website. 

Long-form copy based communications can work, but it is rare that they perform better than punchy eye-catching imagery and engaging headlines, with the option to learn more by ‘clicking through’.

You can split test formats and see which format is more successful. Until you get the results from your testing back… remain neutral as to which is right for the business. The results will reveal what works best. 

Your goal is to do the best work: work that gets the desired results – whatever that may be. This is the focus of the marketing team.

3. 80/20:

For service-based marketing emails, the 80/20 rule works well: create industry-leading value and knowledge in 80% of your communications, but don’t forget to provide the 20% of communications that support your business in making those sales (however you dress it up).

The 80/20 (knowledge vs sales) is a guide – adjust to taste. The point is: while you are busy sharing your industry expertise, and providing ‘great value’ don’t forget to tell people why your experts or your products are the best in the industry: back this up with testimonials and profile interviews with senior practitioners that show their years in the field.

In social media – if you can work out where your agenda, industry credibility and audience value come together – you have hit gold.

In either medium, if you tell clients how passionate you are about the business, and how other clients have enjoyed working with you, you expose yourself to the danger of actually winning more work.

4. Move from a reactive approach to one that is more planned:

So often communications are rushed out the door. “I need this posting now”, “how soon can you send this email out?” 

There are few communications that really need to go out immediately, and there are fewer that won’t benefit from some careful consideration. Most can be scheduled to go out on specific days – ideally weeks in advance.

If yours is a ‘reactive’ set up – change your process: create a communications calendar. Insist that those who want to message give you time to make the best of their information: explain how this will ultimately better serve their needs.

Planning will allow your marketing team time to edit and design, and present your emails and posts in the best possible format. Demands for fast work inevitably lead to errors and frustrations all around. So stop. Now.

5. Monitor, record and constantly review your data:

Email marketing is the data gift that keeps on giving – if you know what to look for.

Using affordable apps like “email on acid”, you can monitor all kinds of engagement rates. Not just open rates, but time spent, for example, on the playback of your webinar; look at website heat maps, and monitor the effectiveness of all of your emails throughout your client’s email journey with you. 

Beware ‘open rates’ as they can be misleading (they can be triggered by ‘out of office’ replies – for example).

With social media check the posts that perform extremely well – you’ll want to identify what is special about these (format, copy, tone), and build on this.

But also be careful to study the ones that underperform – you’ll want less of those, or maybe to stop doing them altogether.

In conclusion: 

Little stays static in marketing. Never rest on your laurels. Communications for any business should be constantly evolving, with incremental change driven by your desire to learn, experiment and ultimately deliver great results.

Your job as the marketing team is to stay on top of best practice, to test, to iterate and push back on occasions when demands are made of you that compromise your ability to do the job to the best of your ability. Stay strong!


Senior marketers and brand managers have more time, less stress and clearer marketing strategy and tactics by collaborating with best-selling author and outsourced marketing director Tim Healey. www.shoot4themoon.co.uk 

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