Email Marketers, Here’s What to Watch For in 2012

While you’re pushing forward with your head down, trying to build and market your business, time is flying. Things are changing. If you’re marketing with email, the industry is shifting.

What worked last year may not work this year. So what better way to find out how to move forward than asking experts in the email marketing community?

Every year, they provide solid advice on where the market’s heading, how to tie email with social marketing and what constitutes value to today’s consumers (proof: here are predictions for 2011, 2010 and 2009).

This year, industry leaders are wiser and more experienced than ever, so listen up: here’s what they recommend you keep in mind for the most successful year to date.

Sophisticated Sorting By Engagement

Tom Kulzer, CEO of

“I continue to expect further focus by webmail and ISPs to sift and sort inboxes and spam folders based on user engagement

Things you open, click and reply to will get moved to the top and things you don’t open, delete, or mark as spam will move to the bottom or
to the spam folder.

The tools and compute power to do this in realtime are out there and growing in sophistication each day.”

Converging with So, Lo and Mo

Linda Bustos, Director of
Ecommerce Research at

“In ecommerce there were a number of hot topics of 2011, namely SoLoMo – anything social, local and mobile.

I predict these will begin to morph more and more with other innovations such as behavioral targeting. Combining highly personalized messages within the social, local and mobile context is the holy grail of email marketing.

Imagine triggering a message populated with items the customer has viewed online, items favorited or recommended by her friends and others living in her city, and items she will likely adore based on previous purchases, all formatted for easy viewing on her iPad? We already have the capabilities to trigger email messages after site abandonment, or to populate messages with personalized recommendations.

It’s the convergence of this with the way shoppers use the Web that will take it to the next level.”

Integrating With Social…

Wil Reynolds, Founder of
SEER Interactive

“I see integration as the issue; so great, now we can segment, but the smart marketers will figure out the interplay between email and social. They have to…these things are not siloed anymore.

In the same way that we [SEER] as a search company have to get more social in 2012, email marketers will do the same.”

But Still Focusing On Email…

TJ McCue, Publisher at

“The biggest challenge I see is one of focus and diluting your email marketing efforts by playing with every social media option in town. Don’t neglect your list or your relationship building tactics via email.

Don’t do social to be hip or cool. Measure email efforts against social efforts. Social might work really well and drive leads and relationships and sales, but don’t neglect your list. It’s the list, man. The list.”

Really, Balancing the Two

Frank Reed, Managing Editor

Marketing Pilgrim

“First, the efforts to continue to integrate e-mail with social signals (and search as well) need to escalate. Online marketing has become so “un-siloed” in the recent past and it is important to make sure that there are KPI’s in place to at least monitor the impact or influence e-mail efforts has on social / search and vice versa.

Secondly, e-mail providers need to make sure their message isn’t drowned out by the louder voices in the social space. E-mail provides great targeting and measurement opportunities for marketers but it is getting pushed into the “old school” bucket of online methods.

I think this is a huge mistake. The e-mail marketing industry needs to show how it is a vital piece of the true online marketing campaign. E-mail needs to be cool again!”

Remaining Relevant

Michael Stelzner,
Founder and CEO of
Social Media Examiner

“The biggest challenges marketers will face in 2012 is remaining relevant with their email communications.

As more consumers become reliant on Facebook and Google+, their tolerance for irrelevant email will quickly evaporate.”

…and Remaining Relevant (Yes, It’s That Important)

Jeanne Hopkins,
Vice President of Marketing at

“Most marketers stop paying attention to the many ways they can grow their email database with relevant offers to relevant subscribers. If you know that your list is deteriorating at a rate of 2-5% each month, you should be looking at ways to grow your list via prospect generation and then nurturing those prospects with inbound marketing material that helps to convert them to a lead.

But, not all leads become customers. You need to consider the buying cycle of your customer, and figure out how to provide relevance in order to create sales opportunities.”

Breaking Through the Clutter

Jamie Turner, Founder of

“As an email marketer, the biggest challenge for 2012 seems to be breaking through the clutter. There’s been an explosion in the content available to the average businessperson, so the only way to break through is to provide top-notch, sizzlingly-wonderful content that provides real value to the reader.

That’s a lot harder than it looks, but, with effort, it’s possible.”

Pushing Forward

Brian Clark, CEO of

“The challenge remains the same, only more so. How will you provide enough value, and earn enough trust, to be not only invited into the sacred inbox, but welcomed and anticipated? How will you attract the right list prospects (and exclude the wrong ones) so your ultimate conversion goals are effectively and efficiently met?

In essence, who are they and what do they really, really want? Same as it ever was.”

Coordinating Efforts

Joe Pulizzi, Founder of
Content Marketing Institute

“The biggest challenge for all marketers, email marketers included, will be truly developing valuable, relevant and compelling content so those emails keep getting opened and,
ultimately, driving sales.

To do this, email marketers will have to better coordinate efforts with PR, social media and SEO on what the true content mission is of the organization. That may mean bringing in more journalists, or even finding employees that have a “nose for the story”…the one’s that really get the pain points of customers and can wrap a story around it.”

Continuing to Be Content

Michael Brenner, Senior
Director of Global Marketing

“Marketers need to be reminded that email is still important!

According to the latest research, it is tied with search engines for the largest % of Internet activity and it is still the #1 way people share information. The challenge is to make sure the content is valuable enough that your audience not only wants to consume the content but also that they want to share it.

My advice is to use email to deliver content that is helpful to your audience. And to continue measuring the deliverability, click rates, social shares and opt-outs of the email content to test and optimize what works best for your unique audience.”

