Getting Your Foot in the Door With An Email Campaign

John, a builder friend I met down at the golf course a few years ago, was running low on cash after settling in the area and making his new house the way he wanted. “I need to get my first project started soon,” he confided, “but I just don’t know where to begin. Do you think I should knock on doors?”

To cut a long story short, he ran a raffle down at the country club. The prize was a bottle of whisky I wished I could afford. The question was, “When was this club founded?” To qualify, entrants had to provide their email address and agree to accept one email marketing message about John’s business.

The First Important Thing to Understand about Emails

The Australia Spam Act of 2003 forbids unsolicited commercial emails, contrary to what you may think from your own experience. In fact, the government is known to implement surprisingly heavy penalties for repeat offenders. This means you must ask permission first, which is exactly what John did with his raffle at the club.

Despite these regulations, email spam is still rife in Australia. Unprofessional marketers register an email account with an offshore service provider where the practice is still technically allowed. Despite the best efforts of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, spam emails continue to flood in. However, as you probably know from your own experience, these spam emails are very rarely effective in garnering interest.

You Get What You Give

John had an excellent response to his raffle. In fact, he wound up with a surplus of $875, which opened another door. He asked the club manager to allocate a small building project he could do for free using the money for materials. He ended up rebuilding the brick barbeques outside the clubhouse that had seen better days.

John and I decided he should send emails to raffle participants with an update on the project and an introduction to his business. “Now we need to find an email headline that introduces your product without sounding ‘salesy’,” I explained.

Somebody down at the club asked me why I was investing money in John when he couldn’t afford to pay my professional fee. I believe in helping fledgling companies get started with their marketing. If they succeed, they may even become paying clients. Who knows? I believe when we put something good out into the world, we will make a return one day.

Essentially, John was doing the same thing. He was giving first and showing his value in order to attract the right kind of attention in time.


A Bit of Theory First — What Are Business Emails?

Business emails are short commercial messages, quite unlike the long, rambling catch-ups we send to our families and friends. Our relatives will open our emails every time because they want to hear our news. They also recognise our sender’s address.

In business, it’s the opposite. Even I, a humble writer, receive several marketing messages every day that break through my defences. I only open the ones with truly engaging subject lines about things I find genuinely interesting. I have one simple rule after that: I never scroll down more than once — I don’t have the time!

Let’s Talk About Email Opening and Engagement

Thanks to Google and specialist service providers like Mail Chimp, we can track what happens to our messages after they arrive at their destination. Useful stats include the percentage of recipients who open and engage with our emails. “Engaging” includes enabling an image or clicking on a link.

However, this does not tell us whether they absorbed the message. We measure this by monitoring how long our opened messages remain open. This teaches us two things:

  • We need email headlines that successfully tempt our recipients into opening our messages.
  • We need truly interesting, fresh content in our messages, so our recipients keep them open to read and enjoy.

We will dedicate the rest of this section to exploring one of the keys to successful marketing — the perfect email. I can’t promise you will ever get to a 100% open rate, let alone 100% engagement. If you get to 40%, you are doing excellent, according to Go Rocket Fuel. 

However, I am prepared to stick my neck out and predict your stats will improve if you follow the below advice. Marketing is a journey. The destination is a perfect state where we know and understand our customer so well that the product or service sells itself, according to Peter Drucker. My advice? Buy his books and read them cover to cover.

The Anatomy of the Perfect Business Email

When we fire off a social email to family and friends, we don’t necessarily concern ourselves with its structure. If we have a goal at all, it’s purely to stay in touch and share news. However, a business email should follow a particular format. Remember, we only have two or three lines before the target continues reading or closes the screen. We need to have:


  • A purpose — a written statement of what we hope to achieve.
  • An eye-popping subject line the recipient will find intriguing.
  • A greeting and a statement that the reader relates to.
  • A short, 100-word message outlining how our offer can benefit the recipient.
  • A wrap-up summary followed by a call-to-action.
  • A thank you for reading the message and a warm, friendly farewell.
  • The sender’s name and contact information, plus links to a website, if any.

A Worked Example: John’s Email Message to Club Members

This email’s purpose was to reach out to club members and tell them the rebuilt barbeques were ready, and to introduce John as a friendly, approachable builder they can trust.

Subject Line: Update on Club Whisky Raffle — What Happened to the Money Left Over?

Greeting: Hi <insert addressee’s name>,

This is John from the country club and I wanted to thank you personally for entering my raffle.

Message: Most of you will know that <insert prize winner’s name> pulled the winning ticket and the club secretary presented the prize. However, there was money left over and I decided to donate this surplus back to the club in the form of a small project.

Being a builder, the maintenance committee asked me to rebuild the brick barbeques outside the club. The job is complete, and I invite you to inspect the quality of my work next time you visit the club.

Wrap-Up Summary: Thank you so much for sharing in the cost of the project by taking a raffle ticket and helping to improve our country club.

Thank You and Farewell: Thank you also for opening and reading this message. I will be delighted to assist should you need any building work done, now or in the future.



<insert contact details>


John picked up several projects directly from this email. This gave him the head-start he needed to get his business going and establish himself in our community. His email marketing succeeded because he got two things right in the process.


He knew how to introduce himself. Moreover, he used the awesome power of networking to find his initial leads. We will explore social media as another equally important networking tool in Section 3 of this unit.

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