ActiveCampaign Forum

What do you wish you'd known from the beginning?


Email marketing is a lot of trial and error… I think we’ve all made some pretty big mistakes, learned a lot over time (the hard way), and are better marketers for it now.

If you could go back in time and pass some lessons on to yourself when you were a newb, what would you tell yourself about email marketing? What are your most important "lessons learned?”

I’ll start…

  • Always double-check that you are using the appropriate personalization tags for the platform you are sending on (it is very, very easy to type a tag out of habit, without thinking about it. It will look “right” to you because you are familiar with it… but it will look very, very wrong to your subscribers!).

  • Use other people’s data as a guide, but run your own tests before treating anything as fact. There are a lot of case studies out there, but there are are also a lot of unique niches, with unique audiences, with unique habits. Rock solid data in one niche might barely apply to another. (For example, see all the conflicting data on the best days of the week to send)

  • Keep your emails as short and focused as possible… Long emails full of links and different topics are usually a waste of everyone’s time. I can think of some exceptions, but more often than not, shorter is better.

  • Provide value 75% of the time (so your contacts are learning), ask questions 15% of the time (so you are learning), and sell something valuable 10% of the time.

  • Don’t fear unsubscribes, encourage them. I’m not saying you should try to get people to unsubscribe by annoying them, but you should make it very easy for someone who is annoyed to get off your list. You don’t want them around. I used to feel bad when I saw unsubscribes, now I see my list as healthier each time an uninterested person removes themselves. If you encourage unsubscribing, as long as you are consistent, you can assume that everyone on your list wants what you are sending.

What are your “lessons learned” on email marketing?


I’d tell myself to worry about keeping my emails engaging and not boring vs too long or too short. There’s no such thing as too long or too short. There’s only boring or not boring.



How to plan, segment, and create an editorial calendar so my emails were aimed at generating a return in the first place. Then again, back when I started in this business we didn’t have the tools or intel we have now.


Good point, @breakthroughemailmar . I’ve sent far too many long, boring emails.

@stephan - How long ago did you get started?

You are talking about thoughtfully planning out sequences rather than ad hoc or on a whim?


I’ve been doing this for 10 years now


Great ideas @bgladu, as someone 25 years in gaming & tech, but totally new in this space.


When using a tool like ActiveCampaign, spend a little time planning your overall goals and processes in the beginning.

I couple hours of planning tags, automations, and lists will save days of fixing things when you grow.

But don’t wait until everything’s perfect. Figure out the goals for the tags and get started.


Great feedback @mfox. I’m trying to get my head around those things with a looming deadline in a little over 48 hours that should generate some leads…


2 posts were split to a new topic: When do I tag vs segment?


Thank you Ted. I will do the maximum via tags.
For example, addressing the email (Hi … first name, Hello Mr. …) I can make it through the tag or by segment.

So I mark the contacts tags “formal” and “informal”.


Ive often thought of a topic like this on several fronts, the technical side of AC when coming in from another service (in my case, MailChimp) and then a thread more along this. Great post!

Cliff Notes: Success ad agency owner pre 9-11, successful management consultant of many years post 9-11, wanted to get off the road so I jumped into life/business coaching and content marketing almost three years. BAM, my first ever in business, abysmal total “face in the dirt” failure. I eventually fired myself as a coach and a few months ago, launched a purpose-driven branding practice (soft launch, hard is Jan) and have been getting much better results.

Content wise: had a very successful blog years ago, got published in some magazines, about 5K subscribers and then just shut the whole thing down (about 10 years ago) and never bothered to notify my list or keep their names. DONT DO THIS!!! LOL

Lesson #1- Know the difference between an idea that you are very passionate about versus what constitutes a viable business model. There are a lot of ideas and strong concepts that I was passionate about, but starting there as flashpoint for a business model - not good. Bottom line: what problem will you solve that people will actually pay for?

Lesson #2- You most likely too close to your own model to solve #1 on your own. Surround yourself with people and quality advisors that will tell you the truth.

Lesson #3- Sexy doesnt always sell. When I first started my email marketing, it was filled with lots of very attractive templates. Then I started getting the ever spirited, Derek Halpren emails and it made me realize, along with Taki Moore’s emails- get to the point, no graphics. I used a plain white email template and my numbers jumped big time.

Lesson #4- Trying to get into this world, if your not technical or if you dont know a lot about content marketing, can be MASSIVELY overwhelming. You (or least I did) can put a lot of pressure to push out tons of content. I cannot say this strong enough, test- test- test your models before putting tons of hours in them. Pay attention to what is tripping people’s triggers and build up from there.

It can also be easy, under this same topic, to end trying to be content marketing hereos. I swore I wasnt doing this and yet there I was, doing that very thing. It was not until I doubled down on being me, on nailing what I bring to the world (which Im still fine tuning) that I started getting any decent results.