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Direct & Email Marketing

Email Campaign Wisdom From South African Digital Marketing Sages

How can you get the most out of your email campaigns? Here is what a few of South Africa’s top marketing managers have to say on the subject.




Email. In the world of digital marketing it is the gem in the crown. It is one of the first, and by all accounts and studies, still the most effective tool out there.

Case in point: A study by a well-known research firm (MarketingSherpa) in 2015 showed that 72% of U.S. adults “say they prefer companies to communicate with them via email”. Market pundits expect this sentiment has not abated over the past year, nor that it will any time soon.

At Active-Trail we take such statistics seriously, following the market closely, not only to see where the winds are blowing for the future of email, but also to find new ways to improve our customers’ results.

A number of email marketing gurus from Cape Town and Johannesburg have agreed to let us in on some of their tricks of the trade, so do yourself some good and lend them your ear for a short while.

In order to give each piece of advice a stage that is worthy of its value, we are splitting this article into two parts. This, the first part, brings some of the more conceptual tips, while Part 2 will highlight more hands-on guidance. 

– Hadar Graf, Author of this article, Marketing Manager EN Markets at ActiveTrail

Related: 4 Revolutionary Behavioural Email Marketing Ideas

My tip is simple: Read on. I’ve been around email marketing for a while now and am familiar with many of the tricks of the trade (some of which we have implemented in ActiveTrail). With that said, there is always something to learn from industry experts, such as the group we have gathered for you here, who have their own spin on how to improve campaigns in their own markets and in general.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal thanks and the gratitude of all of us at ActiveTrail to these marketing gurus who agreed to share with us of their knowledge and experience.”

Aziaziza-banderkerza Banderker

Email Campaign Manager at Itopia Interactive

My top tip: Give to receive

Providing customers with a substantial cash-off offer is one of the most basic and often forgotten techniques in email marketing.

“Utilising this strategy can lead to high click-through rates and sales. From my experience, this technique works very well, especially if the offer is only valid for a limited time.

“This method ensures that customers find genuine benefits and see real value in your newsletters and this, in turn, should guarantee that your customers will continue reading them.”

yazeed-osmanYazeed Osman

Email Marketing Manager at

My advice to any email marketer out there is to segment based on behaviour. Whether you’re just starting off or a seasoned pro, database segmentation is something that you should be doing. At we have millions of products that need to satisfy the many different needs of our customers. By observing how our customers interact with our online store, we are able to use dynamic segmentation to group customers together and serve them relevant products.

While dynamic email segmentation and behavioural communication can become quite complex, the easiest way to start is by observing how your recipients interact with your newsletter.

The majority of email platforms allow you to track what each user clicked on. For this to be effective, first do some thinking on the segments you would like to create and then decide on URLs that would be included in the specified segment.

“Once the basic segments are created, perform split tests to find out what works for each segment. If you’ve set this up correctly, you should see an immediate uplift in open and click through rates.”

Related: 8 Email Marketing Tips for Online Retailers

kuhle-verbyKuhle Verby

Online Campaign specialist at Nimbler and Founder of GitFit

Two Email marketing secrets to recover lost sales and grow your business

Managing huge email lists can be a nightmare without segmenting your list correctly by not placing those who never purchase into a newsletter sequence. This, in turn, creates a huge drop in open rates and conversions, given that this is your opportunity as a marketer to revive your list and recover those lost sales.

Below are a two secrets that will help you increase your open and conversion rates immediately:

1. Usage of emoticons in the subject line

The use of emoticons in email subject lines has proven to increase open rates by at least 10%. A perfect example would be a scarcity email subject line which we use once every 3 to 6 months to help grab the majority of our list’s attention and skyrocket our open rates, this subject line is simple yet extremely effective.

Example: bye :–( [SUBSCRIBER NAME]

2. Knowing and understanding your consumer journey

Alongside the highly effective subject line survey your subscriber and find out why your subscriber base may not have purchased your product yet.

This will give you a world of information to help improve your overall business and product whilst giving you the opportunity to convert each subscriber within given reason, as you will know their objection and will be able to counter it.

Always remember that it is not about how big your subscriber base is, but about how great the relationship with your list is.

