Marketing & Communications

Make Your Email Marketing Awesome, or Lose Subscribers

By Aaron Wolowiec • February 18, 2013

Last month, I attended eM+C’s All About Email LIVE! email marketing conference. A whole day dedicated to improving email? “Email marketing is simple,” you’re thinking. “Email is a workhorse, meant to be quick and cheap, not fancy and time-consuming,” you say. Or, “Our event doesn’t require an engraved invitation, so we use email.”

Think again.


  • Email is still one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to reach your audience.
  • Make your emails readable, clickable, and pleasantly viewable on a small screen.
  • Tailor the frequency and content of your emails to your audience(s).
  • Ask your event attendees if they like your email marketing—then improve.


The days of engraved invitations may be over (though one panelist represented a paper company that actually still makes engraved invitations), but the absence of paper is no reason to be sloppy with your communication. Email marketing is still one of the most cost- and time-efficient ways to attract attendees and exhibitors and communicate information pertinent for making the event a successful experience for all involved. Dash off a poorly-worded or offensively bright electronic missive, however, and you’ll have trouble convincing people to spend money to attend your event.

Here are some simple tips shared by email experts to help you improve your event email marketing:

1. Make your emails awesome, or people will not open them.

Make them a source of indispensable information that recipients won’t find elsewhere (or, that the public won’t be privy to until your committed attendees have been informed). Use emails to encourage attendance, announce new sponsors, added sessions, headlining speakers, and social events on tap during your event. Write subject lines that won’t be ignored in a cluttered inbox. Introduce speakers. Showcase past years’ events. Incorporate videos and beautiful photography or design. Focus on the unique aspects of your event, and harp on those to make the point that your attendees are about to attend (or have just attended) the best event they’ll go to all year.

If your emails are well-designed and concisely informative, not only will members and potential exhibitors open and read them, they’ll pass them on to their colleagues and friends on your behalf. Before long, your event will be full.

2. Make sure your emails are delightful to read on mobile.

Yes, I said delightful: Now that half of American adults own a smartphone, and 43 percent of mobile email users check their email on their mobile device four or more times per day, if you want your event information to be remembered, the email that contains it better have large, readable text, easy-to-click links, and appropriately-sized graphics. In other words, create an email that is a delight to read on a small screen. According to email expert David Daniels, if consumers don’t like the way your email looks on their smartphone, 70 percent will delete it. Another 18 percent will unsubscribe. The rest will still read it, but their patience will probably wear a little thinner as your event draws near.

Mobile phones will be much more plentiful at your event than desktops or laptops, so it is especially important that your attendees can read your event updates on their mobile devices while they are checking their email on the show floor, between sessions or while heading back to their hotel.

3. Tailor the frequency of your emails to your event audience.

Exhibitors and regular attendees will be at your event for different purposes, so don’t send them the same emails. Think like a member of each event audience when planning your event email marketing.

If you’re an exhibitor, you’d probably want confirmation of your floor space right after you book it along with location, schedule, set up, tear down and venue logistics information right away so you can start planning your display. If you’re an attendee, you might want the same location and schedule information, but instead of booth logistics, you might be more interested in accommodations, speaker information and nearby attractions for after the event. Segment your email lists and customize your campaigns to your audience.

4. Ask your attendees if they like your event email marketing—then improve.

We’ve discussed this theme of asking members what they want a few times already, and it bears repeating with respect to email and events: Ask your members or attendees if they like your emails, and tailor your approach to their feedback. Are they finding your pre-event emails useful and informative? Are they able to read them on the device of their choice? (The browser usage tool within Google Analytics can easily show you which operating system and internet browser your recipients use most often.) Are you emailing them too little, too much or just enough to satisfy their planning needs while getting them pumped?

Post a dedicated feedback email address or social media account on all your event emails to open this conversation with attendees. Include questions about your event email marketing in your post-event surveys. Ask a few random attendees at the show if they read and used your pre-event emails. You won’t know what or how to improve unless you ask those impacted by your marketing efforts.

Don’t count email out

Despite the popularity of social media, text messaging, and even new picture and video messaging apps, email is still one of the most universal ways to reach your audience. Don’t count it out, and don’t underestimate the power of a simple but well-thought-out email.

Thanks to David Daniels, Jordan Cohen and Simms Jenkins for sharing their insight and expertise at the All About Email Live! Conference.

Kelly Donovan is the team leader for online marketing at Naylor.