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Stop obsessing over the size of your email lists. It’s distracting you from the real work of quality growth — of building audiences, developing customers, and nurturing relationships.

When you’re consumed by list growth, your job is merely about the numbers rolling in, contained to the hunt and capture of one more email address. Great email marketing is not so simplistic or shallow.

That’s not to disregard the fact that businesses have to make money. But there are deeper values at stake when it comes to how you email. As Justine Jordan, Litmus’s VP of Marketing, told us:

Email is the ultimate way for a marketer to connect with their audience. Too often what happens is marketers just think about it as a high ROI channel.

That opinion leads us down a path of bad behavior, where we look at email like it only has capabilities to make our companies money. Often that comes in the form of shoving promotions, discounts, and deals down people’s throats.

Every email is not a sale, though your inbox may show otherwise. Let’s look at what it means to turn your focus from lists to the people behind those rows of email addresses.

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How did email personalization become synonymous with merging in a name field? “Hello FIRSTNAME” isn’t what makes people run to grab their credit cards.

The power of personalization is no secret. It generates compelling emotions that persuade, support, and connect. We hear about shiny increases in email success. Marketers keep resolving to prioritize personalization, especially as we face dwindling attention spans and intensifying readiness to hit unsubscribe.

When you hear “personalization,” you expect a message that’s relevant to you. Instead, the term often describes the simplistic use of static identity attributes, like popping a first name into a subject line.

Popular data sources being used for personalization today

Most marketers rely on demographic and geographic data. According to research by VB Insights, over 60% of marketers target fewer than 15 segments — half target fewer than 10. But a person is (thankfully) more than the sum of their demographic parts.

Marketing personalization comes to life when you use real-time behavioral data. Yet marketers still have a long way to go, and the proof is in your inbox. Only a third of consumers feel like they’re getting personalized experiences, cites one recent Forrester study. What’s at stake, as VB Insights analyst Andrew Jones lays out, is that: “Without advancing to more mature efforts, most marketers are leaving money on the table.”

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One of my favorite learning moments this year was hearing from CEO Steve Klein how getting your lifecycle emails right can increase your conversion rate and revenue to the point where you gain the breathing room to concentrate on other priorities.

Lifecycle emails give your business breathing room

In this tinselly time of year for reflection and resolutions, I’m reviewing our own lifecycle emails here at and thinking about how we can make them work smarter for us. What better time to dig through our posts from the past year to round up our best tips and strategies for creating lifecycle emails that drive customer engagement and happiness.

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Marketing is like gardening or farming. Whether it’s leads, new users, or paying customers — your job is to nurture newbies to develop into great big fans. Your job is to cultivate.

It’s fitting that green-thumb marketers turn to drip campaigns, which relates back to the agricultural practice of drip irrigation. As Paul McFedries explains in Word Spy:

The phrase drip marketing may sound as though it’s based on the practice of water torture, but it actually comes from the phrase drip irrigation. This is an agriculture/gardening technique in which small amounts of water are fed to plants over long periods of time.

The concept is simple: provide value and care over time to grow happy customers. The problem is that marketers aren’t using email to its full potential to do so.

Drip marketing has been around a long time in various channels, but it gets messy when it comes to email. You’ll hear these terms used interchangeably — drip emails, automated emails, triggered emails, lifecycle emails, behavioral emails, autoresponders — causing confusion and misunderstanding.

We wanted to shed some light on what modern-day, sophisticated drip emails do and how to put them to work for you.

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Dropbox was an incredibly novel idea — back in 2009. The concept of the cloud hadn’t quite broken into public consciousness yet and smartphones hadn’t reached its omnipresence. Explaining Dropbox to somone on the street in 2009 would’ve been met with confusion, misunderstanding, or disregard.

So Dropbox took a chance.

Rather than add lengthy explainers or detailed product descriptions to their marketing site, they changed the game for marketing consumer products on the web. Dropbox partnered with video studio Common Craft to make a 2-minute explainer video that cost them $50,000. They wiped the homepage slate clean to show only the explainer video and a download button.

old Dropbox homepage

Upon putting up the video, Dropbox’s conversion rate jumped up by 10%, resulting in 5 million new customers and $24 million in revenue. With over 25 million views today, the video played a huge role in getting Dropbox to 100 million users by 2012, with $0 advertising spend.

Video is one of the most effective ways to engage people — and not just as a way to drive product signups. Combine video with email, and you have a powerful engagement system on your hands, especially for user onboarding to educate, engage, and ultimately win happy customers.

Let’s dig into 3 reasons why video works so well in emails and the tactics you’ll need to incorporate video into your own campaigns.

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