Related: Top 10 Email Marketing Resources


Offering incentives, behaviour based segmentation, enhancing your subject lines with emoticons and understanding your customers.

While you may have given thought to these subjects, we are confident that our South African contributors have enriched your knowledge with their real-world experience.

We are eager to share the rest of the tips we have collected for you, so keep an eye out on for Part 2 of Email Campaign Wisdom from South African Digital Marketing Sages.

Marketing is my passion. Identifying the perfect price point. Determining the best media for advertising to reach a target audience. Butting heads with my colleagues to figure out how to position a new software product. Interviewing clients and gurus to keep a close ear to the market. Collaborating, sharing insights, making tough decisions to help form our company’s marketing strategy. It is an exciting field and I am very fortunate to have been able to make a career of it. Currently, I work for ActiveTrail one of the best email marketing software providers in the market and a company that I collaborated with in the past. Whatever the activity, I am always vigilant, constantly analysing and searching for ways to improve.

Direct & Email Marketing

How To Get The Most Value For Your Direct Marketing Money

Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.

Grant Fleming




It is a common, global problem in the digital age – how do you convert vast amounts of data into demonstrable business value? Marketers aren’t exempt from this conundrum, and the pressure is always on to justify the worth of running a marketing campaign in real world, practical terms.

So how can you glean the most profitability from a campaign? Start by addressing a core challenge: Separating the important data from the not so important.

More particularly, focus on demographic information that is easily accessible like age, gender, location. Then follow up by looking a bit deeper and adding data such as marital status and income. Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.

1. System essentials

Beyond this, while choosing the right data is key, it’s wise to use the best direct marketing system possible for your marketing needs. For starters, it should report on the data that is most important. It should also offer smart dashboards that displays comprehensive information. And it should accommodate users who want to put analytics and insights together manually.

Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing

Having all three in place – pulling together data, running analytics and translating those into presentable reports – is not just a nice to have. It’s increasingly essential, as direct marketing is fast becoming a saturated space. Figuring out ways to better personalise data, and target and curate the right audience for the right message at the right time has become mission critical.

2. Aid from the machines

The good news is that machine learning is set to take much of the onerous work out of personalising data. But the caveat is that its usage doesn’t exempt you from being involved, as machines still need to be taught what constitutes good data to begin with. You thus need to know and understand how to curate data properly from the outset.

For the foreseeable future, you still need to understand what you are feeding the machine learning algorithms with, and most importantly, testing assumptions. Avoid the tendency to assume that because the results came from a machine, they are correct. Rather, conclusions drawn need to be continually tested, verified and honed where appropriate.

3. Pitfalls and challenges

But, while you may have a basis from which to extract more value from your data, what is preventing you? Among key obstacles that many marketing companies do not realise, is the power of the tools that are available to them, especially those locally produced.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

This is to their detriment, as the tools readily available in South Africa boast sophisticated, yet simple, insight dashboards and reporting metrics that could power-up their marketing efforts.

As for a potential opportunity, this too is a topic that is often mentioned in other industries, that of creating greater integration with a variety of tools. In reality, few companies have managed to integrate their digital, social and direct marketing approaches well.

Getting more money out of your data boils down to sorting the wheat from the chaff, having the right system in place, curating data, and finally, using machine learning with an eye towards it being an aid, rather than a replacement for human efforts.

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Direct & Email Marketing

Build A Better Database And Boost Your Audience

Put frankly, if you have not crafted your message so that you are engaging with your audience, with their permission, you will be out of the direct marketing game.

Grant Fleming




For businesses across the board, one way to get better returns is by improving efficiencies. For marketers in particular, the million rand question is how to build better databases and grow their audience.

Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify, says that building up an audience around particular marketing messages or strategies rather than pushing out any and all content to anyone, is essential. The latter may have been a trend that TV advertising praised, but it is ineffective as well as wasteful, when applied to direct marketing campaigns.

Marketers also must pay attention to their ‘list hygiene’ i.e. ensure irrelevant messages aren’t being sent to the wrong demographic. Do this by avoiding over-marketing, a factor which may be missed by those operating with a ‘more is better’ mindset. This can derail efforts, as even if people are partially interested in the marketing message, they will reach an unsubscribe point more quickly if marketers press them too often.

