What We’re Seeing: Why Email Marketing Matters in 2021

If you’re active on social media and keep up with any influencers or brands that manage large followings (and in some cases extremely active users with highly engaged niche communities), you’ve probably heard grumblings about “instagram jail” recently. 

Yep. You read that right. 

In a variety of cases, Instagram may detect “actions that go against their community and usage standards” that cause certain features, and sometimes even full accounts to be frozen. This is great if you’re feeling overrun with spam bots in your DMs, it’s not so great if you’re a business, brand or influencer who has invested time and resources into building an active and engaged online community on Instagram. 

But, these community managers are successful for a reason, and if you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed a pattern. Many users, after sharing the saga of their stint in “IG jail,” then drop a plug for their email list as the best way to make sure you’re always in the loop. 

So, we’re here to remind you that even in 2021, Email Marketing is not dead. 

Whether you’re starting from zero or just want to make gains in email marketing this year, here’s what you need to know. 


Email marketing continues to be a valuable asset to digital marketing programs, Hubspot’s State of Marketing report found that roughly 80% of marketers saw an increase in email marketing open rates in 2020. If that’s not enough to get you to give email marketing a second look, consider this: email lists are an owned asset, your social audiences are not. 

If social media disappeared tomorrow, how would you connect with your audience? Do you have a direct line to them or are you relying on connections that are facilitated by a third party? 

For brands, influencers, and businesses with up-to-date email lists, the answer is simple, and we’ve been watching it play out online. Email becomes the primary channel for people to send and receive information, en mass, to their audiences. 

Another reason we love email? It’s the definition of permission marketing. If you’ve built your list organically, through signups and opt-ins, people who are there want to be there. They want the information you’re sharing and they are happy to receive your communications. 

On top of that – the audience is warm. They already know, like and trust you (that’s how they ended up on the list in the first place). This means that targeted messages and asks have a higher chance of converting, if what you have on offer is valuable to your audience. 

OUR EMAIL MARKETING TIP:  Don’t abuse the privilege. Don’t sell your list data, and don’t spam people. Remember your audience is interested in what you have to say, but they don’t want to be bombarded with communications and information every day. Keep your messages relevant and informative, and don’t forget to sprinkle in a little of that brand personality


If you’re ready to dive in and amp up that email strategy, here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started. 


Just a general reminder that email and online marketing privacy rules are ever-evolving. Depending on your location and audience segmentation, you’ll want to make sure you’re up to date on any US privacy changes or updates to international policies, like GDPR.

Growing your email marketing list

An email list isn’t going to grow itself, and while we could write an entire post about “How to Grow Your Email List”, here’s some of the low hanging fruit you should  implement ASAP, if you haven’t already. 

  • Offline collection: If you sell products or services in person, it’s important to collect and create customer profiles of everyone who interacts with your business. The more data you’re able to attach to this ‘profile’ the better. Use tools that track customer sales receipts, items or services purchased, and other relevant information to help with segmentation and targeting. 
  • Website collection: The pop-ups asking for an email to get an “exclusive offer” might be annoying, they can absolutely be useful. Give your customers something valuable in exchange for their email. A discount code, free shipping, or a unique resource makes visitors more likely to engage. 
  • Social Media collection: The key to growing an email list on social is to package your ask with a resource relevant to your target audience. It doesn’t  have to be about your products or services. Create something that helps your target audience in their day to day lives and ask for an email in exchange for the information. For example, tease the resource by offering a few of the most interesting or surprising findings in your resource, and allow them to opt in for the rest. 

Creating engaging email marketing content

Email marketing isn’t an escape from making interesting and engaging content. If anything, this content should be even better than what you share for free on social. Your email list assumes that exclusive insights, early access, and insider access are all a part of being on your list. Incorporate some of these formats to boost email engagement.

  • Video: We know, when we said email you thought it was all about writing, but video converts. It’s more personal, and is often a more consumable format.
  • Interactive content: Increase clicks and engagement in your emails by incorporating interactive emails. Drop in polls, sliders, click through galleries, and even GIFs to keep readers engaged throughout the email.
  • User Generated Content: The only thing more trustworthy than authentic communication from your brand, is authentic brand advocacy from your clients and customers. Be sure to include photos, testimonials, feedback and more from your users and put that brand loyalty on display!

Email automations are your friend

Even if you just start with a welcome series, one of our strongest suggestions for improving email marketing efforts  in 2021 is to create automated drip campaigns. The investment in up front setup time can pay dividends down the road. 

Your goal for the automation will depend on the structure. 

If this is a welcome series for new customers, use the opportunity to plug your content on other platforms. If someone purchased a good from you in person, the welcome email series should introduce them to your social media platforms, your website resources, and a way to reach out to your team.

If it’s a sales series, break up your asks with useful information, even in your automations. No one wants to be sold to constantly. Open up to your audience personally, give them resources that can help their daily, and ask them to respond with comments or questions to open a dialog. 

TIP: Only one ‘ask’ per email.
Don’t ask someone to check out this resource – and also follow on instagram – and buy this upcharge, all in the same email. Separate them so that on any email in the automation there is only one desired action you’d want a user to take. This is going to increase your chance of conversion, but also it’s going to give you an idea of which emails are effective and give you an opportunity to tweak. 


Speaking of making tweaks…You didn’t think we’d leave you hanging without insights on how to optimize your campaigns over time, did you? Of Course not. 

Here are the top places we recommend starting as you optimize your email marketing efforts. 

A/B test your subject lines

Please A/B test those subject lines! So few people are doing this as aggressively as they should. Every email you send should have at least 2 variations of an email subject, but the more the merrier. 

Be sure to take note of the results and have them inform your next subject lines. This constant optimization is going to make the biggest difference in your open rates. 

Practice smart email list segmentation

List segmentation allows you to send highly customized content to smaller segments of your audience, and often increases your chances of converting. Try these segmentation strategies with your list.

  • Tag your audience based on their interests, how they interact with your company, and deliver tailored content to those groups. The more customized your message, the better it will be received. 
  • Ensure your tracking tags are tagging your email list based on activity on your site, and design content that can filter a user into certain demographic ‘buckets’. For example, creating a page that includes resources for parents, and tagging users that visit that page will give you a great idea of the types of content those users would like to receive in their inbox.

    You are looking to build an audience that is not platform dependent, and in doing so you want to make that resource as valuable as possible. By creating the proper automatic tagging mechanisms you can be sure that your email list will only become more valuable as you grow.

  • When in doubt, ask. Use some of the interactive content options we included above and allow users to self-segment based on topics or pre-determined groups that align with your business offerings. 

Collect performance data and use it

Past performance is often a great indicator of future performance so keep an eye on those email metrics. Don’t just look at your subscriber count. Keep an eye on your open rates as you A/B test subject lines and preview copy. Take note of where people click, track conversions, be sure to keep up with your bounce rates, and track unsubscribe rates as they can be an early sign that your communication strategy is misaligned to your target audience’s needs.

Use AI to help with email optimization

Especially for those managing larger email lists, AI can be a powerful tool to help you make the most of the data collected through your email marketing campaigns. AI can help with things like A/B testing results, optimizing send times, scrubbing email lists to remove inactive subscribers, and even restructuring campaigns to make them more effective.