Designing for Fingers and Thumbs

Anna Yeaman, Co-founder

“Many smartphones and tablets use touch screens. In place of a mouse and keyboard, input is via fingers and thumbs, often one-handed. With 1 in 5 emails now being read on a mobile device, we’ll all need to re-work our designs for touch in 2012:

  • Rethink your layout for ergonomics. Certain parts of the screen will be easier to reach than others. It’s not just about making things bigger, but re-evaluating the position of each element.
  • It’s recommended that buttons should be at least 44px high; this takes up a lot of room that can be devoted to content. Clickable product images convert well to finger-sized targets. With no hover state, the best examples use drop shadows to appear tappable.
  • Elements which will need to be reworked include the pre-header, navigation and tables of content. It’s likely you’ve stacked these links too closely together, which can result in a mistap or force users to zoom.”

Popping Off the Screen

Jason Falls, CEO of
Social Media Explorer

“In email as with other content areas, I think 2012 is going to have to be about creating something awesome. Too many folks are in a rut of sending the same old messages, the same old stories.

Customers need you to blow their minds. It’s time to ramp up our creative juices and make emails pop off the screen, grab customers by the collar and say, ‘You have GOT to do this!'”

And Giving Readers What They Want

Derek Halpern, Founder
Social Triggers

“The biggest challenge facing email marketers has NOTHING to do with the economy, spam laws, or major changes to email whitelisting.

What’s the problem then?

The biggest issue is writing emails that people want to open. If email marketers master that, everything else will falls into place.

Hard to believe?

Look at it like this: If people want your emails, you won’t need to trick them into giving it to you. Instead, they’ll take pleasure in parting with their REAL email address (not their second email that they use for silly offers).

If people want your emails, you won’t get spam complaints. Instead, they’ll see your name or company name, and take pleasure in opening it.

And there’s an added benefit… Writing emails that people WANT to open is future proof. So, in 2012, do that. Write emails people WANT to open, and you’ll be SET.”

What Are Your Predictions?

If you have insight into the email marketing field, or if you know of changes to the online marketplace, please share your own thoughts or predictions below.


  1. Johnn

    1/3/2012 11:58 am

    Great post. I love all the different points of view. A few common threads seem to emerge: value, social and context. Neat!

    This gives me a lot to try to wrap me noggin around in 2012.

  2. Dennis Marshall

    1/5/2012 12:51 am

    Wow.. I love what everyone said.. Especially Derek Halpern. I’m going to research email marketing now and brush up on my skills..

    Thanks for that post..

  3. Lalitha Brahma

    1/5/2012 2:36 pm

    Thanks a lot to Aweber team for putting up views from top people in the industry.
    As a Solopreneur, I can say this
    1. Email marketing can be fun and overwhelming.
    2. As a business owners, it is our responsibility to look for strategies that are simple, easy to follow/train and provide high Return on Investment (ROI)
    When I say ROI, I mean not just the money put in, but for the time+money+effort that is put in, is the profit made worth it?
    3. Even if you are not a techie, stay on top of Aweber’s educative emails, to be able to integrate email marketing with Social Networking/blogging on various platforms/payment processors etc.

  4. Troy Vayanos

    1/5/2012 2:41 pm

    Yes I agree with a lot of these predictions. I think Social Media will continue to soar and there will be more and more progress towards linking all online applications into one direct page.

    Perhaps one page where you can access all of your regular websites.

    Time will tell

  5. Edmund Yeo

    1/5/2012 7:20 pm

    What they have said makes a lot sense. I guess remaining relevant and having emails that people want to open are still the best.

  6. Charles

    1/7/2012 11:54 am

    What I hear is Content, Content, Content; that is content the user can use!

  7. Terri

    1/8/2012 11:14 am

    Thanks for great tips! I guess what everyone is basically saying is make your customer “want” to open the mail….

  8. Khalid Munir

    1/10/2012 7:50 pm

    Going through the comments above is a real pleasure. This is altogether a different set of people who think precisely the way I do. I can’t agree more with every one of them. I know they are all correct. But my question is how do I become a brand name, a product name or an email marketer who people want to and anxiously wait for. I know I recognize those emails which I open even if they are 20 emails daily. I have also marked addresses which I never read even if I get one in a month but I do not un-subscribe because I have subscribed once.

  9. ANP

    1/17/2012 11:51 am

    The beauty of email marketing is that it is not tied to SEO. For example, if you include content on your website that contains a bunch of follow outbound links, you’re spreading your link juice to all of these external sites. However, you can include all the links that you want in your email communications without having to worry about your SEO impact.

    Related: you then build an expectation with your audience that there is unique content via your email list vs. your on-site content, which then builds perceived value. So not only are you protecting your site’s SEO strength, but you are also increasing the strength of your email list.

    I think that in a post-Panda world we’ll probably continue to see these kinds of cross-platform / portfolio experiments vis a vis where to say what (by where I mean which channel).

  10. Viola Tam

    1/28/2012 4:22 pm

    Hi, Dear Aweber Team,

    I am a new user of Aweber. I am only strating to realize that power and full potential of this marketing tool.

    Thank you for bringing in so many GREAT marketing ideas. I particularly agree with Linda Bustos’ “SoLoGo” idea. This is so easy to remember too – “anything Social, Local and Mobile”.

    A lot of other great tips! I believe in providing relevant value too. Just be genuinely helpful and supportive to our contacts’ needs is the key to building better relationships.

    Viola Tam