Dealing with information deluge

Front of mind for marketers should be that people are being besieged by information more than ever. Additionally, email and SMS channels are especially hotly contested marketing spaces, full of marketing promotions.

Clearly, any marketers who want to increase their opt-ins need to get their message and audience right from the outset, while ensuring that they send carefully crafted campaigns at the right time.

Segmentation needs to become more sophisticated too and is among top marketing trends for 2018. Doing so helps marketers treat their audience differently and adds a level of personalisation to their campaigns.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

The Smart Insights report even suggests greater personalisation will result in an increase in conversions, by keeping marketers relevant and in touch with lists’ changing needs and preferences.

Strategies for success

Analytics can play a significant role here.

More granular detail can be built up over time such as what day of the week, and time of the day messages should be sent to particular segmented audiences for the optimal response.

Spread marketing messages out for a while too, and then hone in on specific days of the week, and times of the day, according to the audience being targeted. It’s considerably more effective to target the right audience at the right time than continuously sending general messages all day.

Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing

The importance of A/B testing to help hone the message to your audience also cannot be underestimated. By testing two or more variants, and listening to the feedback received, marketers have a basis from which to optimise their campaigns.

Further benefits

As for databases, is bigger still better? Yes, but only as a starting point for the data to be further segmented and refined, empowering marketers to more accurately define their audiences.

All this may sound like a great deal of work, but the benefit of doing so isn’t just to build an audience. It will also help marketers deal with the increased pressure from the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to ensure they aren’t spamming their audience.

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Direct & Email Marketing

Honour The Opt-out

Gareth Mountain from Olico, explains how PoPI will effect companies undertaking any form of direct marketing, and why it’s important to honour the consumers’ right to opt out of the marketing process.




It’s in a companies’ own best interests to toe the line when it comes to direct marketing best practices. It boils down to the fact that ethically it is the right thing to do, and that they should not wait for the implementation (and subsequent fines) of the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to kick in to respect the consumer.

1. Electronic comms and outbound calling

The most notable point to understand when it comes to electronic channels of communication (email, SMS, Automatic Voice Messaging), is that companies will need explicit opt-in permission to contact the consumer. Here it is not about having the legal right to market to them as the Electronic Communications Act currently specifies, but rather being able to prove that they specifically gave permission for your communication.

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

This is set to bring about an overall decline in electronic marketing, and securing that valuable opt-in permission is going to be crucial. Yes, some companies will certainly struggle, but by providing relevant, ethical, targeted deals to your consumer database, there’s no reason for them to opt-out, especially if your offers are beneficial.

When it comes to outbound calling, PoPI permits one marketing call to a person, even if they have not opted in. During this call, operators can attempt to get them to opt-in for future marketing (both electronic and voice). While this might protect jobs in the South African call centre industry, it could   result in locals receiving more intrusive calls, while less intrusive email and SMS marketing declines.

2. Respect the No

One thing to keep in mind during all marketing communication, is to respect the public’s requests. If a person asks to be removed from your electronic marketing or direct calls, make 100% sure to comply and ensure their number/email does not slip through the cracks to the next campaigns.

On a national level the Direct Marketing Association of SA (DMASA) has established a National Opt Out Database to adhere to. Paid-up members of the DMASA have access to this database as well as the process involved in making sure that their own database corresponds to the DMASA no contact list. This is through a process called “Deduping” and ensures companies do not accidentally market to anyone on this national do-not-call database. DMASA members also need to adhere to the code of conduct which regulates behaviour in the industry.

3. The responsibility of the company

When it comes to a company-wide level, it is best to automate the opt-out process so that human error is taken out of the equation. Keep a record of the opt-outs and inform the consumer that they have indeed been taken off the database.

Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing

One grey area where we believe companies might try and bend the rules, would be to opt-out the consumer on a product-level, meaning that although they have said no for marketing on one brand or product, the company will continue with marketing other products in the stable. It is unlikely, however, that a consumer will decline receiving marketing for one product, and still want communication for another. Rather take them off the database completely.

The reasons why companies must honour opt-outs are numerous, with the fact that the PoPI Act allows for fines of up to R10 million or jail time for violation perhaps standing out as the most prominent. But with the ethical behaviour of companies under the spotlight locally, the moral responsibility of respecting the consumer should not be ignored.

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