The 3 Rs of Email Marketing: Responsive, Responsible and Relevant


More than a decade ago PC World proclaimed emails as dead. Email marketing has been repeatedly killed for over five years too. So far, emails are not even comatose. And despite the explosion of social media and newer forms of digital marketing, email marketing seems to be holding its ground.

That said, it is also true that a lot of business emails go unread. Not just a lot, but the majority. This means marketers need to try even harder and plan focused, personalized email marketing campaigns. So I’m going to suggest a formula of 3Rs for email marketing to help you make the most of it. In a nutshell, you need to make your emails Responsive, Responsible, and Relevant.


Go through these stats:

  • If an email does not display correctly on the screen, 71.2% users will delete it immediately. (BlueHornet)
  • 54% of people with a smartphone read emails just before they go to bed and 49% do the same as soon as they wake up. (Apsis)
  • 62% of mobile users say that they find it difficult to read newsletters on their phones and 46% users won’t buy anything from vendors who send such poorly designed newsletters. (Apsis)

If these statistics haven’t yet convinced you about the benefits of responsive email marketing, you can read a lot more here.

Responsive design hides, stacks or collapses content in a way that your emails become easier to read and better to look at. It gives you a better chance to display important content and call-to-action buttons. So, besides clarity and content, there is one more important benefit of using responsive emails – clicks; the more prominently your CTAs are displayed, the greater the chance that people will click through and go to your website. Meh.

Responsive email

It’s very easy to create responsive emails and integrate them into your campaigns. Popular email marketing suites such as GetResponse include features that allow you to design beautiful and campaign-specific emails that fit all screen sizes.The best part is,you can create these responsive emails without writing a single line of code!

If however, you are into coding and have a knack for CSS and HTML, you can create future-proof, platform-independent responsive emails from scratch as shown in this tutorial.


Email marketing is a form of communication, and like all communication methods it too comes with a set of etiquettes. Everything from the headlines to images and the way you word your emails speaks volumes about your mindset and intent. As an email marketer you are expected to be more responsible and mindful of your manners.

The first rule of email etiquette is to be respectful of the reader’s time. Try not being too long or too brief in your headlines. Don’t send out too many mails. Don’t promise the moon and then not give it. Don’t be lazy. The list is long and has been discussed all over the internet, so I won’t waste your time repeating it here.

These are, however, very basic etiquettes and as the world grows increasingly digital and inter-connected, the rules and responsibilities seem to be growing by the day.

emails from Elegant Themes

Check out the footer of this email. I used to receive emails from Elegant Themes every day and it was getting a bit too much. However, I didn’t want to unsubscribe either as some of their emails were really good.

And so, when I saw this option to change subscription preferences, I was overjoyed! How very responsible and nice of them to give me the option to switch to weekly emails! It is not a new trick and lots of other companies do it, but it hits the spot just right and makes you wonder why everyone isn’t doing it.

Now look at the following example – you can’t make the head or tail of this email.

Responsible email

This is the exact opposite of responsible email marketing. It doesn’t respect my time, sensibility or intelligence, so despite the promise to “win” you know it is going to end up in junk.


One of the most important aspects of email marketing and also the most overlooked is relevance. Despite all the talk of behavioral data and personalization, inboxes seem to be inundated with irrelevant and inappropriate emails.

By relevant emails, I don’t mean sending out a personalized email with a <name>, but emails based on customer personas, location and time. What could be more irritating than getting an email starting out by wishing you a good morning when it’s late in the evening where you live!

I loved this email from Groupon and how it arrived just before a much-needed weekend. It was time-sensitive and smart. After a particularly exhausting week, I was looking forward to unwind. And did they know that!

relevant emails

The truth is, even if you don’t have a data scientist on your rolls or a smart, real-time analytics tool to play with, you can send relevant emails through basic human behavioral understanding. And this Groupon email is a shining example of that.

However, if you have do have access to lots of user-generated data like LinkedIn and Quora, you can take the game a notch higher. Knowing your users’ interests, preferences and circumstances allows you to send out relevant emails that are highly personalized and give them the right content just when they’re looking for it.

And it’s not only social media networks, ecommerce websites are cashing in on behavioral marketing big time too. They can send out personalized emails triggered by a host of events, including new user sign ups, festival offers, abandoned carts, and large purchases, leading to perceptible increases in profits.

Remember, 37% of users are turned off by irrelevant emails (source: Relevancy Group), whereas personalized emails have 29% higher unique open rates and 41% higher unique click rates than non-personalized emails (source: Experian).

Percent of People Have Bad Feelings About Mobile Email

Relevance dictates the success or failure of your email marketing campaign. You cannot afford to ignore it.

Over to You

Apart from these 3 Rs, I would like to add a 4th R to mix – Regularity.

If a business is not sending out emails and newsletters on a frequent basis, they run the risk of being forgotten. Because what’s out of sight is out of mind! While that’s not a call to roll out your spam cannons, do continue to send relevant and responsive emails regularly and responsibly, and you will be sorted.

Are you following these 4 Rs of email marketing and seeing successful results? I’d love to hear your experiences and how well you are dealing with the ever-changing email marketing scene.



Using psychology to make your content relevant



By Wade Harman, {grow} Community Member

My friend Donald has lived his whole life in an apartment beside the Chicago L-train. Every night he goes to sleep, and the L-train inevitably comes blaring by his home at 2 a.m. Because Don has been living there for so long, he claims he doesn’t hear the thunderous train screaming by, shaking the whole house.

He told me one day that while he was asleep, he heard a small creak in his apartment and awoke instantly. He thought a burglar had crept in. That small noise woke him up immediately.

The train wasn’t relevant to Donald, therefore his subconscious paid no attention to it when it went by. His brain deemed the sound irrelevant and therefore shut out a noise that may have easily woken you or I.

However, the slight creak that woke him was a noise that his brain wasn’t used to, and it triggered a response in his mind telling him he needed to pay attention.

What does this have to do with social media? A lot.

The big reveal

There is a small portion of your brain called the reticular formation. It’s a set of nuclei in the brain that controls what is relevant (things you pay attention to), and what isn’t.

Things that happen that we deem irrelevant are called Habituation. This often happens when we see something over and over again or when we become used to the same old thing happening repeatedly.

So in order to create something for your brand on social media, you must reveal something that will knock people out of this state of mind.

Your target audience needs to be enticed like never before.

You can use their reticular formation to speak to their mind and be relevant.

Creating relevance

One of the many problems that causes habituation on social media is the constant selling.

“Buy my product, look how great we are, you need this!”

Your target audience is less concerned with giving you money than they are with completing a goal or a task that is important to them.

This strategy is in reference to Gary Vaynerchuk’s book,

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hookthat talks about toning down the social selling and focusing more on helping others. The jabs are the helping, engagement, and conversation, and the right hook would be the selling point.

Before you can be relevant, you have to be helpful and establish a sense of trustworthiness that will pique someone’s interest in your brand.

Even so, your target audiences’ reticular formations may still be blocking you from getting through; maybe you aren’t being relevant to them in the way they need you to be. You aren’t “waking them up” with anything you’re doing.

Here are some ways to fix that:

1. Tell the whole story

Tell the whole story of your brand online. I know it’s difficult to disclose some of the less favorable parts, the parts of the story that highlights mistakes, but this can make your brand more relatable to individuals.

When you tell a story that is relevant to their situation, then they understand that you know what they are trying to accomplish. So don’t leave anything out.

Remember, as Robert Evans said, “There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.”

Leverage truth to create an authentic brand that will draw your audience closer to you.

2. Be the Expert

What skill can you absolutely master? In any niche, you should amass as much knowledge as possible on your specific subject. In this way, you’ll be the go-to person to trust when this subject comes up.

Jay Baer tells a story in Youtility in which a leader from the Best Buy Geek Squad was given a hard time by a reporter about giving so many video tutorials away for free. The reporter indicated that this might be eating into their profits.

The leader simply replied, “What happens when these people come up against a problem they can’t fix? Are they going to call up some random computer geek in the Yellow Pages? No. They will contact the experts who have been giving them free help with the videos because they know and trust our expertise!”

Your expertise can come in many forms, the best of which is free because this allows you to spread your knowledge about a certain topic with a greater reach.

3. Remember the Three C’s

In order to be relevant you have to depend on these three things: Content, Context, and Contact.


In order to successfully deliver a message that will force people sit up and take notice, you must remember to create content that communicates your message effectively. What are you going to help them accomplish today? How will this help them improve? These questions will jolt someone out of their habituation and start to see your content as relevant.


These are the circumstances that place your message, and what you are trying to communicate, in a broader setting. The context of your brand doesn’t have to be both deep AND wide, but it at least needs to be deep.


Without contact, both content and context could be destroyed for your audience. Brands that do not communicate with their audience could be thought of as impersonal and uncaring.

The Final Thought

While you may not go to social media and think “I sure do hope I can snap someone out of habituation today,” you will still want to grab attention with your content or your product.

One thing to always remember is to do your best to be consistent with being authentic. Be the expert that people can always go to. And remember content, context, and contact inside of your social strategy.

Is your target audience sleeping while your content is passing them by? The success of content isn’t over when you press publish. It’s what you do after that determines how well you will do.

wade-harmanWade Harman is an ex-coal miner turned full time blogger. He talks about relationship marketing strategies for your business on his blog and on iTunes.  He is a speaker, manager, and a Star Wars fanatic.  Say hi over on Google+ and Twitter.

Illustration courtesy Flickr user jetheriot via Creative Commons

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